Please Don’t Gender Police the Kids

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I raised my kids pretty well, one boy and one girl. I am very proud of them both, especially for their acceptance of various gender and sexuality issues and orientations, and their general love for people of all kinds. My daughter has two kids, also one boy (3) and one girl (6).

She is such an excellent parent! I’m so proud of her, and of my beautiful grandkids. She also picked a wonderful husband.

As with all siblings, my grandkids want to play with whatever the other one has or do what they are doing. My granddaughter is the older child so she sets the stage most of the time and her little brother is eager to emulate her.

She is a girly girl, but also a tomboy. She loves dresses and frills but also wants to wear cowboy boots. Like most girls, once she found out what nail polish was she wanted some on her fingernails and toenails ASAP. And when she gets her nails painted, my grandson wants his painted, too.

Why wouldn’t he? His sister is doing it, and it looks really cool. Little kids aren’t homophobic. Unless it happens in their own home, they don’t know that you can be shamed for being a boy and having painted fingernails.

And my daughter and son-in-law aren’t ignorant enough to think that painting your son’s fingernails will “make him gay”.

Even if he does eventually identify as gay, she would happily accept him anyway.  But being 3 and wanting your fingernails painted is not an indicator of a person’s sexual orientation. It is simply emulating the behavior of others, and the desire comes from the fact that nail polish is indeed cool. Body adornment of any kind is fun for kids.

So when my grandson asks to have his toenails and fingernails painted, my daughter’s and her husband answer “Sure son, what color would you like?”

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Many moms and dads would say “no”. To which the boy would inevitably ask “Why?” The answer would usually then be, “Because it is only for girls”.

But my daughter and son-in-law don’t believe nail polish is only for girls. In fact where we live, it is kind of a fashion thing for guys to wear nail polish. It doesn’t mean you are gay. It doesn’t mean you are feminine. It is a simple body adornment, a choice anyone can make. It causes no harm, is removed simply, and is really fun.

Does everything we do have to be gender policed?

I have no doubt that there are some adults who see my grandson’s painted nails and think it is a tragedy that his parents would allow this. Yes, there are still people who think something like this can “make you gay”. Or even just that, “Is only for girls, so you are making your son look like a girl,” with the implication that there is something dangerous about doing this. And yet, my daughter does it anyway because it is fun and my grandson loves it. Some glances from other adults trying to shame her don’t matter.

Actually, I think she thinks it is funny that other people feel this way and enjoys shocking them a bit. Little pushes at people’s boundaries are a good thing.

When I see my grandkids and they have both just had their nails done, they can’t wait to show me! Sometimes they have something fancy like every nail painted a different color, or blue on one foot, red on the other foot, purple on one hand and pink on the other.

They get excited about the creative choices they’ve made in nail design.

When they visit me, I paint their nails too, if they want it done. I have different colors than they have at home so it is a whole new adventure.

I know that one day my grandson will encounter someone who tries to shame him about the nail polish, and he might even decide not to do it anymore as a result. That is the real shame, but it will likely happen. He is too young right now to be aware of how mean people can be to you if you don’t conform to gender roles. But like all of us, he will learn the hard way.

Some parents would say “no” to the nail polish on a boy to save him from that potential shame coming from older kids and adults. But my daughter and her hubby are brave souls and are on the leading edge of some important changes we need to see in the world. As parents, they can handle those shaming adults and kids for their son, for now.

When it comes time for him to understand what shaming is and that is can occur for something like a boy wearing fingernail polish, he can decide for himself whether to stand up to the shame or cave in to it. And his parents will honor his choice. But I know they will encourage him not to give power to those who shame us for gender choices, especially something as harmless as painted fingernails.  

This story was originally published on The Good Men Project by Marie Franklin.

Author—Marie Franklin is an author and dating coach. She has a unique perspective on relationships and promotes an enthusiastic, sex positive message. Visit Marie's blog at http://mariefranklin.blogspot.com and follow her on Twitter: @MarieFranklin00.

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