Dr. Phil doesn’t want your son to be “confused” — especially if “confused” means “gay.” Not that one of America’s most prominent psychological experts (thanks a lot, Oprah) comes right out and says being gay is bad. The gay and lesbian blog Queerty points us to DrPhil.com, where he kindly suggests a mother “direct” her son away from the clothes and toys “for girls” to which he is gravitating. “Don’t buy him Barbie dolls or girl’s clothes,” he writes. “You don’t want to do things that seem to support the confusion at this stage of the game …Take the girl things away, and buy him boy toys.”A mother named Robby wrote Dr. Phil because her son likes to play with so-called girls’ stuff, which she “doesn’t think is normal.” By “normal” she means, uh, “straight,” I assume. Dr. Phil assures her it is normal for kids to play with toys or clothes that interest them, whatever those toys or clothes may be, but he reassures Robby that her son’s penchant for girl stuff is just a phase. “There are developmental stages in kids and it is not unusual, particularly for young boys, to experiment and get stuck on certain stimulus items,” he said. Dr. Phil also assures her, “This is not a precursor to your son being gay” — which is complete BS if you ask me. How does Dr. Phil know if this kid is gay or not? Maybe he is gay — or maybe he isn’t and he just likes playing with Disney princesses? — and here Dr. Phil goes acting like not-being-gay is something a parent needs to be reassured about. Dr. Phil could have advised Robby to love her five-year-old son whoever and whatever he may be.
Instead, Dr. Phil suggests Robby take away the so-called girl stuff and literally suggests she not support him:
“Direct your son in an unconfusing way. Don’t buy him Barbie dolls or girl’s clothes. You don’t want to do things that seem to support the confusion at this stage of the game … Take the girl things away, and buy him boy toys. … Support him in what he’s doing, but not in the girl things.”
Is America’s leading psychologist a homophobe? It sure looks like it. He’s also completely f**king delusional if he thinks parents can influence their child’s sexuality one way or the other.
Look, I get it that some parents freak out if their kid is gay, or they think their kid is gay. My best friend is a lesbian and it took a long for her mother to be comfortable with the fact her daughter would be doing everything from dating women to facing additional persecution in her life. And her dad still doesn’t know because they don’t think he’ll be able to handle it. Parents aren’t necessarily even homophobic; sometimes they’re just afraid their kid is going to be teased at school, face violence or worse.
But the answer isn’t to discourage kids from being who they want to be, especially since that’s something we know parents, peers and society-at-large can’t control. I acknowledge that the constructions of “masculine” and “feminine” exist, but I think it’s something each person needs to figure out for himself or herself. The problem, fundamentally, is this idea that “girl toys” and “boy toys” exist. Why can’t they just be toys? Gender and sexuality constrictions are some pretty heavy stuff to put on a 5-year-old. Robby would be better served following the example set by blogger Nerdy Apple Bottom, who made the news last year after she allowed her young son to dress up like Daphne from “Scooby Doo” for Halloween and got flack from other parents because of it. She wrote:
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.
Part of the reason this gets my panties in a twist is because Robby’s son won’t be the only one affected by Dr. Phil’s stupid advice, if Robby chooses to follow it. It’s reasonable to assume that if Robby’s son is affected by his mother’s discouragement, all the little kids who Robby’s son comes into contact with will get the brunt of it. “You can’t play in the kitchen with the toy food! Toy food is for girls!” “You can’t play dress up! Dress up is for girls!” “You can’t watch Dora! Only girls watch Dora!” I’m dealing with this kind of thing ight now with my seven-year-old nephew. He’s got stuffed animals, Free To Be You And Me and a family that doesn’t care one way or the other how he represents his gender/sexuality. But as preschool became kindergarten and kindergarten became first grade, life with him has gotten a lot more “Eww! That’s for girls!” and “Boys don’t do that!” And I’m, like, DUDE.
I hope Robby has the presence of mind to realize Dr. Phil’s advice is just one way to raise your child, not the most accepting way. I hope Robby’s son has other people in his life who accept him the way he is, whether that’s masculine or feminine or both, gay, straight or bisexual or something else entirely. And I hope Dr. Phil pulls his head out of his ass. Because he should know better. He really should.