I've been a police officer for more than 15 years. I've been a detective and now I’m a senior officer who trains the new recruits out on the street. Before that I was a firefighter. Before that I played football in college after playing baseball and football in high school, and lettering my sophomore year. I like beer, classic trucks, punk music, riding my motorcycle and catching the game with my buddies. I’m a stereotypical “guy’s guy” and hyper-masculine to a lot of people, I guess. Which may be why it surprises them when they find out that my son wears dresses. And heels, and makeup. It surprises them even more when they learn that I’m cool with it. And at this point, I wouldn't want him to change. Because, if my son liked boy stuff and dressed like a boy, he wouldn't be my boy, he’d be like a stranger.
I grew up in a sports-oriented family. My father was a high school football and baseball coach and my mother was a professional surfer. I had one brother. Growing up, I don’t remember homosexuality or gender being discussed in my house. No negative talk. No positive talk. No talk about it at all. My brother and I are straight. It appeared that all of my extended family and my parents’ friends were straight. I thought that that’s how it went. Then, at 18, I met my future wife and she introduced me to her brother. He was the first openly gay person I had ever met. He was cool, and who he chose to love or get physical with was none of my concern. That didn't matter to me. All that mattered was that I thought his sister was hot. I focused on that.
But, being an athlete, a firefighter, and a cop, I have spent a lot of time in locker rooms and around guys who dish out homophobic slurs like turkey on Thanksgiving. Faggot. Queer. Gay. Homo. Cocksucker. I started to notice the slurs more after I met my future brother-in-law. Then, I had a son who—as he describes himself—only likes girl stuff and wants to be treated like a girl, and those insults started to get under my skin in a new way.
Sometimes I’ll call people out when they use them.
“Bro, I was just joking. You know I was kidding. What’s your problem?”
Those are the responses I get.
Here’s the thing. When you use those words as a way to degrade or get the upper hand on someone, you are implying that to be a man who is gay or effeminate is to be “lesser than.” Now, when I hear those words, I feel like you are calling my son and people like him “lesser than.” I won’t stand for that. Get a dictionary. Learn some new words.
I don’t tell most of the guys who I work with at the police department about my son. It’s none of their business and I don’t trust them with the information. I don’t trust what they might think or say behind my back when they should just say it to my face. I don’t trust them with a kid as kick-ass and special as mine.
My close friends know. And I know that they are my close friends because they don’t give a shit. They don’t care what toys my son likes or how he chooses to dress. They just care that he is happy and healthy and that I’m being a good dad.