When Your Kid Likes Barbie Instead of G.I. Joe

Details takes a look at why fathers who have no problem with homosexuality or gay people are suddenly uncomfortable when they suspect one of their children might be gay:

Details 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."

Would You 'Really' Be Okay with a Gay Kid? [details]


  1. says

    I think the article is kind of stupid, get a life dads. Bringing a child into the world ought to bring the presumption that the kid is never going to turn out the way you intended, gay or straight. Anyone who thinks otherwise is an idiot. If these are the kinds of hangups you’re having as a parent, you either shouldn’t have had kids in the first place or you have too much time on your hands. Kids should be happy, healthy, and safe. That is your job as a parent.

    Also, why is this article being posted now? I read this article in print in Details well over a year ago.

  2. TANK says

    He worked at an art gallery for four years? You mean around all them garshdernd homersectionals? That man’s a gold star straight person, ain’t he? It must’ve be hard doing that…


  3. ravewulf says

    My parents are both very liberal. My dad wasn’t phased at all when I came out. My mom on the other hand was worrying about how hard it would be for me with the teasing, bullying, physical risk, etc. I had to remind her that we lived in the Northeast of the Northeast (Mass. North of Boston) and that it was no longer the 80’s (being that I came out in 2007 going into my Senior year of HS). I embelish the incident in my head by pretending I said “my friends don’t care if I’m gay, bi, or if I have plad and polka-dot skin”

  4. Ross says

    I think the issue is more about hetero-normative gender roles and expression.

    Those dads are conflating homosexual orientation with gender identity and expression.

    They are really afraid that their son will grow up to be effeminate. This heter-normative gender expression is rooted in sexism.

    These dads are rightly concerned about the difficulty of their effeminate sons future. Even in the LGBT population the T group is the most discriminated against. How many of us have read, “No Fats, No Fems”?

  5. MikeInSanJose says

    The problem a lot of kids have growing up gay is these same attitudes INSIDE THE HOME. It’s easier to deal with the kids on the playground when you don’t come home to the same attitudes from your parents. Parents trying to force kids to grow up to be something they’re not, so dad will feel ‘comfortable’, can cause a lifetime of pain and confusion for some kids.

    “Should I be who I am, or be who X wants me to be?”

    That’s a lot of pressure on a little kid…

  6. Marcus says

    I think Ross is right…I’m not even sure it’s about dads being afraid of their sons being gay, it’s about the difficulty of them not following gender roles. Girls can get away with being tomboys and for the most part we’ve accepted it. Boys are ushered into one very tight role and face a huge resistance when they don’t face it. I don’t think we’ve figured out how to accept boys that challenge the norm because there are so few outlets for that that seem normal (either we get macho or cartoonish diva portrayals in media).

  7. Lymis says

    I wish these people who claim that the basis for their concern is how their kids will be treated by others and how hard it will be for them if they are gay would understand that most of the worst damage comes from feeling that you don’t fit in with your own family and that they are disappointed in you. That when people “out there” do harass you, you can’t come home to a supportive environment where you can just be yourself.

    Dad, YOU”RE the one hurting your kid, and you are doing it NOW.

  8. Christopher says

    This planet can barely support/withstand its population of 7 billion now. There is no reason to have children, except ego-centric ones. If you are so convinced your DNA is so valuable that you need to inflict another mouth to feed on an overburdened world, then yeah, you’re going to want your little bundle of joy to turn out just like you.


  9. MT says

    As a partnered gay parent, maybe I can put a little spin on this. When I married my partner he already had children (who I have now legally adopted). The thought of our son growing up gay never came into my mind (you don’t give any thought to a 6 year old’s sexuality) until I made a crack about it one day and my partner practically had a meltdown about it. The way he saw it (which actually kind of convinced me) was not so much how straight people would treat our son, but how gay people would treat him. My partner and I are extremely lucky to have found each other and we have both been around the block a few times. We both grew up in major metropolitan centers and have never questioned nor had anyone else question our sexuality. For all intents and purposes we should be the most well-adjusted gay people on the planet. It was at the hands of ‘boyfriends’ that we both suffered. Whether it was outright physical abuse or emotional abuse at the hands of men who cheated on us who we thought we were in love with, it was gay men who inflicted by far the highest degree of damage on us. You have to admit that a lo of gay men are outright pigs. We have all come across them and/or dated. Hopefully we get out of it relatively unscathed. My partner and I will obviously be supportive of however our son grows up. We just want him to be happy, but we also want to protect him from what we went through. I can’t speak for straight parents, but from my gay perspective I have to wonder if it really would be easier for him to grow up straight. Although I have to admit, I would kind of like it if he did turn out gay. Hopefully by then the gay men around him will be more mature.

