J.Crew, maker of clothes you can wear to work, finds itself under water this week for an email advertisement that featured president and creative director Jenna Lyons painting her son’s toenails pink. The caption on the photo reads: “Lucky for me I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon.”
It seems that much of the internet is mad at Lyons for what one person cited by Fox News called: “blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children.”
Okay, folks. Two things here:
1. Gender norms are only “norms” because somebody decided they are. If you don’t tell children what they’re supposed to be doing or how they’re supposed to be acting toward traditionally “male” or “female” toys and hobbies, they’ll just play with what they want to play with. When I was a little girl, I played with my Transformers as much as my Barbies. I watched Formula 1 racing with my dad while wearing princess dresses and could tell you every Ferrari model made in the 1960s shortly before busting out with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” I was obsessed with dinosaurs … and kittens. I was every inch the little girl, but nobody ever told me that I couldn’t do something because “that’s for boys.” And guess what? I turned out just fine—and, take note, reactionary idiots out there making this whole thing into a much bigger story than it actually is—I turned out completely heterosexual. It’s entirely possible that Lyons’ son, Beckett, will grow up to be a heterosexual man, too, with no feelings that he was born into the wrong body. It could well be that he’s a child who happens to like pink and happens to like spending quality time with his mom, even if that quality time involves pedicures. Guess what? Grown, heterosexual men get pedicures, too. And women (oh, the horror!) will sometimes wear pants. We’re all cross-dressing to some degree.
2. So what if Beckett does someday want to be called Becky? It will be his choice to become a “her,” not anyone else’s. Back in the day, all little boys wore dresses until they were between four and seven years old, and it’s not like there was a tidal wave of trans-women during the nineteenth century because of it. Parents dressing their sons as girls had, it turns out, absolutely no effect on how their kids would grow up. What makes a person feel he or she was born into the wrong gender is something much deeper, more personal, and (arguably) chemical. It’s nature, not nurture. And whether a person discovers this about him or herself at five or fifty, we owe it to that person, in the name of humanity if not “Christian” morality, to accept him or her as-is. It’s sometimes uncomfortable, and often confusing, but it’s the right thing to do.
The wrong thing to do, however, is to punish a mother—or her child—for who they are.