Raising My Rainbow

The Disneyland Birthday: Is My Son the Punch Line of Some Gay Joke?

Raising My Rainbow is written by the mother of a slightly effeminate, possibly gay, totally fabulous son. She’s chronicling their journey on Queerty right here. Read up on RMR‘s cast of characters.

Gender-neutral-yellow cupcakes for everyone!

It was almost time to sing Happy Birthday to C.J. Friends and family were gathered around the table outside by the pool. So were the preschool classmates and their parents, all strangers to us. Nana Grab Bags exited the kitchen and approached the crowd first. She proudly carried a tray of homemade frosted cupcakes sprinkled to perfection. She moved like Cinderella’s Godmother. Bippity Boppity Boo.

I was right behind her with C.J.’s oversized Big Top Cupcake decorated, at his request, with the Disney Princesses. They were all on there: Ariel, Belle, Aurora, Cinderella, Snow White, even Jasmine (poor thing, she’s a b-list princess at best who rarely gets invited to the party).

Nana Grab Bags sets the cupcakes in the center of the table. All eyes on us. I set the jumbo, pale pink, princess cupcake with pastel sprinkles in front of C.J. All eyes on us. The group turns into a mixture of skeptical looks, baffled expressions and smirky smiles. I hold my head up high and carry on, like this is perfectly normal; because, for us, it is.

C.J.’s Disney Princess Big Top Cupcake made by our supersweet neighbor

No one said a word to us. Flip video cameras rolled and camera phones clicked. More so than usual. Seems like every party-goer wanted a shot of the birthday boy with his princess cake. And, I wondered, as I so often do…

Is my son the punch line of some gay joke?

That was one year ago. C.J. was turning three and we were only a few months into his “girl toy” phase which, now, is a way of life.

So, as we began planning for his fourth birthday (February 1), we ran some ideas by him. He wanted Disney Princess party supplies, an Alice in Wonderland cake, a Barbie bounce house and only guacamole to eat. A multi-themed, pink and purple fiesta. Here’s the thing about birthday celebrations and C.J. being slightly effeminate and possibly gay: they are very public.

Sure, for Christmas most of his gifts were “girl toys.” But, only family and close friends were around to see. Kid’s birthday parties, especially where we live in South Orange County, are public spectacles that include 10 to 20 classmates, one to two parents per child and the possible sibling thrown in for good measure. Feeling a little panicky at the thought of such torture? Keep in mind that there generally isn’t alcohol at these things and the room begins to spin.

I’m supposed to invite 20 to 30 strangers into my home, act gracious (it’s hard, I tell you) and hope that I don’t have to deal with some tacky, gross, slightly homophobic ignorant person who thinks it’s funny to make my son the punch line of same gay joke. It’s dangerous to put me in that situation, let alone C.J.’s Dad.

We didn’t opt out this year. We opted for something more perfect.

“Hey C.J., what if, this year for your birthday we went to Disneyland to meet all of the princesses and Alice (this poor girl didn’t even make the Disney Princess b-list with Jasmine. It’s a shame really because that Alice has moxie)? We could ride on rides all day, visit the Princess Fantasy Faire, see Mickey and Minnie’s houses (he was surprised they didn’t live together, he’s so progressive), have lunch at Snow White’s restaurant, and you can pick out birthday presents at one of the many overpriced souvenir shops. What would you think about that?

There were no words to express his great joy, but there were screams of delight, and a dance that included sticking his tongue out while thrusting his hips and using big jazz hands.

“You can have a birthday party in the backyard instead if you want,” we offered again.

“NO! My go to Di-nee-land and see my princesses” he insisted.

The b-day boy blowing out the candles. Happy b-day C.J.!

Part of me felt like I was robbing him of a birthday party just because I am overprotective and afraid that he might get teased or judged negatively. Please understand that, in everything, I aim to protect C.J. while not stifling his spirit. It’s really not about me. For weeks I asked if he’d rather have a birthday party or go to Disneyland.

