A little while ago, my wife found herself in an uncomfortable situation. She was out running errands with our three-year-old daughter when they happened across a man, who was very obviously a man — five o’clock shadow, Adam’s apple, the whole nine yards — yet was dolled up in makeup, a wig, and a dress. My daughter responded exactly as any normal child would respond. She pointed at the man and asked, loudly, “Mommy, isn’t that a boy?”
“Yes, that’s a boy,” my wife quickly responded. “But we don’t point.”
I had a talk with my daughter later that evening when my wife told me what happened. I explained to her that sometimes boys dress in silly costumes because they are confused. We should pray for them. “That’s silly,” she exclaimed. “It’s not Halloween!”
When she’s older I can tell her about the underlying mental illness, but for now all she needs to know, and all she can understand, is that it’s silly. In a child’s mind, a thing is either silly or normal. We never want her to think that a man in a dress is normal.
I thought back to that exchange when I saw this BuzzFeed article written by a “gender nonconforming person.” Not to be confused with a “transgender,” this is a man who knows he is a man yet dresses in women’s clothing anyway. In his “letter to parents whose children stare at me in public,” Jacob Tobia lectures us about the proper ways to respond when he confuses our children by parading around in drag. In the lengthy screed, complete with about a half-dozen pictures of himself in lipstick and miniskirts, Tobia complains that children often stare and point at him, and their parents fail to make use of the “teaching moment” he has so helpfully provided. “You can do better than that,” he scolds. “You have to do better. You owe it to me.”
Tobia insists that our first job in life is to affirm everything he does. We exist to serve him. Our children exist in order to be molded into little versions of him. This is the kind of insane pride that lies at the foundation of most of the “gender nonconforming” trend. And to really drive that point home, Tobia gives us a script we are to follow when talking to our kids about gender issues:
“You could say ‘Yes, Johnny, sometimes boys do wear lipstick and that is perfectly okay. You can wear lipstick too if you want!’ Or you could say, ‘Why yes, Sarah, she is wearing a bowtie. Girls and boys can both wear bowties. Would you like one?’… And for the love of god, no matter what response you choose, please don’t be awkward about it.”
Yes, the man in the dress is concerned that we might be making things a little awkward.
Fortunately, Tobia ends on a magnanimous note:
Parents, while it may be rude to talk about strangers, I’m gonna go ahead and give your kids a pass. I am fine with your children talking about me in public, as long as you’re willing to talk about me in public too. The next time you see me standing on the subway in a pair of heels or strutting poolside in a purple lip and your child says something about it, I give you full permission to use me as a teaching opportunity.
He gives us his permission. That is very generous of him. I certainly would never dream of speaking to my own children unless Jacob Tobia has given me the go ahead. And now that I have been so graciously granted this freedom, here is what I will say to my own children. It’s basically what I have already said to them, as noted above: “Children, some grown ups are very confused about their identity so they pretend to be something they’re not. They are deeply sad and probably ill, and you should have compassion for them but you should never allow them to pull you into their confusion. Your instinctive reaction is correct. It’s absurd for a boy to dress like that. Never feel ashamed for being sane in a world filled with madness, children. Never be ashamed of the truth.”
And to Jacob Tobia and the other gender crusaders of the Left, I say this: I don’t owe you anything. I owe my child something. I owe her a proper moral and intellectual formation. I will not let you interfere with that process. I will not let you tell me how to raise my children. You don’t get to govern my reaction to your outlandish pageantry. You don’t get to control what I say about you or even what I say to you. You have the freedom to be “gender nonconforming” — which simply means you’re conforming to the standards of nonconforming — but you can’t force me to treat it like it’s normal or healthy. I will not normalize your behavior to my kids. They naturally think it’s silly. I will foster and nurture that reaction. I cannot stop you from putting on this sad charade. You cannot stop me from telling my children the truth about it.
And here lies the great irony. The people who are the most opposed to free expression are the same people who want to express themselves as freely, outrageously, and disturbingly as imaginable. Self-expression is a right that they want to keep all to themselves. The rest of us must express ourselves in a way that conforms precisely to their wishes. They demand that we adjust our language — adjust our perception of reality itself — to meld with their delusions. “Here is the script you must follow,” announces the man who refuses to even follow his own biology.
But I don’t care about the script. And I will not teach the script to my kids. You will not dictate to me or to them. I will use “he” for boys and “she” for girls, no matter what pronouns anyone prefers. I will teach my children to do likewise. I will not admonish them for thinking a ridiculous thing is ridiculous. I will not tell my son that it’s “perfectly OK” for boys to wear lipstick. It’s not OK. It’s disordered and unhealthy.
My wife was right to tell my daughter that the boy in a dress was a boy, and to say it right there, on the spot, in front of him. She was not out to hurt his feelings. She was simply answering the question that my daughter had asked. She answered it with the truth. She was not going to play by the rules of his fantasy world. She was not going to tell a lie for his sake. But that is exactly what the Jacob Tobias of the world insist that we do. It is not merely our tolerance they demand. It is our participation.
Well, they won’t get it. Not from my family, anyway.