Pink Polish

J. Crew has apparently committed an atrocious sin.  What sin is that?  Making an ad with a little boy whose mother has painted his toenails bright pink.

According to Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist who contributes to Fox News, the danger with the ad is that it is “encouraging the choosing of gender identity, rather than suggesting our children become comfortable with the ones that they got at birth, can throw our species into real psychological turmoil—not to mention crowding operating rooms with procedures to grotesquely amputate body parts?” He goes on to compare this to having people tattoo their skin dark to adopt African-American heritage or bleach their skin to pretend that they are white. One might think that Dr. Ablow might have a good point, since he is a psychiatrist. One would be wrong.

Gender Identity Disorder is a much more complex issue than a boy simply having pink nail polish on at some point during his childhood.  It is not a contagious disorder and, like with sexuality, gender identity is not truly something one chooses.  It is how a person feels on a deeper level.  Simply having pink toenails (for a boy) or playing with Hot Wheels or GI Joe (for a girl) will not make someone have the disorder.  If he were doing at least four of the following: demanding to be identified as a girl, actually cross-dressing, fantasizing about being a girl in a persisted/repeated manner, wanting to only play with girls, and having an intense desire to play female-oriented games and with more stereotypical female-oriented toys, then he might be more likely to have the disorder.  But even these factors do not determine that a child will definitely end up identifying as a transgendered person.  Some people will participate in these behaviors as children and will grow up to be the same sex that they were born as.

Simply wearing pink polish in one picture doesn’t mean that he will suddenly want to go through a sex change operation.  Even if he does self-identify as a girl, the changing of one’s gender medically is a lot more complex that just going in and demanding the operation.  There would be years before he could go through it.  He would go through a lot of therapy, hormones, and would have to understand the potential risks and repercussions of the surgery.  The only truly damaging aspect of the whole process would be the outside influences telling him that this part of his life was wrong.  The risks of psychological turmoil are not from the inner struggle, but more from the ignorant pundits who sit on their lofty perches and say that what the transgendered want is sick and that they shouldn’t be encouraged.  That is the part that puts our society in jeopardy.

Treating this whole “issue” like it is somehow wrong or dirty or like it will be detrimental to the future of this child or to society as a whole smacks of the same kind of narrow-minded attitudes that existed in the 1950’s when being gay was considered a disease by the scientific community.  This doctor and those who share his perspective are doing nothing more than perpetuating a stereotype that shouldn’t even exist.  Instead of telling the viewers of Fox News that they shouldn’t worry about this kind of thing and should love their children unconditionally, a supposed expert is telling them that they should look at any child who is different from the norm with suspicion and with some level of fear.  As a psychiatrist, he should know that that kind of attitude has been shown to damage the psyche of children, regardless of their sexual and gender orientations, and has led to more children suffering from (at best) minor anxiety and self-esteem issues or (at worst) horrible psychiatric ailments that could end in long-term hospitalizations with a greater risk of suicide risks.  The shame the children attitude has pretty much created the whole personality disorder category of the DSM.

This “doctor” should be ashamed of himself.  He should be the one who is being discussed and demoralized.  This child was having fun.  His mom was encouraging him to be himself and to have fun.  This was the act of a caring parent and this kind of acceptance of our children should be applauded, not demonized.

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Janet Morris

I'm from Huntsville, Alabama. I've got as many college credits as a doctorate candidate, and the GPA of some of them, too. I have a boss by the name of Amy Pond. She's a dachshund. My parents both grew up in Alabama.