"Pink boys," or gender-nonconforming boys, have been a popular topic of conversation these days. People who have gender-conforming children (or no children at all) are always ready to put in their two cents about what they would do. Whatever. Until you are actually a parent in that situation, you don't know what you would do. In a recent blog post on The Huffington Post, Randi Zuckerberg wrote that parents who share pictures of their child being gender-nonconforming are doing the child a disservice or are posting these photos without any thought to the consequences. Well, Ms. Zuckerberg is more than welcome to share her opinion, but I completely disagree.
I am fortunate enough to call some of these moms my friends. Sarah Manley, Lori Duron and Kelly Byrom have not only stood by their children publicly but shared the sheer beauty and joy of their children in words and photographs. I can say for certain that none of these women takes sharing lightly. They are well aware of what people think and what people say, but they have made the decision to put their families out there, not for notoriety but in an effort to help other parents who are going through the same thing. Every one of them has had uncomfortable conversations with a very young child about the assholes who make fun of them for being themselves. They don't live in a bubble. They live in the real world, and they are trying to make that world a better and safer place, not just for their kids but all kids.
Even Ms. Zuckerburg concedes in her blog post, "I wish with all my heart that kids could just be kids and play with whatever they want, wear whatever they want, and choose whatever colors they want, without gender labels or stereotypes." Well, guess what? We are never going to get to that world without strong women like these moms who are willing to share.
By hiding photos of a son dressed up as Minnie Mouse or Scooby-Doo's Daphne, a parent is sending the message that she is ashamed of her child. Is that the kind of message a parent should be sending? Is that what is going to help change the world into the one Ms. Zuckerburg hopes for? No. And trust me, a kid will know if their mom shares photos of their siblings online but not photos of him. That's a message that gets received, quickly and with dire consequences. Care to take a look at the suicide statistics for gay and gender-nonconforming teens? They are horrible.
My son is not a "pink boy." He likes blue and red. He likes playing dragon slayer, ninjas and basketball. In most ways he's a stereotypical boy... who happens to identify as gay. A lot of people who read my blog posts assume that my son is a "pink boy," and I never bother to correct them. Why? Because there is nothing wrong with being a "pink boy."
Our kids are different. "Gender-conforming" does not equal "straight," and "gender-nonconforming" does not equal "gay." But I stand strong with the moms who post about their gender-nonconforming children. We are sisters in the same fight. We are standing up and fighting for our children's right to be who they are. And we are fighting homophobia, because -- let's be honest -- that's really what this is all about. The truth is that no matter what our children dress as for Halloween or pretend to be when they play dress-up in their downtime, and regardless of the color of their school backpack, they are going to be who they are. Nothing a parent does can change that. But we can affect the way our children view themselves. By not hiding who our children are and by being proud of them, we are sending them the message that they are perfect exactly the way they are.
As for showing pictures of our kids online, that is a decision that every family has to make for themselves. There is no right or wrong answer. I choose not to show photos of my son for a lot of reasons, but they are just that: my reasons. If other moms make different choices, that doesn't make them wrong. It just means that their choices are different, which makes sense, because every family and every situation is unique. I stand by their right to make that choice. I will celebrate their different choices and the unique beauty of every child.
Yes, sharing our children's lives through the written word or photos may make some people uncomfortable. That is their problem, not our kids'. As my friend Kelly Byrom has said countless times before, "I will not be my child's first bully." I will not hide who my child is for the sake of others, because I will not teach my child to be ashamed of what makes him the amazing little man whom it is my privilege and honor to parent. Yes, there are bullies, but I will not be one of them. I will protect him when I can and teach him to stand strong when I cannot, and to always, always be proud. I say a big "way to go!" to parents who share their children with the world. Together we will make it a better place for all of them.