Simon’s preschool offered a professional photography session last month wherein the kids were invited to dress up in keeping with one of two themes: Boys were to be clad in a white t-shirt and jeans for a “gone to the fishin’ hole” shoot, and girls in fancy purple dresses and wings for a woodland fairy shoot. Faced with this information, Simon declared that he would choose the fairy costume. This seems like a no brainer anyway since a tshirt and jeans isn’t exactly a costume, and besides, Simon goes actual fishing several times a year. Opportunities to flit about as a magical winged creature come about less often.
It did not actually occur to me that he might meet any resistance to his plan, and in truth, there wasn’t much. The photographer apparently tried repeatedly to sway him toward the “boy stuff,” and some of Simon’s own teachers seemed bemused. But he did have a champion or two among his teachers, and so purple fairy he became.
Since posting one of the resulting photos on facebook, I’ve gotten a lot of very kind notes suggesting that I am courageous for letting him be himself. I detest false modesty, so I will generally acknowledge when I have done something fabulous, but in this instance, I genuinely don’t see it. Simon likes to dress up. He likes fairies and Iron-Man, skirts and Transformer masks, Dora and ninjas. I know people often falsely conflate transvestite with transgender and both with being gay. The truth is, Simon does not show any signs of being transgender, and as for being gay, or for someday enjoying cross-dressing, those games are too early to call.
It doesn’t take any courage for me to support his choice to be a fairy. It won’t take any courage for me to accept that he’s gay, if it turns out he is. When I picture my boys’ futures, I confess I imagine them getting married since that’s what I did, but in fifty percent of my daydreams, they’re marrying women, and in the other fifty percent, they’re marrying men. It really makes no difference to me. Transgender would be a higher hurdle since gender is a great deal more fundamental than sexuality, but even that I have entertained and can wrap my head around. There are plenty of things I would struggle with if they came to pass: a schizophrenic son. A son who was alone his whole life. A son who was unwillingly childless. Both sons being childless, willing or not. (I have a hard time with a grandchild-less future.)
That list could wind on and on. But letting him dress like a fairy? No sacrifice at all. And not at all courageous. We love what we love. We love whom we love. It takes no courage for me to let them love what they love. I could not look into those glinting eyes and that little face radiating pure joy and tell him it’s wrong. Nor will I be able to do that if he ever comes to me and tells me he loves another boy. To accept him for what he is takes no courage at all, but is only the barest requirement of parenthood. To reject him, and watch my little boy crumple under that rejection would be cowardice. And, I hope, a far greater measure of it than I possess.