“I just bought my son a dress…and it wasn’t so bad.” This thought went through my mind the other night as I walked out of a store at the local mall hand in hand with my 6 year old son who was beaming from ear to ear.
See, my youngest (we’ll call him Fabulous to protect his identity) has never been what people might call normal by conventional standards, but that is part of what makes him so lovable. By the age of four his favorite color was pink, his favorite toys were what most would call “girl” toys, and his favorite shows were not the super-hero and ninja shows his older brother favored. My wife and I talked as married couples do, and agreed that it would surprise neither of us if Fabulous ended up being gay when he was older, and if not, then we would have some great stories to pull out when the girlfriends started coming around.
Fabulous had started to give us indications that there was more to what was going on, but at the time we ignored it, or simply thought he didn’t know what he was talking about. Around the age of four he made a comment to my wife about when he grew up he would be a girl. We laughed it off, and didn’t say much to him, and he didn’t bring it up again for a while. He started to linger in the traditionally girl toy aisles at stores, and finally started picking out said toys when I told him it was OK, picked up what he wanted and bought it for him.. He was a kitty for Halloween just before turning five, and his kitty was far more feminine than masculine, but still fit into that gender neutral area. Up until five Fabulous hadn’t rocked the boat, or expressed his own identity much. He had already learned to hide things, and to keep things to himself, but all that would begin to change shortly before the start of kindergarten.
During the months leading up to kindergarten we noticed that whenever he and his brother would play make believe that he would always play a female character, whether it be a mom, Wonder Woman, a police woman, etc…he was never a boy when playing pretend. His favorite characters in shows were all female as well. He also started rocking the color pink, his mom having bought him a few t-shirts in his favorite color, and finally getting him a pair of Hello Kitty Crocs, because at five years of age Fabulous fell in love with Hello Kitty.
It was at summer camp that he met with his first ridicule. “Why are you wearing those? Those are girl shoes!” The boys teased him, his brother stood up for him, and when he got home we talked about the fact some boys might tease him, or make fun of him, but it was his choice what to wear. He didn’t wear the Crocs again to summer camp that summer.
School would start, and he would begin making friends quickly. Ever self conscious Fabulous chose to use his Paw Patrol backpack instead of his Hello Kitty one because he didn’t want to be made fun of. He chose to be a police man for Halloween, but had mentioned wanting to be a kitty again, but this time one that was pink all over. He also began to make friends, and another sign emerged as all his friends were girls. We also found out he was always on the girls’ team when playing games at school, and he was the only boy to do so.
Having played soccer, and not showing a real interest to continue in a team sport, he switched to gymnastics and took to it like a fish in water. Fabulous also began to wear his pink Crocs on a regular basis at home and outside of the house. I picked up a pair of pink shorts for him to wear at gymnastics, and they became a part of his favorite practice gear. He also dealt with a little bullying from a couple boys at practice, but the coaches acted fast and that was put to an end. Fabulous was a little different, and I think some of the older boys sensed it.
Around this past Thanksgiving, the girl thing came up again. This time while riding in the car with his mom, Fabulous told her, “Mommy, when it’s just you and me, not my daddy and brother I want you to call me by a girl name, and treat me like a girl.” My wife asked him what name he wanted to use, he told her Wonder Woman. A little more concerned this time, I talked to him, nodded at all the right times, and then we changed nothing, and he let it go, at least from an outward perspective.
On a vacation early this year to Disney World, we began to notice how he would pose for pictures, and enviously eye little girls dressed up as princesses, or one particular girl dressed in a pink pirate costume to which he leaned in to his mom, and said enthusiastically, “I want that!” He also picked out a pair of Disney princess sunglasses while on the trip and we were fine with that. Again, we explained it away as his love of all things pink, and went about life as usual.
Little did we know that everything was about to change less than a month later.