This week Backstreet Boy AJ McLean made headlines thanks to an interview he gave Refinery 29. In it, the singer talked generally about being a father to his young daughters, Ava Jaymes, 4, and Lyric Dean, two months, with answers to questions you might expect, such as “What’s the best part of being a dad?” and “How did you come up with the name Lyric?” But then ― in a fun game of “one of these things is not like the other” ― McLean said he hopes both of his daughters turn out to be gay.
Because, as McLean so eloquently puts it, “that takes all penis out of my life” and would ensure he doesn’t have to “deal with boys ever.” It seems the pop star’s daughters are “his life” and therefore he has already planned how he’s going to deal with the boys that will surely come calling (I guess, that’s if his wish doesn’t come true and they don’t end up being lesbians). His foolproof scheme? “[I would] tell the boy, ‘Look, I was in prison and all these tattoos were from prison so if you mess up you know I’m gonna hurt you.’” Brilliant!
But let’s get back to that whole “please let my daughters be gay” thing for a second. Look ― I know he was joking. And I’m not going to lose my mind over a no-longer-relevant boy band member making a stupid comment in a mostly innocuous interview (especially because he’s identified himself as an ally to the queer community in the past). But I think it’s worth pointing out that hoping your daughters are queer so you (and they?) don’t have to deal with men is really, really dumb. Not just dumb ― it’s downright depressing as it highlights our society’s huge problem with toxic masculinity and our collective fears about what men are capable of doing to women while simultaneously failing to hold men accountable for their actions or make concerted efforts to change their “bad behavior.” Not to mention there’s something kind of icky to me anytime a dad is hyper-focused on or super freaked out about the romantic and sexual lives of his daughters. Aside from being creepy, I would hope he’d think enough of them and their future selves (and his and his wife’s parenting skills!) to be confident that they will turn out to be smart, capable, independent women who don’t need their dad ― or any other man ― to protect them from whatever the world may throw at them ― whether it be a penis or anything else.
What’s more, while sweet little Ava and Lyric (and more importantly, it seems, their father) might be spared the drama of dealing with dick and all of the dangers that can come bundled along with it, McLean might want to consider that being a lesbian isn’t always a rollicking good time. In case he’s forgotten (or just doesn’t know), being queer in this country often means facing discrimination, violence and mental health issues that non-queer people have the privilege of not experiencing. And being a queer woman means that you have to deal with all of that shit plus sexism and misogyny. Sounds like a hell of a good time, right?
So here’s what I’m going to suggest to AJ. Instead of hoping his daughters turn out to be gay, why doesn’t he settle for them turning out to be exactly who they are and loving exactly whomever feels exactly right to them. And in the meantime, maybe he should commit himself to helping to change the way we raise our boys and challenge what we expect from our men. That way, on the offhand chance whatever falling star he’s been wishing on doesn’t come through and his daughters end up wanting a penis in their lives at some point, maybe it’ll come attached to a good guy who respects them and loves them ― and who doesn’t need to be threatened with a beating from a Backstreet Boy to inspire them to do so.