The answer was Di-nee-land every time. He’s only been there once, when he was two years old, and he doesn’t remember it. Some people suggested that we do both, Disneyland and a party.

News flash: both options can be expensive and we aren’t rich. Daddy is a cop and mommy consults only part-time so that she can be the primary caregiver and taxi driver. We expect to spend $400 to $500 on C.J’s birthday trip to Disneyland, and that’s about what we would have spent on a birthday party when all was said and done. And, I think that these memories will mean a lot more to C.J. and us.

I called Disneyland to book a birthday lunch with the princesses at Ariel’s grotto. They assumed we were celebrating the birthday of my daughter. “No, it’s for my son,” I said.

The sweet Disney cast member was unfazed.

“Do you have very many boys who want to celebrate their birthday with the princesses,” I asked. “It’s not uncommon,” she said.

We’re not uncommon I told myself. We’re not uncommon!

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  • bookworm

    What a lovely journey you seem to be taking with your soon–however, your son identifies later on in life, I am sure he will be grateful for you. Good luck to you and your family!

  • Raza

    Look, I’ve read this wonderful mom’s blog, and have followed her story since she first posted about her son’s costume, and I laud her for her courage and support of her child, whatever his future orientation may be.

    However, does it bother anyone that if a boy plays with Barbies or princesses, it is assumed he is gay? Or vice versa, that if you’re gay, you automatically played with dolls, wore mom’s make-up, and generally acted in an effeminate manner? Like, why can’t a kid just be a kid? Kids do all sorts of things while growing up, some good, some bad, and most of the time, it’s neither. They’re just being themselves. They have NO sexual thoughts or feelings at this little guy’s age… and it’s wrong for people to suggest they are straight or gay this young. I’m not bashing mom or Queerty here at all. I guess I’m attacking old stereotypes.

    I never played with Barbies growing up, or tried my mom’s make-up on, or tried on female clothes- I loved LEGOS and little action figures. My boyfriend is the same: he loved WWF and baseball as a kid. I guess what I’m saying is that we REALLY do need to break these tired stereotypes that gay kids always love doing the stereotyped activities of the opposite sex. Gay kids love playing sports and tea parties- and we all probably did a little of both! Straight kids are no different- and I do applaud the mom here for being indifferent as to whom her child chooses to love- as long as he is happy.

  • chpinnlr

    @Raza: Not evry gay kid plays with dolls, and alot of them like sports and WWF etc. but alot of gay kid did do the things you didn’t, myself included. When my father caught me playing with my sisters barbie, at about 5 or 6, he took it from me and hit me with it. When I was caught playing with my mothers make-up I was called a faggot and had my face scrubbed so hard it burned. I consider myself pretty masculine, and I grew out of the doll phase (even though my grandmother kept one at her house for me to play with!) but i would have given anything for my parents to be half as accepting of me as this wonderful woman is of her son. As for being gay or not at such a young age, i known for as long as I can remeber that I liked boys and as soon as I learned the word I knew thats what I was, the difference was that I was shamed for it and not celebrated!

  • D.R.A.

    @Raza: Thank you! You expressed what I’ve been thinking in a far more calm and reasoned manner than I ever could.

  • Mike in London UK

    I hope that C.J.’s mom knows that yes “you’re not uncommon”.

    You’re absolutely wonderful.

    He may turn out to be a rambunctious (look it up) teenager with a trail of girlfriends crying in his wake, but whatever happens, he’ll know that when he was a lot younger, him mom let him be what he wanted to be.

    You’re fab!

  • thematics

    I hope CJ gets to choose his toys based on what he likes, rather than what Mother prefers. I believe that is the case here, but it’s important to say that children can often go through many phases. The difference between age 3 and 4 is not that long, so Mom might not want to dub it a “way of life” just yet!

    CJ may suddenly develop an interest in stuffed animals, real insects, plants, cookery or astronomy. As long as he is happy with his playthings and has such supportive parents, then he is bound to have healthy self-esteem.

