Mommy, I was born this way …

The internet has been buzzing for the past several weeks about little boys who like to dress up in frilly, girly clothes.

There was Dyson, the pre-schooler who preferred red sequins and heels to pirates and police captains (who wouldn’t?) in the dress-up corner. Then there was Boo, the 5-year-old who wanted to dress as Daphne from Scooby Doo for Halloween.

Boo’s mom wrote a blog post about it and got a zillion comments (okay, maybe it was 40,000), many of which were absolutely hateful. Her response to the naysayers?

“If you think that me allowing my son to be a female character for Halloween is somehow going to ‘make’ him gay then you are an idiot… I am not worried that your son will grow up to be an actual ninja so back off.”

You go, girl.

Dyson’s mom took a different approach. Concerned that her kiddo would be singled out for ‘gay’ bullying, she decided to educate. The result is “My Princess Boy”, a children’s book about gender and acceptance. My Princess Boy tells the tale of a 4-year-old boy who expresses his authentic self by happily dressing up and enjoying traditional girl things, like jewelry and anything pink or sparkly.

Kudos to both these moms, who stood up for their sons and put themselves out there against a tide of intolerance.

Will toddlers who try on girly clothes grow up to be gay? Of course not. No more than the ones who refuse to remove the Superman cape for weeks on end are guaranteed a future of heterosexuality.

But, I ask, why now? Why these boys? What makes these stories go viral at this unique moment in our history? Certainly little guys have been experimenting with girl’s clothes forever. Is there a family out there who doesn’t have an adorable photo of little Johnny tottering around in Mommy’s high heels, his diaper drooping?

We seem to have reached a tipping point on issues of sexual orientation and gender. Will we continue to accept the dishonesty of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’? Can some states pass laws allowing gay marriage, while others ban it? Why do same-sex couples in New York have the right to provide a loving home for a child in need, while those in Florida do not? Will we keep looking the other way while our children who don’t fit a traditional definition of masculinity are assaulted?

This kind of random discrimination can only be defended if we continue to buy into the sham of sexuality as a choice — a life-style decision. Which it isn’t.

The biological evidence is in. Just like my hair color,  my ultimate height, and my smile that’s a dead ringer for Grandpa’s, my sexual orientation is part of the inborn mix. No, it’s not as simple as a ‘gay gene’, but biological factors including genetic, hormonal, and intrauterine influences are in charge.

I know there are voices out there shrieking otherwise, but trust me, 10 years from now we’ll look back and shake our heads at how wrong they were. Consider what we do know …

  • Studies of identical and fraternal twins show a much higher rate of sexual orientation concordance among identical twins. This is true for both homosexual and heterosexual twins.
  • The vast majority of gay adults were raised by heterosexual parents and the vast majority of children raised by gay parents grow up to be heterosexual.
  • Our gender identity and sexual orientation are programmed when we are still in the womb through a direct action or absence of testosterone on the developing brain cells.
  • The American Psychological Association says that “most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation”.
  • Homosexual and bisexual behavior are widespread in the animal kingdom.
  • Genetic studies have found 5 strikingly similar markers located on the X chromosome of homosexual men.
  • All populations and all cultures studied so far have been found to have a similar rate of homosexuality — approximately 10%.

So can it happen in your family, or mine? Of course, and it will have nothing to do with that long-ago Halloween costume or those red 3 inch heels. Or an aggressive mother and a passive father. Or bachelor Uncle Jack, who always seemed a little weird, except insofar as Uncle Jack shares some DNA with your little one.

I once read an essay by a young gay man who struggled with coming out to his family. He said he thought the ideal response would be “so what?” Tuck that into the back of your mind, just in case.

In the meantime, buy a copy of My Princess Boy and read it aloud to kids of all ages. It’s about acceptance.

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Rachel Zahn, MD is a pediatrician turned health writer who had three kids during medical school and pediatric training—crazy, huh?


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