A lot of people, apparently.
We're standing in line at Toys 'R Us. My affirmed daughter is buying a big pink meanie--a Lots-o-Huggin' Bear. Why the bear is popular I do not know as his character is a grumpy traitor on Toy Story 3. In front of us in the check-out line is a man with two little girls sitting in a shopping cart full of toy trucks. "My daughters both love trucks, can you believe it?" he grimaces. I answer simply, "Yes."
A few days later I am at an arboretum. It's full of tree houses and one has a chest with dress-ups inside. A woman is there with two young children, an older girl and a four-year-old boy. He is wearing a knight's chest armor and a pink ballet tutu. "He doesn't usually dress like this," she hurries to explain apologetically. "Why would that matter?" I ask.
At my boss's house her visiting cousin jeered at his 6 year-old son who was doing cartwheels, "What? Do you wanna be a cheerleader when you grow up?" He repeated similar comments for a few minutes in vain, clearly angry that his son might enjoy doing whatever he felt was fun. (Presumably the boy should enjoy whatever his dad agreed on?)
It's people around us and it's the media, too. Many were in an uproar when J. Crew's President and Creative Director Jenna Lyons sent out an email ad with her painting her son's toenails hot pink. People across the country were upset about what they labeled her aberrant behavior. Clearly they think pink is contagious and will make our sons gay.
Even sitcoms deal with what might "make our children gay." The characters on Seinfeld hurry to qualify when they deny to a reporter they're gay, "Not that there's anything wrong with that!" Yet when Jerry's father reads the article about his son and believes it, he yells at his wife, "It's those damn culottes you made him wear when he was five....looked like he was wearing a skirt for crying out loud!"
The latest bizarre ad for laundry detergent shows a fifties' style mother in a skirt in a pink room lamenting that her daughter wears dirty camouflage and plays with trucks. She's upset that Tide keeps her daughter's clothing clean.
I still can't understand how our society developed such strict ideas of gender roles and why many use violence against those who step outside those roles. More tough a nut to crack is how to work towards a greater acceptance of the gender spectrum. Kevin Sessums, author of Mississippi Sissy, said in an NPR interview that because there are actually more gays being comfortably out in society and on TV, they are more visible, causing the haters to be nastier.
We are seeing more trans people out too, such as Chaz Bono, son of Sonny Bono and Cher, who is in the ABC reality show Dancing With the Stars. This is a good sign. We families with gender variant members hope that by talking about our situations we can let people know we're out there. We hope that by educating people we are making a safer world for our children, but in the back of our minds we fear we might be putting them in danger. We walk the line.
Who cares? We all should.