    And who the hey is Jasmine? I’m apparently behind on my Princesses!

  • qwerty

    I’m going to have to agree with Raza here in that speculation about C.J.’s sexual orientation is based on outdated stereotypes. Gender and sexual orientation do not line up. Now, what if this kid is acting like a girl because he wants to be a girl? I wonder if his mother is OK with that.

    And on a personal note I was told I was uncommon by my mom, literally, when she found out I messed around with a friend in kindergarten, so kudos to this mom. Your son will grow up happy as long as he has your love and support.

  • flame

    What Raza wrote is, “just because he acts like a girl doesn’t mean he’s gay,” but what he’s REALLY saying is, “just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I act like a girl.” Right?

  • Erica F

    I don’t think this mother should necessarily jump the gun that her son is gay. My baby brother went through the same thing (and working with children now I see it often) children up to a certain age just don’t recognize toys are gender-specific (and they shouldn’t have to). My brother loved Barbie dolls and baby dolls when he was little, and then around…seven, eight, nineish, he became obsessed with Small Soldiers, and then Star Wars, and then video games…
    My niece right now (she’s two) is obsessed with Toy Story. We get her tons of boy toys just b/c you won’t find many Buzz Lightyear or Woody items in the girl section. But I don’t think she’s gay just b/c her shoes and clothes come from the little boy department.
    Kids are just kids. They don’t see the things they like as just for girls or just for boys.
    Whether CJ grows up to be gay or straight or trans or whatever is what’s meant to be, but just b/c he had a Disney princess party doesn’t mean his mom should already be the PFLAG announcer or whatever she’s trying to do.
    She seems like a great mom. A fantastic mom. I just wish she wouldn’t try and base a toddler’s future sexual orientation based on the cartoon characters he likes.

  • bobby

    I think Raza hit the nail on the head. I support the mom in supplying her son with the toys and parties he wants at this young age. But she should hold off on the “and possibly gay”. He is a kid too young to know gay/straight other then he likes what he likes. In a few years he might be going out for the pop warner team and be the star football player, or maybe in choir. But lets wait until he comes out and says is he is gay or not, not thrust upon the “could be gay”.

  • DR


    Agreed. This is the same thing we got from the mom who allowed her son to dress up as Daphne for Halloween, she speculated, at least in the title, that he son might be gay. Just because he wanted to dress up as Daphne.

    I understand these parents want to make a point about how much they love and accept their children, but perhaps they could back off the stereotypical speculation?

  • mb

    She’s just stating what most people are thinking. Maybe he’s gay. Maybe he’s straight. But I think the point is that she doesn’t give a fuck as long as he’s happy.

  • Seriously?


    You missed the point of that article. The mom wasn’t associating his dressing up as Daphne with being gay, she was responding to the other moms that thought it was an emasculating, ‘homo’ thing to do. If you actually read the blog, you’d realize she was trying to say that it isn’t necessarily a sign of being gay and if it’s a sign for him then so what?

  • flan205

    I wouldn’t really be concerned about whether my son is gay or not, but what I would be concerned about is the negative stereotypes the disney princess reinforce (except the modern ones such as Mulan, Pocahontas and even Jasmine), I wouldn’t want my child to believe that feminity lies on being beautiful and helpless. I think in any case games and toys should be more gender neutral and designed for kids to use their imagination.

    I also wonder how aware this boy is of his gender, if he is confused about it I don’t believe forcing him to play with trucks will benefit him in any way, but maybe his mother should look into it. I’ve always known that I am gay and most of my friends are female, and even though sometimes it may feel we are the same, it reaches a point were you realize that we are not. There are gender barriers we can’t empathize with and I think it’s healthy to know this.

    In any case, I believe this kid has the greatest mother in the world, and he will always know that he will be loved whatever he decides to do in his life. He is so lucky. There is so many people that can´t say the same thing.

