Does Nail Polish Make Boys Gay? And Who Cares?

Family Matters on 04.13.11
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If you've turned the television on today chances are you've seen the media fodder over a picture in J. Crew's latest catalog of the popular clothing company's president and creative director, Jenna Lyons, painting her five year old son's toenails neon pink in a spread titled "Saturdays with Jenna". According to conservative critics who are outraged by this photo, if a boy wears pink nail polish that means he will become gay or transgender, and his mother should certainly not be pushing that lifestyle on him or giving him that option. If he wears black nail polish, does that mean he's destined to become gay or transgender and Goth? I don't know how I missed the memo on this in all the parenting books I've read. And what does it really all mean? Am I going to love my children any less if they are or become (nature vs. nurture is another story) gay?

J Crew Ad Controversy
Shine is one of the many web sites and media outlets that has covered the J. Crew ad controversy with a "Who cares?" opinion, but there are many others that have not.

The caption of the photo quotes Lyons as saying, "Lucky for me I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon." One would assume from that that it was her son's decision to paint his toenails pink. It doesn't appear that Lyons is holding him down in an attempt to make him gay saying, "You must wear pink nail polish." In fact, her son is smiling at her and appears to be having fun.

Lots of Boys Do "Girl Things" and Vice Versa

When I brought up the topic to my fellow Parentables bloggers, just about all of them had a story to tell about a boy who once did something "girlie". There was a boy who loved to wear his mom's high heels as a toddler, and now in his twenties lives with his girlfriend, a boy who carried a pink diaper bag (because there were no other toy diaper bag options) in prepping for his baby sibling's arrival, a boy who likes to be the princess character in a video game, and the list goes on. Jennifer Lopez was just quoted in People as saying that her son Max likes to have his nails painted when she is painting her daughter Emme's nails. Nobody seems to be freaking out over that. Maybe because his picture isn't in print or because she's quoted as saying he likes them painted blue. Apparently, then it's considered to be ok. It certainly appears that all, or certainly a lot of boys do this at some point.

As a mother to a four year old boy, I have no problem admitting that my son likes to put make-up on with me when I'm getting ready to go out. He is not a big fan of us ever going out without him (which I might add is a very rare occasion), and it's his way of spending time with me before I leave for the night. I mostly pretend (only so as not to waste my make-up) I've added some powder to my brushes and he brushes it across his face. He loves my peppermint flavored lip gloss-probably more for the flavor than the shiny lips, and when he was younger he loved to walk around in my high heels. He has always loved to play kitchen and help me plan parties, but who's ever heard of a great male chef? Today his favorite color is purple and tomorrow it will probably be orange. But because it was purple for a day, that probably means he's gay, right? The same boy has also been obsessed with being a fireman for the past three years, loves to build things with his father, spent two hours playing in his dad's work truck the other day, and could play baseball and hockey all day. Does that still mean he's gay?

In addition to dressing up in high heels and costume jewelry, my two year old daughter loves playing with tools, climbing ladders, and pushing the toy lawnmower. Does anybody think she's going to be gay or transgender because of it? I don't think so. For some reason, we don't put the same pressure on girls to only do "girl things" as we do on boys to only do "boy things" when all they are really doing is mimicking their parents because they want to be like both mommy and daddy.

When my younger cousins were really little, they used to love to do people's nails. They would come to Fourth of July cookouts and in addition to painting all of the women's nails; they would paint the nails of my uncles and their friends too, and get them to pay for the service too! As far as I know, none of those men have become gay or transgender as a result.

Respect and Happiness

Sometimes I imagine the day when my children will walk down the aisle with their new spouses. Like most parents, I envision that their new spouse will be of the opposite sex (although I do have a friend who always wanted to have four boys with the youngest being gay), but if they are not, I'm not going to love my child any less or be any less happy for them. What bothers me most about all of this is people's complete lack of respect for other people. There are millions of gay and/or transgender people in the world, and while the critics may not agree with their lifestyle, to insult people to such a degree as to say that it would be absolutely horrible to have your child end up like them could not be a more demeaning to them or their loved ones. To me, it is much more important to raise children that are kind, thoughtful human beings who respect other people for who they are than it is to try to determine my children's sexual orientation. My biggest nightmare is that my children grow up to be one of these people who have so little respect for other people.  

How about if we just let kids be who they are and not tell them who they can't be? Maybe then we'll have confident children who are able to focus on doing the things they really love and be happy. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I always thought being happy was the ultimate goal.


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