When Your Kid Likes Barbie Instead of G.I. Joe
The fact is, parents—dads especially, even those who cry at weddings and like to make soufflés—take pride when their kids follow culturally ingrained gender roles. When the kids don't, things feel weird. As Ron, a 37-year-old postdoctoral student at UCLA with two sons under 5, says, "It really makes me happy to see my 4-year-old decked out in Texas Longhorns gear. But I gotta tell you, when my wife took him to a 'fairy hunt' recently and he came home talking about all the fairies he saw, I was more than a little uncomfortable." And that's coming from a man who worked at an art gallery for four years and has never voted Republican.
It may sound like liberal-dad hypocrisy, but guys like Ron say it's their hyperawareness of gay culture that makes them so fear the idea of their kids being homosexual in the first place. "You see the news; you see movies like Brokeback Mountain and Boys Don't Cry," Ron says. "You think, It would be a hell of a lot easier if my kid turned out not to be gay."
But so what if he did? "I think parents overestimate the miserable life their children will have if they're gay," says Ritch C. Savin-Williams, the director of Cornell's Sex & Gender Lab. "We've seen incredible, progressive changes in terms of gender and sexual diversity in the last 20 years. I think what parents are really worried about is that having a gay child will somehow reflect poorly on their parenting."