|J Crew Ad|
Problem With Sissy Boys?
Get Over It!
Pathologizing cross-gender behavior is culturally bound.
BY: Michael C. LaSala Ph.D., LCSW
Posted Jun 13, 2011
Lately, there has been quite a focus in the media on sissy boys. A J. Crew ad featuring a toddler with pink painted toenails, a recent article in The New York Times about children with cross-gendered interests, and the surfacing of a tragic story about the suicide of Kirk Murphy — who as a boy received a harsh "therapy" to "cure" his girlishness — all suggests the beginning of a growing acceptance of sissy behavior in boys. As a gay man and former (and, at times current) sissy boy myself, I applaud this small but hopefully growing movement.
It is important to recognize that pathologizing cross-gender behavior is culturally bound. In contrast to Western society, there are indigenous cultures in which cross-gendered behaviors are respected, even revered as markers of intellectual and spiritual superiority.
For certain Native American tribes, a man who acts like a woman or a woman with manly characteristics is seen as having "two-spirits" and is believed to be imbued with mystical holy powers. As a matter of fact, in many of these cultures, children were sometimes encouraged by their parents to "fake" a tendency to act like the opposite gender so that the family could get the benefits of having a holy member. Elaborate tests would be conducted to make sure that a young son, for example, wasn't feigning "sissyhood."
Getting back to our own culture, it would be nice to think that our world is finally wising up and seeing that, at the very least, it is no big deal if a boy acts like a girl. However, make no mistake: We are not there yet.
The growing backlash, particularly to the toddler with the toenail polish, suggests that the norms governing gender role behavior and appearances are still so firmly entrenched in our society that it can be deeply troubling when people violate them. We are uncomfortable with short-haired women with deep voices who wear masculine clothing and work in construction. We are perhaps even more discomfited by males who sway their hips when they walk and wear cosmetics and feminine clothing (Hmmm...is that scent in the air the smell of misogyny?).
... (read the whole article here)
Nevertheless, the more recent movement toward accepting and embracing feminine behavior in boys is cause for optimism. Perhaps someday we will all realize that rejecting or pathologizing a "sissy" reflects a problem in society rather than a sickness in the brave young man who chooses to act and live the way he was meant to. I, for one, hope that day comes soon.
I personally have been encouraged by many of my resent "I Love A Success Stories". It is wonderful the support and encouragement the parents have provided. This is certainly different from how I was raised, although I was never punished or demeaned by my grandparents for my girlish pursuits. However, I was teased by others for being a sissy.
How were your early years? Please comment...