Posted by: eileenandrory | February 1, 2011

My son is probably heterosexual

Did I get your attention?  Do you find that statement unusual?

The thing is I don’t need to say that because loads of people assume that that is exactly what their children will be.  They never see the need to say anything about it because most of us assume that when we look at children that they are all heterosexual and should be cookie cuttered into conformity.  People may look at you a bit oddly and say well of course, they certainly would not question your judgement, maybe question why you said it, but not the sentiment.

So.  What happens when I say “My son is probably gay, or if not gay he’s probably bisexual.”  Or I say that “It wouldn’t surprise me if he was gay.”

Why do people look at me askance and immediately ask in an accusatory tone “What makes you say that?”  “Why?”  “It’s too early to tell” and “things can change”.  I take you back to the initial statement by way of a pretend conversation:

Mother: “My son is probably heterosexual”

Concerned Person: “What makes you say that?  Things can change and it’s too early to tell”.

Hmm… how does that make you feel?  Does it sound a little odd?  It’s ok if it doesn’t, but to me it does sound a little odd, perhaps because it’s outside my frame of reference, but I think it would be brilliant to say it to someone.  Ok, so maybe they won’t say “My son is probably heterosexual” but isn’t that what they ARE saying when they say in a cute voice “look he’s got a girlfriend”, “he’ll be a ladykiller”.  Maybe I should say “it’s too early to tell”.  What do you think the response would be then?

The reason I bring this up is because I truly believe in my “mummy instinct gut” that my son is probably gay or bisexual, or at least somewhere along that end of our beautiful human sexual spectrum.  Why do I think that?  You know what, the reasons aren’t really that important, but I do, and I don’t need to justify them to anyone.  What IS important is that he is allowed to express himself and BE himself and to BE supported in whatever he wants to do and whoever he wants to love.  This is a job which my husband and I do exceptionally well, I think, well most of the time.

However, every now and again something happens to shatter that support which we offer, and as he is getting older I guess that will happen more and more.  As any child gets older the strait jacket of gender conformity attempts to bind itself ever tighter around their little bodies.

My son has always loved having his fingernails painted.  ALWAYS.  I admit that I have felt uncomfortable about it at times because I have wanted to protect him, but he wants it, he enjoys it, and he feels left out when his sister has it done and he doesn’t.  When he was a bit younger people thought it was cute.  Loads of other Mums used to comment and say that their little boys also wanted their nails painted but they knew that their husbands would go ballistic over it.  Fortunately my husband does not feel any threat to his masculinity by having his son have a little nail polish on his nails.  In fact the other day he truly got brownie points from a lady at the Air New Zealand check in counter for being soooo understanding and allowing his son to have his nails painted.  He washed it off like water off a ducks back, but I could see the woman sigh and wish that her husband was as understanding.  However now that he is 5 some people have started to comment.  What was ok for a kid not going to school and was cute is now not so cute.

The other day, my mother painted my daughter’s nails and then my son wanted his done.  I was staying at my parents place along with some other relatives.  Mum sat down and started painting his nails at the table after dinner.  My “well meaning” male relative declared “That’s POOFY” and the other equally well meaning female relative was just as condemnatory.

My son looked startled.  He looked concerned.  His eyes flashed from one person to another.  He is 5 years old and bright.  He was taking ALL of this in.  I said there’s nothing wrong with it.  I was informed of the following:

  • No straight men ever paint their nails – EVER.
  • I would have to put a stop to this or my son would be bullied
  • It was wrong
  • I was setting him up for a fall

I tried to explain that this was what he wanted, what was wrong with it?  My Mum pointed out that plenty of straight men actually DO have manicures and have their nails painted, but this was to no avail.  I was quite literally destroying my son’s life because of some nail polish.

I admit I struggled to support my poor son against this tirade.  However all credit to him, he sat there and resolutely had his nails painted by his understanding and supportive grandmother.  His eyes told me he didn’t know what to think, and my heart hurt.

If I cannot protect him because he enjoys nail polish how can I protect him from the culture that says that being gay is something you have to “come out” for.  It is something that you have to announce – you have to publicly announce that you are different, that you don’t fit into a box.  I don’t know how to support him through that apart from being the most understanding and loving parent I can be and be open to all that will come.

So, my son is probably gay or bisexual or maybe even straight – but you know what?  I actually don’t mind, I don’t feel threatened by that, I’m excited by the fact I have a beautiful son, who likes nail polish and does not particularly like strait jackets.

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Responses

  1. Please let us know who the relatives are as we do not want to get caught out taking any homo’s to their place.

    • Hi Brendon,

      I’m going to assume that’s not your real name, because from the content of your post it would seem that we are related. However I could have mis-read that. If we are related and you do wish to know who they are then this is not an appropriate forum to discuss that – and would probably add more fuel to the fire. Feel free to contact me directly and we can discuss further 🙂

      Thanks
      Eileen.

  2. This is a great, inspiring post and I agree wholeheartedly with it.

    Incidentally, not that it matters, I am living proof that at least one straight man paints his nails. 😉

    • Thanks David 🙂

      That’s lovely to hear!

  3. I am unsurprised at the comments from your relatives but I am surprised at you feeling hurt and also feeling that your five year old son may be gay becasue he likes his nail polished. all children like to recieve positive attention and whether straight or gay or bi when adults, five years old is too young to start worrying about gender stereotyping. rather than be hurt or shocked by your relatives, why not be dismissive? why not just say oh for goodness sakes grow up you silly people! or even just say and what of it? dont give it the energy of an argument or a defense, because your son will look to you for how to respond and if you seem het up by these people he will see it as a problem however you respond. just be cool, they are not even worth your disdain x

    • Hi there,

      This topic came about after a good twelve months of comments from lots of different people and whilst initially I used to be hurt by such comments I am not anymore. I admit I didn’t word things the best, however the situation described was meant to relay just one of many and perhaps it wasn’t the best one to talk about – however that’s a whole different story. My concern was more that my son was hurt by it, and whilst I cannot protect him from everything I get hurt when I see him get hurt. You are right in so much of what you have said – and I will definitely take that on in the future 🙂 Thanks for your great reply, I find personal growth always happens from people who are able to see things through a different lens, and have a bit of distance from the issue!

  4. Both my boys (5 and 6) like having their toe nails painted. I’ve never really done their finger nails because I don’t do my own as it chips off so quick and looks scruffy (I’m all about the low maintenance). The older boy was hassled about it by some much bigger boys once but I guess that’s going to happen. My youngest has told me on several occasions that he’s going to marry a man. One time he said “we’ll have robot babies, or will the doctor be able to help us have a baby?”. So cute.

  5. That is gorgeous Meg, I love the idea of robot babies, and low maintenance, LOL!!

  6. This post expressed the exact fear I had when my son wanted to wear nail polish to school. Luckily, it went well for him.

    • I am so glad it went well for your son! I think we give our children stronger messages when we teach them that’s it’s ok to live outside the box.

  7. This is a beautiful and thought-provoking post – and I am pleased to have discovered your blog! Your boy is lucky to have such cool and supportive parents.
    The homophobia in our culture is rife. As a sexuality educator, I find sexual diversity the hardest to discuss with teens. Their panic around the topic never fails to frustrate and sadden me. Reading this post I was struck by how kids have been soaking up subtle homophobic messages since they were born – it’s no wonder by the time they’re at high school those phobias are firmly entrenched.

    • Thanks Rachel, and right back at you, I love reading your posts! Gifting our children freedom from cultural norms and the ability to question them is, I think, one of the greatest gifts we can bestow on them!


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