The Pink Party

A couple weeks ago, surrounded by a dozen amigitos, Oz broke a Rupunzel piƱata to celebrate his seventh birthday. Along with the usual sugary fare, princess trinkets spilled onto the ground while he and his friends scrambled to collect them. Next they ate fairy-castle cake off Merida plates, and Oz opened gifts that ranged from art supplies to dolls to a baseball bat.

The next day he spent his birthday money on more princess stuff at The Disney Store before heading to Build-a-Bear where he assembled Vexi, which my husband nicknamed Trans-Smurf.

It was a pink-boy’s dream birthday, and while I soaked up every one of his huge grins and excited giggles, I watched his older brother out of the corner of my eye wondering what he thought of his little brother’s day.

Gee’s seventh birthday had been very different. By seven he had a handful of diagnoses, including Gender Identity Disorder. Although the other diagnoses, particularly Tourette, would later come to take precedence, what continued to occupy our conversations at home through those early years was gender. My husband and I argued over what Gee was allowed to wear and when he was allowed to wear it. We argued over his activities–whether we should encourage his interest in figure skating and let him try dance. We argued about continuing with the therapist who believed we were confusing Gee by letting him have girl things. Through this Gee learned to hide his dolls, his dresses, and even favorite-color t-shirts. It was all, literally, in the closet.

We worked out a lot over those years and became better parents–and people–because of it. As a result, Oz enjoyed full gender freedom with few social consequences. He rarely hides his love of princesses and female pop-stars–if anything, it’s made him more popular with the little girls at school.

Although the inequity is obvious, I’m not sure it was such a terrible thing to parent them so differently. Oz’s love of pink and glitter is a phase that is transforming into a love of art, music and theater. A talented, creative pop-star boy, even a boy who loves pink, is much more easily accepted in our society than a boy who loves other boys. I wish helping Gee to be himself was as easy as throwing a pink party, but for him revealing something as simple as his favorite color is much more serious business.

For example, considering where we live and who our friends are, I was surprised at the depth of Gee’s emotion as he expressed his enormous fear that he could be gay. As I listened it became crystal clear though. He knows more about LGBTQ rights than most kids his age. He knows the world isn’t a fair place. He knows gay kids still get teased. He’s been teased. He’s picked up the news about gay marriage, and even when I assure him that most people are supportive, he points out, “Everyone doesn’t think it’s not a bad thing.”

He just wants to be a regular kid who grows up to be a regular dad, and he sees being gay as an obstacle to getting what he wants out of life. Unfortunately, I don’t think he’s wrong about that. Having taught him to be cautious about what he reveals to whom may protect him in ways that are yet unimaginable to us, his parents, who have always enjoyed the privileges that go along with being white, straight, and middle class. The first time I revealed to a boy that I had a crush on him, probably isn’t going to be anything like the first time he reveals a crush.

I wish we could just throw a big pink party to celebrate him and let him know that we love him for who he is and that being himself is the best and only way to be. I wish coming out could be more like a quinceanera for him, but I know it isn’t. Being Gee is going to take a lot of courage. Still, if we can see him through adolescence, then maybe he’ll see a day not where people say the world is changing, but that it is changed. And then we can all celebrate.

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