A New York mother is at the center of an online firestorm after letting her 8-year-old son dress up and dance in the city’s Pride March on Sunday.
Young Desmond Napoles, of Brooklyn, stole the show, according to some parade watchers, as he strutted his way down Fifth Avenue in a rainbow-colored tutu and gold sequined cap.
Photos of the boy have appeared on social media, prompting scorching comments against his mother, Wendylou Napoles, for allowing little “Desi” to participate in the event.
Some of the criticism includes:
- “Does he even know or have any idea what and why he is doing this? Are all you people encouraging and cheering for this suggesting and promoting the sexualization young kids?” (Kevin Lam)
- “Disgusting abomination. His parents have no morals. You need to REPENT. And live for YHVH-YASHUAH (GOD-JESUS) instead of Satan. You and Satan may of won a battle BUT you have already lost the war!” (Shannon Fraccola)
- “And this mother will wonder why later in life her kid will end up in psychotherapy gender confused. This little kid doesn’t even understand the world around him yet we’re to believe that he understands the dynamics of sexuality? Um, I don’t think so sister. But hey, enjoy the eventual sh-tstorm you’re letting build.” (Tracey Hoober)
- “This is why Facebook needs a Dislike button.” (Christopher Bechtloff)
Now, the boy’s mother is firing back on the Facebook page of LGBT website NewNowNext.
“If you are offended, don’t look,” Wendylou Napoles said. “I am sickened by the comments that say I am sexualizing him.”
Wendylou asked other parents to put themselves in her shoes in raising a “child like this.”
“Should I encourage him to express who he feels that he is and to be himself knowing that this road will be a hard and cruel one in today’s society? Or, should I discourage him and tell him that he cannot be himself knowing that he will carry a great deal of grief and baggage about this throughout his life and may even grow to believe that there is something wrong with himself? It’s not easy.”
She got into specific detail in her defense, stating:
He has always been very gender fluid when it came to toys and his development. He preferred fashion dolls to action figures. I looked at both in the store and figured that the action figure was as much a doll as a Barbie, so if he wanted the one marketed to girls, that was fine with me. He also likes to play with trains, especially wooden subway trains. He never wanted to play sports and likes to draw pictures and do word searches. He goes to ballet class and loves to dance. He loves drag queens and thinks that it is fantastic that boys can play dress up and become beautiful girls, even after they grow up. He, himself, likes to play dress up in skirts and dresses, but most days he looks like any other “boy.” He is a shy boy who is self-conscious about his missing teeth when he smiles and very intelligent. He doesn’t like school because he gets bullied, but he does well academically. We do our best to stop the bullying and involve the LGBT services at his school. We keep him involved in the LGBT community because we believe that by speaking to other people who were like him when they were his age reinforces that he is of value and that his life as he wants to live it is okay.
This boy was always very feminine from day one and instead of denying it or condemning it, we embraced it. We did not need to encourage it, it was always there. He just needed the love and reassurance that he has a place in this world, as does any child. The development into the sparkle loving, happy, tutu-wearing boy in this photo was very natural and gradual and age appropriate. We spoke with doctors and therapists. Not because there was anything wrong with him, but because we wanted to understand and learn and do the right things for our child. We did not force him to be this way. We did not expose him to sexuality in the way some people project. He is 8 years old and is starting to get crushes on boys. That is pretty much the extent of what he knows about sexuality. I do my job as a parent and censor things in his life that may not be appropriate. I am not perverted and letting this boy dress up how he feels he wants to dress up is not perverted. It hurts no one. If you are offended, don’t look.
He is old enough and smart enough to know he would be marching in the Pride parade in front of thousands of people and did all of it willingly. In fact, I thought he would stop after 10 blocks of walking, but he felt so good about being dressed up and being who he is that he vogued and danced the entire two miles. We collaborated on the outfit and this is how he wanted to look today. This was his Pride today. He felt it. He loved it. He was it. These children will be our future. Embrace who they are. All they are asking for is the same love, respect, and acceptance of themselves as any child would.
On the Yahoo Parenting site, senior writer Beth Greenfield marveled at how Wendylou took on her critics and “shut them down with grace and pride.”
Desmond’s mother also received plenty of support from the public, including:
- “You are a fantastic mum and he is gorgeous. I’m so excited for you, he already has an amazing outlook and sounds super creative and intelligent. The possibilities are endless! Yay! #LoveWins” (Dan De La Bastide)
- “What a beautiful way to celebrate the beginning of a new History. This child is gorgeous and courageous heart emoticon.” (Elle Russell)
- “I applaud his parents for nurturing a child who dances to his own drum. There is NOTHING wrong with his costume, especially at this venue. Being a child, his ideas of who he is and wants to be are fluid. I wish I had the opportunity to be this open when I was a kid! BRAVO to him and his parents.” (Wayne Steinman)
On Wendylou Napoles’ remark that “These children will be our future,” talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh noted Wednesday, “That’s why we’re worried.”