  10. Rooney says

    A art gallery worker who likes to cry and bake souffles? Maybe that dad is just scared someone might think he’s gay, and he’s pushing that on his kids.I don’t think it matters anyway, i played with guns and toy truck’s and as a matter of fact i hated dolls but guess what? i still sleep with men.

  11. johnny says

    I have a very good het friend who has a son that has slid in and out of being feminine since he was 2. He’s pranced around the house in a tiara, he’s played with and loved girl dolls, he’s loved the color pink, he’s done it all. He’s 10 now, loves guns, loves the woods, loves karate and anything to do with animals.

    Just let them be who they want whenever they want. The minute you pressure a kid, they get twisted up.

  12. mdtopdad says

    I am by all accounts an old man. My father was a poorly educated steel worker who worked hard every day to provide for myself, my mother and three brothers. My older sister was married shortly after I was born and my niece was three years younger, When she was old enough to play with dolls, I was in hog heaven, When Barbie came into being around 1959 all I wanted was one, I never got my own but played with hers a lot. My father never said anything about it. My mother would complain to me and him about it and he said “It was just a phase I was going through”. When I eventually came out to him at 20 years okd, his response was the same. Well I’m 61 now and the phase is still going but thanks dad for making it easier for me.

  13. terry says

    There is no such thing as a 100% liberal heterosexual male. In a way, I can understand dads who feel that way. I’m not condoning nor encouraging that kind of thinking but most men (especially straight men) are raised to believe in some form of gender role assignment. I don’t think it’s purposeful; it’s just that it makes it easier for them to accept when things and perspectives are similar to their values. I agree with previous posters that it’s more acceptable for girls to try out for stuff that was normally reserved for boys (the film She’s the Man is a great example of what I’m talking about) but we have to remember that women are also brought up to live up to some gender roles. A tomboy in grade school can be fun and amusing for parents but becomes socially unacceptable when she gets older. At least for effeminate gay men, as they get older they can find their own environments where they can find some acceptance and tolerance. Heck they can even make a living at it (e.i. drag queens).

  14. Trog says

    Yes, this is actually about the fear of effeminate men. What if the sons turn out to be rugged, macho cocksuckers? Is it OK as long as they love sports and talk butch?

    The ex-gay movement is based a lot on gender norms. As in, if your son is swishy or your daughter likes softball, then send ’em to jebus camp to pray it all away.

    And this Details article is just looking to stir up trouble and find the most outrageous in-your-face stories and anecdotes it can find. The mag has really sunk in the past few years.

  15. BG Ness says

    Ever since the women’s rights movement, gender roles are less distinct than in the past. I think this has greatly accelerated hetero acceptance of gay rights. Yet unfortunately, childrens’ gender typing still has many millenia of momentum behind it, and gender typing is probably with us here to stay.

  16. dizzy spins says

    I think the Dad in the story is like a lot of liberals–so long as a black guy doesnt date THEIR daughter, they’re all for interracial relationships. Or gays, or trans, etc. Bottom line–talk is cheap.

  17. Jackson says

    Stop dictating how others should act…this world is big enough for effiminate men…gay or straight…to live their lives and act as they please. Only REALLY miserable, bitter, pathetic types fixate on things as petty as mannerisms.

    The only people in the gay community fascinated with “masculine” are insecure gays who THINK they are out of the closet but really, truly aren’t. If your purpose of going out is to be percieved as straight, even the company you keep you dictate to be “str8 acting”…you’re not out of the closet. You are still a closet case. Deal with your issues before asking those comfortable in their sexuality to change.