  • DR


    Her headline was all about the gay. Nerdyapplebottom posts on 11/2/10 “My son is gay” That’s the title of the post. Then it goes into “or not, so what”. That’s using his desire to dress as Daphne to (a) somewhat postulate about his gayness or (b) is making the mistake that “maybe he is or isn’t gay” makes for a great headline to discuss how unfairly people treated her kid because he dressed as Daphne because hey, titling a post “My son is gay” and then showing a pic of him in a dress gets a significantly higher number of blog hits than “my kid dressed as Daphne for Halloween and I got treated like crap by other parents”.

    Either way, it’s a mistake which needs to be corrected. The shock value of the possibility of homosexuality and the constant association of such with kids who dress like girls or have girly interests is based on stereotypes and meant only as shock value to advance a parent’s agenda.

    The concern may or may not be genuine, but the slew of parents turning their children into blog posts, books, and Oprah appearances is probably doing more harm to the kids than anything else. These kids have no idea what mommy is blogging about or going on national TV about. Come back to me in fifteen years and let’s if (a) if these kids are gay and (b) how they feel about having their private lives put all over the internet by careless parents trying to prove how cool and open-minded they are.

  • KevinVancouver

    meh….. I grew up playing with dolls (the neighbours) usually pulling heads off them, also played with GI JOE Transformers and He man… palyed dress up myself and my two brothers, both of whom are str8 , me not so much I’m the only one that curtailed that into a sideline… drag… so let kids play with whatever the hell they want ,

  • Ron M.

    It is great you are supporting him. Please remember that when he goes to school and the boys tease him, you will need to ensure he gets your support and probably some professional assistance in his support. Kids are very cruel at all ages. Their parents often support the cruelty. He will begin to act out if the pressure is too great and he may begin to do poorly in school. Please go the extra mile for him and protect him. As he ages, let him know people can be cruel to anyone for any reason. When we don’t conform to their normal, we get teased, no matter the environment.

    You have a special child – a unique child, not a clone. Teach him and don’t open him up to an environment of mental torture. His friends should be kids he likes and will play with him, not just any kid from school.

    Good Luck – Love him no matter what, he will need it!

  • Ron M.

    It is great you are supporting him. Please remember that when he goes to school and the boys tease him, you will need to ensure he gets your support and probably some professional assistance in his support. Kids are very cruel at all ages. Their parents often support the cruelty. He will begin to act out if the pressure is too great and he may begin to do poorly in school. Please go the extra mile for him and protect him. As he ages, let him know people can be cruel to anyone for any reason. When we don’t conform to their normal, we get teased, no matter the environment.

    You have a special child – a unique child, not a clone. Teach him and don’t open him up to an environment of mental torture. His friends should be kids he likes and will play with him, not just any kid from school.

  • Ambrose

    Hate to burst some PC bubbles, but many studies have indicated gender variant behavior in young children, especially boys, is the best indicator of later identification as gay. And really, what’s so bad about that? Feminaphobic just a little?

  • Michael H.

    I’m very confused. This column is totally based on making your son the topic of a “gay joke.” You were taking photos right along with the other parents..and publishing it online! What is your son going to think about this when he’s older?

    Why does any of this mean your son could be gay? I grew up playing with power rangers and GI Joe…and I’m gay. One of my male cousins used to play with Barbie Dolls, but went on to play college hockey, and now has a wife and kids. Just be careful not to assume so much based on your child’s toy preferences.

  • Mark Michaels

    Dont get upset at her. I think this is her way of coping and accepting her situation. For some people, it takes a big adjustment. She is obviously straight. Some people in many areas of the world grow up only hearing about gays or seeing them on TV. They see the stereotypes. She is trying to figure it out so that she can be ready to be there for her son. She is attempting to be the best mother she knows how.

    Whether this is right or wrong that parents have to adjust to a child being homosexual, is not the issue. Also, remember, it is often very hard on the parents as it is very difficult for the kids. They feel the pain and the suffering that kids endure. They see the situations and may not know how to react or the kids may not know how to relate it to their parents. She is trying to understand him and be ready for what may come.

