Mom of 5-Year-Old to Homophobes: ’Suck It!’
The mother of a 5-year-old boy who drew scorn and criticism from the mothers of his classmates for dressing as a female cartoon character has a simple message for anyone who might be "concerned" about her child's choice of holiday costume: tend to your own kids.
In an article posted Nov. 2 at Nerdy Apple Bottom, "Cop's Wife," a Missouri resident, detailed how her son wanted to go to the Halloween party at his church preschool dressed as Daphne Blake, the orange-haired young woman from a well-heeled family who is a character in the long-running Scooby Doo cartoon series. Knowing that her son is a fan of the program--and noting that he had dressed as the title character, Scooby Doo, a dog, last year--"Cop's Wife" bought the costume, which consisted of pink and purple garments and an orange wig.
"Cop's Wife" observed, "If my daughter had dressed as Batman, no one would have thought twice about it. No one." But the sight of her son dressed as a female character drew sharp critiques from several other mothers at the party.
"Cop's Wife" related that although her son had expressed enthusiasm for the costume he had requested, shortly before the day of the party he seemed to harbor doubts and fear that he would be mocked. His mother reassured him; relating her thoughts in the posting, "Cop's Wife" wrote, "Seriously, who would make fun of a child in costume?"
The answer to that question was not long in coming. "Two mothers went wide-eyed and made faces as if they smelled decomp," "Cop's Wife" wrote. "And I realize that my son is seeing the same thing I am. So I say, 'Doesn't he look great?' And Mom A says in disgust, 'Did he ask to be that?!' "
"Cop's Wife" continues the story, writing, "I say that he sure did as Halloween is the time of year that you can be whatever it is that you want to be. They continue with their nosy, probing questions as to how that was an option and didn't I try to talk him out of it. Mom B mostly just stood there in shock and dismay." A third woman then interjected that "Cop's Wife" should have refused to allow her son to dress as Daphne because he would face ridicule from the other children for dressing as a girl.
"My response to that," wrote "Cop's Wife," was, "The only people that seem to have a problem with it is their mothers."
"Cop's Wife" did have a defender among the group. "Another mom pointed out that high schools often have Spirit Days where girls dress like boys and vice versa," she wrote. "I mentioned Powderpuff Games where football players dress like cheerleaders and vice versa." Added "Cop's Wife," "But here's the point, it is none of your damn business. 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. Firstly, what a ridiculous concept. Secondly, if my son is gay, OK. I will love him no less. Thirdly, I am not worried that your son will grow up to be an actual ninja so back off."
Reflecting on her son's sudden doubts as the party approached, "Cop's Wife" wrote that it "was heartbreaking to me that my sweet, kind-hearted five year old was right to be worried. He knew that there were people like A, B, and C. And he, at 5, was concerned about how they would perceive him and what would happen to him.
"Just as it was heartbreaking to those parents that have lost their children recently due to bullying," "Cop's Wife" added. "IT IS NOT OK TO BULLY. Even if you wrap it up in a bow and call it 'concern.' Those women were trying to bully me. And my son. MY son."
The description of the events as they had unfolded were a follow-up to an earlier posting. On Oct. 29, the day of the church pre-school's Halloween party, "Cop's Wife" posted a comment in which she declared, "for those of you that looked at my sweet boy in disdain this morning, or looked at me funny for 'allowing' my son to be what he wanted to for Halloween, or made those snide and unnecessary comments--your lives are small, your tact is lacking, and you can SUCK IT!"
Striking a Chord
The story struck a chord in the aftermath of so many gay youths who, having been bullied, had ended their own lives. "Cop's Wife's" postings went viral, drawing more than a million hits in just two days and attracting the attention not only of GLBT bloggers but also of the mainstream press, including CNN.
Salon.com also picked up on the story. A Nov. 4 Salon.com story read, "It should be a no-brainer that 5-year-old boy who dresses like Daphne one day a year is not automatically gay or transgendered--although obviously, if he had wanted to be Velma, he'd be a lesbian." Added the article, "The point is, as the mom blogger beautifully expresses it, so what?"
