The Ban Has Been Lifted!

I am not talking about the government’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gays in the military. I’m talking about my walking down the Barbie aisle at my local toy store.

My sister recently gave birth to a beautiful baby girl—her first, after three boys over the last eight years. My eldest nephew is all boy and not interested in anything pink or “girly” in any way—despite my best efforts! Believe me I tried. When he was three, I steered him into the Barbie Department to see if he would be drawn or interested in anything about dolls or doll accessories. He wasn’t. At all. In fact, he banned me from going down the Barbie isle.

After my second nephew was born, and we all visited the toy store, my older nephew said to his little brother, “Don’t like anything pink or girly.” At age five, when my oldest nephew was trying to understand my interest in Celebrity dolls and Barbie dolls that fill my home and office, he said, “I think I know why you like girl toys. You want a girl to kiss you.” Boy was he wrong!

When I was little, boy, I loved to play with my sister’s dolls. I vividly recall her Barbie Dream House, Barbie Camper and Barbie Airplane. I would enjoy them alone, since I knew that my parents were against me playing with these toys. When my sister announced she planned to have children, I hoped and prayed that one would be a girl, so I could have a second chance at playing with girl toys—only this time, without someone telling me I couldn’t. But sure enough, she had boy after boy--until now.

Many people still believe that playing with girl toys will turn a boy gay. If children were truly affected by their playthings this way, we’d see adult males pretending to be Spiderman, Batman, and Superman, or strutting around with light sabers, pretending to be Luke Skywalker. If that sounds ridiculous, it is! The truth is, boys who play with dolls are not going to become gay or want to be women. At worst, playing with dolls will only make a boy a better father in years to come. Is that so very wrong?

The book Sissies and Tomboys, edited by Matthew Rottnek, contains an article called “Homosexual Boyhood” in which author Ken Corbett says, “Feminine identifications for homosexual boys are not so much an expression of a wish to be a girl . ….” and that “….. passive longings and feminine identifications reside alongside a masculine identification, often creating . . ..‘mixed gender feelings’ .” In other words, we sissy boys just aren’t the type of men our fathers and other straight men were—or wanted us to be. This doesn’t mean we’re not really men or were (or are) any less masculine today! We are discovering the concept that gender is a mixture of male and female traits.

However, many still voice protest. Take “A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality,” a superficial, shallow book by Joseph Nicolosi. He reinforces rigid gender roles for children, coaching parents to “lovingly” take away opposite-gender toys and give them away to a girl or boy who really needs them. This is hogwash!

So with the ban lifted from my 42-year-old life, soon I’ll walk down the Barbie aisle with my head held up high, holding my Inner Little Sissy by one hand, and my niece by the other, while my three nephews troop alongside, carrying their GI Joes.

Unless, of course, when my niece starts to talk, she may say, “I don’t like dolls—I want to play with trucks!” Then you will hear over the PA system, “Cleanup in Aisle Four! We have a man crying, and he won’t let go of Barbie!”

©2009 by Joe Kort

Related: Issues, Books

Psychotherapist Joe Kort, MA, MSW, has been in practice since 1985. He specializes in Gay Affirmative Psychotherapy as well as IMAGO Relationship Therapy, which is a specific program involving communication exercises designed for couples to enhance their relationship and for singles to learn relationship skills. He also specializes in sexual addiction, childhood sexual, physical and emotional abuse, depression and anxiety. He offers workshops for couples and singles. He runs a gay men's group therapy and a men's sexuality group therapy for straight, bi and gay men who are struggling with specific sexual issues. His therapy services are for gays and lesbians as well as heterosexuals. His articles and columns have appeared in The Detroit Free Press, Between the Lines Newspaper for Gays and Lesbians, The Detroit News, The Oakland Press, The Royal Oak Mirror, and other publications. Besides providing therapy for individuals and couples, he conducts a number of groups and workshops for gay men. Now an adjunct professor teaching Gay and Lesbian Studies at Wayne State University's School of Social Work, he is doing more writing and workshops on a national level. He is the author of 10 Smart Things Gay Men can do to Improve Their Lives and 10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do to Find Real Love. or E-Mail

* Gaydar (gay'.dahr, n.): (1) The ability that lets gays and lesbians identify one other. (2) This column--where non-gay readers can improve their gaydar, learning more about gay men's psychology and social lives. Also, (3) a regular feature where gay readers can discover the many questions and hassles their straight counterparts--and themselves--must face!

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