In my last post, I pointed out that, even if people can come to accept that being gay is not a choice, many people still believe (consciously or unconsciously) that there is a cause for homosexuality that occurs sometime between birth and adolescence. This post looks at what I refer to as the “Sissy Syndrome." Like yesterday's post, this was originally written as though directed to the general membership of the LDS Church.
I suppose I should have known earlier than I did. A lot of the signs were there, looking back. I’d like to ask my parents about what they might have suspected, but they’re both gone. If they did have suspicions, I think they must have kept them to themselves; and unless I have successfully blocked painful memories, I don’t recall being called a sissy as a boy, or feeling ashamed or feeling different. There was no doubt that I was different from my two older brothers, but I don’t recall anything negative being attached to that.
I was the fourth boy born to my parents (making me curious about recent studies that link male birth order with a tendency toward homosexuality). The second son was born with severe birth defects and lived only a few months, so I was the baby boy in the family as well as the youngest child until my sister came along when I was seven.
I don’t have many memories of early childhood. I apparently liked to play with dolls (as documented by the foregoing picture), and I do know that my older sister and our teenage babysitter liked to dress me up. Here, for example, is a picture of me modeling some of my mother’s high heels and purse.
I also liked art and apparently had a particular interest in interior design. My mother used to tell the story of how, when I must have been about four years old, she visited a friend with me in tow, whereupon I immediately went to work rearranging this woman’s living room furniture – much to my mother’s embarrassment.
As I started school, I took to it like a duck to water. It was then that the differences between me and my older brothers became more pronounced. They liked and were good at sports. I was not interested, although there was that one summer when I gave baseball a try. I can still remember how I felt, out in the outfield, hoping that a ball wouldn’t be hit to me. Like other boys, I suppose, I can recall how I felt when I tried to catch a ball, only to drop it. Sigh.
I developed a love of reading in second and third grades and would spend hours indoors, even reading the encyclopedia (which became sort of a joke in the family - until I silenced my high-school aged brother by correctly answering a question about the Boxer Rebellion). This was also when I started piano and voice lessons with my older sister; my brothers, however, were not the slightest bit interested in music.
As I got older, my interest in music and art continued, and I also developed an interest in architecture. Athletics, however, continued to leave me cold – with the notable exception of my involvement with the swim team for several years – but the older I got, the more aware I became of this difference between me and other boys.
So there you have it: a snapshot of my childhood. As I stood on the brink of adolescence, I was a sensitive boy who was also known in the family as a bit of a clown. My interests were music, architecture, history, writing and art. Aside from my participation on the swim team, I had zero interest in sports.
Okay. So what, if anything, does this autobiographical sketch say about the “Sissy Syndrome”? What are the stereotypes? Baby boy. Check. Played with dolls. Check. Dressed up in women’s accessories. Check. Artsy. Check. Sensitive. Check. Intelletucal/bookworm. Check. Non-athletic. Check. Played the piano and sang. Check.
Was I a “sissy”? Perhaps, as that term was used back then. But what of it? I have deliberately described all the things about my childhood that are often associated with being a “sissy.” Why? To make a point: Many people have the mistaken impression that these sorts of things that I have described cause homosexuality (which is why traits such as the ones I’ve described were and still are often strongly discouraged in boys as soon as they start to make their appearance).
But this view/understanding is precisely backwards: These traits (especially if left “unchecked”) do not cause homosexuality but are often a manifestation of traits, talents and preferences of a boy who was born gay (i.e., somewhere near the higher end of the Kinsey scale).
In other words, because a boy such as the one I was often grows up to be gay, the assumption is that these things caused the boy to become gay, when in fact these traits were simply early manifestations of the boy’s innate gayness, which often does not become “actualized” until the boy goes through puberty and sexual orientation is introduced into the mix.
Does this make sense? I hope so. Untold harm has been done to many boys whose sensitive souls were trampled and snuffed out for fear of them turning into “sissies”, which was perceived as the bridge to full-fledged homosexuality. I hope we have reached a point where we as a society can stop this brutality and stop believing that such noble traits, if not “controlled,” cause homosexuality.