Calling "Cop's Wife" "a refreshing example of great parenting in action," the Salon.com article went on to observe, "Though the inevitable handful of trolls has shown up in the blogger's comments, the response has been overwhelmingly supportive, positive and wildly enthusiastic." The article suggested that readers "Think of it as nature's way of refreshing our faith in humanity after Clint McCance's notorious Facebook diatribe last week that 'I would disown my kids they were gay. They will not be welcome at my home or in my vicinity. I will absolutely run them off.' "
McCance, a former member of a school board in northern Arkansas, resigned from the board when his comments about Spirit Day sparked a firestorm in the media. Spirit Day was organized as a response to the rash of recent gay youth suicides, and participants were encouraged to wear purple on Oct. 20. On his own Facebook page, McCance wrote, "Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers killed themselves. The only way im wearin it for them is if they all commit suicide. I cant believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed thereselves because of their sin. REALLY PEOPLE."
The Advocate broke the story on Oct. 26. "While schools across the country are taking action against bullying and suicide, a board member of an Arkansas school district is using his Facebook page to encourage 'queers' and 'fags' to kill themselves," The Advocate's story said.
McCance appeared on Anderson Cooper's CNN news program on Oct. 28 to apologize and to say that, despite how his comments had been read by many as encouraging gay youths to kill themselves, "I don't wish death on anyone."
A Nov. 4 Box Turtle Bulletin posting echoed the sentiments of the Salon.com article. "These good mothers at the Christian school would never ever think of themselves as bullies," the Box Turtle article read. "But they are setting role models for their children, approving of condemnation and rejection and letting their kids know that they have the right to humiliate other kids who don't dress up to their standards or live according to their gender expectations.
"But I think this kid's going to be okay," added the Box Turtle Bulletin posting. "He has a cop for a father and a super-hero for a mother. I love this woman."
Reader comments reflected how children like to dress up regardless of gender expectations, and noted that dressing as the opposite gender is not in itself a sign that a child is gay or transgendered. "Sometimes it's just fun/funny to dress up like the opposite sex for kids," wrote one reader of the Box Turtle Bulletin story. "It doesn't always indicate a fetish, transvestitism, genderqueerness, or a non-heterosexual orientation. Sometimes people take things way too seriously."
"My half brother used to dress up in women's clothes all the time, and you couldn't find anyone 'straighter' than he is," wrote another.
Another wrote in to say, "The executive team at my company does this really embarrassing Hallowe'en show every year, and every single time, our male CEO comes in drag. This year he was Lady Gaga. So if this poor kid has any future ahead of him at all, it's as the CEO of a company with about $14 billion annual revenue. Truly, he is cursed."
A CNN commentator, Dr. Jeff Gardere, created waves anew when he told the 5-year-old's mother, who phoned in to CNN by phone under the name "Sarah," "It is the worst nightmare of heterosexual and gay couples to have to fathom that their child might be gay," Heather Hopp-Bruce said in a Nov. 5 editorial in The Boston Globe.
In a clip available for viewing at the site, Gardere opined that "it was a natural reaction" for the mothers of the other children to respond as they did, and added that "Sarah's" blog defending her son was "admirable," though he wondered about "Sarah" having "outed" her son, even though no one was actually suggesting that the boy was gay due to his choice of Halloween costume.
"If you read the blog, then you do see, first of all, he's five years old... he's made no overtures either way [gay or straight], at the age of five," Sarah pointed out. "Halloween is a night to dress up--you get to be something that you are not."
"The mother kept her cool, but I was shocked," wrote Hopp-Bruce. "Really? He thinks that's a parent's worst nightmare? How about death? Does that come in second? Do any number of debilitating illnesses fall on the nightmare list after gay?
"What sits high on my parental nightmare list (gay isn't even on it) is that people like Dr. Gardere are contributing to a culture of hatred by alluding that having a gay child is a terrible thing for families," added Hopp-Bruce, who went on to say that Gardere "should apologize. To the mother, to the gay clients he claims to have, and to the CNN audience."