    Notice she always says he “may be gay” she never says he is. Also, I think the blog is her way of showing people are not alone and a way to get advice on issues she is not capable of handling on her own.

    Lets be honest, most people do not know how to react when “the gay issue” comes up. Half the people make jokes about it more out of awkwardness than hatred. And the people who do so out of hatred usually do so due to ignorance. Just because life hasnt always been easy being gay, doesnt mean it is time to become jaded and upset at everyone in the world for everything. Remember people are genuinely good and try to do what they believe is right. We need education and exposure…some of which will come from mediums such as TV, radio, magazines, and blogs like this one and the mother’s. When they start to understand more, they will eventually choose correctly. It just might take more time than any of us would like it to.

    Sure I would like it to be different and to change culture to foster a more open environment, but cultural and institutional changes do not happen at the drop of a hat.

    I always liked disney; I still do. I liked to sing along to the songs. I never played with barbies or dolls. I never wore women’s clothes. I did dress up like superheroes (namely batman and regularly wore capes – I now see this for the fashion error it was ;) P.S. I dont say stuff like that because I dont think about clothes or what matches very often. I actually dont even know whether capes are fashionable or not. I am pretty sure that superhero capes are probably not chic though from personal intuition…though I know that wizard cloaks are from the most recent 30 Rock episode). I never wore make-up. I played football and basketball. I to this day get asked out by girls because I “dont seem gay.” The more people know about us as individuals; the more they will understand about us as a group. However, like it or not…this starts with stereotypes and strong personalities leading the way and taking the spot-light.

    Also, dont act like liking WWE is manlier than not. I liked it as a kid too, and I still will pause on it when flipping through the channels because it is absurd and because they are pretty damn built.

    Finally, Jasmine is the princess in Aladdin (one of the best disney films of all time).

  • Sarah Hoffman

    You are an awesome mama. You’re not “overprotective” or “robbing” your son of anything. It’s an act of love to do the two things you did: protected your son from homophobes/gender cops, and gave him the princess birthday of his dreams.

    My pink boy, who is eight, has always been a blend of masculine and feminine–for his third birthday, he chose a Thomas the Tank Engine Cake with pink frosting and wore the a princess dress every day at preschool. These days, he wears his hair all the way down his back and plays Pokemon and Star Wars Lego.

    I think that one of the hardest and bravest things we can do as parents of kids who are different is accept them exactly as they are, no matter what social pressures they/we face. And sometimes that means getting outta town and going to Disneyland.

  • Sarah Hoffman

    @Raza: Exactly! So many people conflate femininity with being gay. As you point out, there are many gay men who were masculine as boys, and many feminine boys who grow up to be straight. My son is feminine and the first question out of everyone’s mouth is “Have you ever thought he might grow up to be gay?” Uh, no, never–not since that other mom asked be five minutes ago.

    What I try so very hard to do is accept my son for who he is today, and not make any assumptions about who he will be when he grows up. It just doesn’t serve any child for us to make assumptions about their path–and one of the greatest gifts we can give them is to let them tell us, in their own time, as soon as they figure it out themselves. And accept whatever and whoever they become.

  • Tracey

    My son is 4 and loves all things princess. This doesn’t bother me because it’s “feminine”, but because the stories of the princesses are so shallow and unreal. Being beautiful is great, but there’s more to people than that. So I declined to buy him any of the paperback “books” at Barnes & Noble made available by Mattel and Disney with titles like “Cinderella’s Perfect Wedding” and “The Island Princess”.
    I’ve bought him princess dresses to wear around the house and play in, and I’ve bought him the dolls to play with and dresses for them. He has a tiara.
    I just signed him up for ballet. For months he’s been twirling around the house mimicking ballet moves he saw when his class went to a ballet. When his dad and I asked him if he’d like to take lessons he’d lie and say, “I’m scared to jump that high Mommy.” A couple of weeks ago, after watching him gleefully dancing to some classical music, I took him on my knee and asked him why he really didn’t want to take ballet. he said, “Mommy, do they have ballet clothes for boys too?” I assured him that yes, they do! He was worried about his classmates laughing at him if he wore a tutu. I was so proud of him for being honest and facing that fear. When I bought his ballet shoes that weekend he wore them the entire day and danced all over the house, putting on little recitals for me and his dad. My heart was full.
    No matter what he likes or who he loves, I love my son more than words can express. And I know other people will love him too. I’m happy and will do my best to raise him to love himself.

