13 July 2006

it is far too early to be discussing my son's sexual orientation

I had an interesting anonymous comment on my gender-bending post that I thought I'd address in an entirely new post. Anonymous says:

Not many women would be attracted to a man who wears "dingdongs" in his ponytail on tht top of his head, while wearing red nail polish on his fingers...and toes that are sticking out from under his skirt.
Your post regarding your son may be proof to what many say that being gay is not a choice. It is thought that people are gay at birth, no choice. Reading your post, I have to wonder if it will be his, or yours.

I've got a few things to say in response, in no particular order:
  • The implication that a desire to wear a ponytail or nailpolish or a skirt is equivalent to being gay is a little odd. I've known boys and girls of both sexual orientations who have worn all of those, or none. Appearance is not a reliable indicator of sexual orientation.
  • My son is four years old. Four-year-olds of both genders like to play dress-up, and to emulate their parents. Do you still look the way you did at age four? To assume that because he likes nail polish now means that he will do so throughout his adult life is pretty silly. I'm not still wearing jellies, and it's not because I'm afraid men won't be attracted to me if I do; it's because my tastes have changed over the last twenty years. Imagine that.
  • Even if my son does choose to wear skirts when he's a man, so what? Any woman (or man) who will dismiss him out of hand based on appearance alone is probably not worth my son's time anyway. I'd much prefer -- and hopefully, he will too -- that he dates and/or marries people who respect his choices and value him for his personality, intellect, character, and all of the wonderful qualities he possesses.
  • My post about my son is a personal anecdote, which is never "proof" of anything, particularly in a scientific sense. Also, I'm unclear as to what you're saying at the end, anonymous commenter. You wonder if what will be his or mine? His "choice" of sexual orientation, which you previously said may not be a choice?

I have wondered about whether my sons are/will be gay or straight -- not because my older son wants a skirt or because my younger son likes baby dolls, but out of a curiosity about their futures in general. "Will my son be gay?" ranks right up there in my mind with "Will my son play the piano?" Even if it is a choice, then it's his life and his choice to make. I don't consider homosexuality any less valid than heterosexuality, so I don't care whether he ends up loving men, women, both or neither. Whatever my adult son chooses to do with other consenting adults is really none of my business.

Also, on the matter of choice, the latest research leans against it:

"Birth order may steer some men toward homosexuality in a process that perhaps begins before birth. A new study finds that homosexuality grows more likely with the greater number of biological older brothers—those sharing both father and mother—that a male has. [...] It's possible that succeeding pregnancies with male fetuses trigger a maternal immune response. A mother's immune system may treat male fetuses as foreign bodies, attacking them with antibodies that alter sex-related brain development"

So with James being the oldest son, it's less likely that he's gay, but not impossible. If it's true that something in a pregnant mother causes a son to be born gay, then my work is done. It's decided. But regardless of the causes of homosexuality, regardless of my son's behavior, he is four years old. At four years old he is not homosexual, he is not heterosexual, he is not bisexual, because he is not sexual at all. He is a child. Anonymous seems to be more interested in my son's sexuality than his happiness, while I am far more concerned with his happiness than with what his sexual orientation may turn out to be and how that happens.


kim said...

It is totally creepy that someone is thinking about a 4 year old being (sexually) attractive to anyone, male or female.

Anonymous said...

what a great post! wonderful response (though that anonymous comment makes me really angry, i have to say). there should be more parents like you in the world, really dear.
much love,

Anonymous said...

What popped into my mind while reading this is a picture of my brother when he was about four, wearing absolutely everything in my box of dress-up stuff -- multiple skirts, fake pearls, the works. As you point out, little kids love to dress up and pretend they're grownups. Clearly (to anyone sane), what's more important than anything is that your sons are growing up knowing they're loved for who they are, no matter what. They're lucky to have a mom like you.