The recent Details magazine article by David Hochman “Would You Really Be Okay with a Gay Kid?” attempts to convey the insecurities straight fathers today feel about having gay sons. Unfortunately, in doing so Hochman presents a one-sided portrait of gay identity and self-expression that conflates sexual orientation with gender expression and appears to uphold rigid standards of masculinity and heterosexuality even as it seeks to broaden readers’ minds.
While Hochman also includes fair-minded opinions from developmental psychology experts, the article seems to legitimize the discomfort, even homophobia, a handful of anonymous fathers voiced in discussing their feelings about their own sons being gay.
He writes, “You may chuckle when little Leo dons butterfly wings and plays tea party for the third day in a row (hey, it’s just a little gender blurring), but you’re really thinking, No, God, no.” By quoting a series of otherwise-liberal dads, who have no problem interacting with gay people outside of their family but cringe at the possibility of having a gay son, Hochman implies that no parent could ever be pleased to have a gay child.
What seems to be most at issue for these fathers, however, has very little to do with their sons’ actual sexuality and everything to do with their gender expression – a distinction Hochman never directly makes, thereby leaving in tact the stereotype that all gay men are effeminate and all effeminate men are gay. Whereas the article purports to question parental homophobia, it turns out to focus solely on male fears about signs of their sons’ deviation from traditional masculine standards. There is also a notable lack of discussion about their gay daughters.
The original online article also included an inappropriately sexual, and crudely cropped, photograph of a rainbow popsicle entering a child’s mouth on the second page. Details removed the picture after GLAAD called with concerns. Editor-in-chief, Dan Peres acknowledged after further reflection that the image was highly inappropriate and told us it was removed from the online version and won't make it into print. GLAAD pointed out to Details that the image served only to sensationalize the topic and divert attention from the fathers’ misplaced fears to the children’s sexuality.
In looking at the article as a whole, Details missed an opportunity to discuss the very real problem of parental insecurities around both their children’s sexuality and gender expression. This is the second time in as many months that Details has published a problematic article related to LGBT-identity, following a defamatory piece referring to bisexual women as “hasbians” in January. While the effort to discuss parental distress with gender nonconformity is laudable, the casual tone of the writing and treatment of the subject overshadow the original intention. If the sentiment of the article’s closing line, calling for unconditional parental support, could have resonated throughout, the reporting would have been greatly improved.
We encourage you to contact Details to express your concern about the magazine's problematic coverage of men's discomfort regarding the idea of having gay sons.