  • Thomas

    Most stereotypes exist because a large proportion of individuals in the stereotyped category display (or displayed in the past) broadly consistent characteristics. For instance, Jews were not allowed to own property in Europe during the middle ages, and gentiles were not allowed to lend money. So, we have the “money-grubbing Jew” today because society pushed Jews in the direction of money management for hundreds of years, and it’s colored their culture. In the case of gays and effeminacy however, it’s nothing we are teaching kids, nor are we pushing effeminacy on them. They are the way they are until a homophobe beats it out of them, and then it just beats out the effeminate behavior…maybe.

    That some people are taking issue with effeminacy=gay is understandable, as not all effeminate guys are gay, nor are all masculine guys straight. But everyone needs to understand that it is a valid stereotype because there are a LOT of effeminate gay guys and butch lesbians, and it’s a worthy topic of discussion as quite a bit of the world’s homophobia is not related to same-sex attractions at all, but about discomfort with gender expression.

  • SteveDenver

    I looked through a friend’s FaceBook pictures expecting the cavalcade of hot guys. He’s a bicycle mechanic and competitive mountain biker. The hot guy friends (and girlfriends) were there, but also an album of photos uploaded by his sister of him in junior high in what can only be described as exquisite drag.

    Under one photo he commented, “It took me 2 hours to put on false eyelashes and fingernails, but by the third try I looked PERFECT.”

    “Daryl” is confident, gorgeous, fit and successful. He has lots of gay friends and ex-girlfriends who are still his pal. I can’t think of a grain of shame in his life, and I know he loves his folks intensely.

    Never give in to what others may think.

  • Jill

    Ok, I gotta go with Raza here. I’m a girl, and I’m straight. But when I was a kid, my favourite toy was a big yellow Tonka truck, I loved Lego, I didn’t play with baby dolls, (I did play with Barbies, but usually along with Star Wars toys and GI Joes more as characters in a story than anything, I didn’t concern myself with their clothes or hair very much) my favourite colour was blue, I HATED pink, hated wearing dresses, and was just generally a tom boy. It didn’t influence my sexuality, i definitely prefer men. I do realize girls have it easier in this regard; it is far more accepted if a little girl is a tomboy than it is for a little boy to be effeminate, and I do think this is something that needs to be addressed. It has to be as ok for little boys to behave differently from their traditionally accepted gender norms as it is for girls. I just… after reading a few of these, I do think the mother is slapping the label of ‘gay’ on her son when his liking Barbies and Disney Princesses may not necessarily mean that. It’s a possibility, but not something I’d really be concerning myself with just yet, personally, though if i was to label him, I’d be open to the idea of transgender as well. By all means, let him play with the toys he wants to play with, and don’t let anyone tell you he should be playing with ‘boy toys’ if he doesn’t want to. I just think it’s too early to be thinking he may be gay, even allowing the 25% possibility that he’s straight. A few years from now when he’s 11ish, then that’s the time to start thinking about if he may like boys or girls, or both.

  • Tenzors

    I just wonder if this mom is really protecting her kid because of him and not for her own feelings. I’m a father of a beautiful boy that loves playing with girl toys and only wants to play female roles. It has not been easy for me, but I believe that besides letting my son express himself freely I need to work on my own shit and really raise my kid with out a care in the world of what others might think. Whether he is gay, straight, autistic or whatever. Of we give our kids a solid foundation, understanding and acceptance thats all they need to feel ok and handle situations of life. The main thing they need protection is from our own fears.

    From a father that is constantly working on his shit to raise a happy human been.

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