People in 2020—despite increased visibility and understanding of the spectrum of sexuality naturally occurring across life on Earth—still think things like hair length will "make" a male child gay.
Now what if that idea comes from a trusted family member?
In one family the issue has been going on for years, but recently came to a head. Mom—fantataski on Reddit—turned to the subReddit "Am I The A**hole" (AITA) for their thoughts on whether or not she was the jerk afterward.
AITA is the place where anonymous strangers on the internet get to decide where guilt belongs by declaring:
- NTA - Not The A**hole
- YTA - You're The A**hole
- ESH - Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH - No A**holes Here
Here's the mom's post:
"I have several children and I always try to let them express themselves anyway they want. My boys all have really long hair (to their butts long.)"
"I love it, they love it. But their grandmother hates it."
"She says 'They look like girls' or 'You are going to turn them gay'."
"She's REALLY religious. But when I pointed out that Jesus had long hair she got upset."
"Anyway yesterday my middle son (7) went to his grandmother's house (she lives a few houses away so he rode his bike there) to pick up his game system. My mother-in-law asked if he could stay and help her plant some veggies. I said sure."
Grandma saw her opportunity and took it.
"About 2 hours later I heard my son crying and I saw him riding his bike home. I was initially upset because I like to watch him going to and coming from his grandparents house. But then I noticed his hair."
"She didn't cut it all off, just to his shoulders. He said while he was planting grandma came behind him with the gardening scissors and cut off his pony tail."
"When I confronted her she told me it was 'just hair'. I told her she is not allowed to talk to my children again (maybe an overreaction) But I just continued to yell and swear at her."
"My anger boiled over and I called her things like 'worthless' 'disgusting' etc. It went on until my husband pulled me away."
Mom isn't getting much support versus grandma on the homefront.
"My husband said his mother is hurt. And that I overreacted to a haircut."
"Today my son seems fine. We evened out his hair and he's rocking a Mohawk that he loves."
"She apologized. She didn't think he would cry. Apparently she said 'can grandma give you a trim'."
"He said sure, but didn't know what she meant. My husband is ignoring the issue and won't back me up because our son 'seems fine'."
"Was I the a**hole for yelling? "
Reddit was absolutely disgusted with grandma.
But that doesn't necessarily mean everyone was here for the name calling on mom's part.
Mostly, though, people were 100% over Dad refusing to acknowledge his mother's wrongdoing.
"When I has a kid I wanted to have long hair but my mother didn't like it, so she would forcefully cut it then I would cry for an hour or two and then go back to normal—but that didn't mean I was ok it meant I got exhausted of crying. I still vividly remember those times."
"He is not fine. He cannot spent 24 hrs crying, he will get back to his normal activities but he is not fine. He just accepted his reality and decided to not make a fuss about it." - toopessimistic
"You may have taken it a little far here, but the real a**hole is your husband for not backing you up."
"I don't blame you for not trusting your mother-in-law around any of your kids for the foreseeable future and you should tell her it's because you can't trust her to not touch them and attack them with scissors and cut their hair which she doesn't have the choice to make."
"Do it without insulting her simply point out that you are the one making the rules not her." - GonnaBeIToldUSo
"No you're not the a**hole. Not only did she disrespect you, the parent, by crossing a huge line in cutting your kid's hair, but she also crossed a huge line with your kid."
"She violated your child's bodily autonomy by coming up behind him and cutting his hair without asking him. That's not okay."
"Sure, maybe you said some harsh things in the moment, but IMO that's pretty justified. And she definitely shouldn't see your kids alone at least until she sincerely apologizes and both you and your kids feel comfortable with it."
"If she didn't make sure he understood, it's functionally the same as not asking. And 'He said while he was planting grandma came behind him with the gardening scissors and cut off his pony tail' tells me that she knew he wouldn't be ok with it if he understood. Most likely she intentionally asked in a way she knew he wouldn't understand."
"You're not the a**hole at all, but you should not allow any of your children to spend any unsupervised time with your MIL and only supervised time if your sons actually want it." - Illoney
"It sounds like you've had to confront her about her views on your boys hair before. She really breached your trust and disrespected you and you've reacted in a way that has finally gotten through to her."
"Did you overreact? Most likely in the heat of the moment, but I'm sure she gets the message loud and clear that she has overstepped and needs to pull her head in." - coconutville
Many pointed out that altering a person's appearance without their informed consent—or in this case parental consent—is deemed assault in some legal systems.
"Just to put this into perspective: a lot of countries (mine included) consider cutting hair without consent an offense, sometimes even go as far as calling it criminal assault depending on length and impact on the overall looks."
"Here in Germany, cutting someones hair significantly without consent will get you at least a fee/fine but could also give up to 5 years prison. (Prison never happened so far but the possibility is there, mostly fees had to be paid.)"
"If it is a child without consent of the parents it could be punished as child assault and also get you prison time up to five years."
"My stupid brother got into trouble for burning a classmates hair with hot metal so it had to be cut short and our uncle (who is a lawyer) showed him what could happen if he'd been an adult. (He was seventeen at the time.)"
"So no, it's not a small thing. It's severely disrespectful and wrong." - GrayDottedPony
"Cutting another's hair without permission is godd*mn abusive AND assault. Keep that harpy away from your children."
"What a vile woman to do that to your son... your husband needs to remember he is a father more than a son and start advocating for his child."
"You're not the a**hole, and no, you didn't overreact- accept her apology only if your son gets to cut her hair in any way he sees fit." - snootybird
Some pointed out the motivation for the haircut—forcing the grandson to conform to her gender stereotypes and grandma's homophobia—were getting lost in the discussion.
"It needs to be emphasized that the [Mother-In-Law] (MIL) did this out of bigotry. She didn't just go against a parent's wishes in a dishonest manner, she did it to avoid 'making them gay'."
"[Original Poster] (OP) and their husband are supposed to protect their kids from people like this. Thank goodness the kid seems okay about this incident, but that person is abusive and unreliable and it's appropriate to keep the kids away from her." - derektheveterinarian
"Riiight, so when it was long, the haircut had the ability to turn your son gay (like that's a thing, and even if it was, why would that be so bad), but when she decides to just lop it off, it's 'just hair'?"
"Whatever Grandma. Sometimes people need to be shouted at." - FooliaRoberts
"Also, does she say the things about 'turning them gay' in front of the kids? Because...that's a big yikes."
"One of them may be gay, and they'll definitely know peers who are as they grow up, and knowing a relative is bigoted like that sticks with you even if they change their tune down the road." - lawfox32
"I cannot fathom how he isn't furious with his mother as well. Unless he is, and is hiding it so that he doesn't have to ream her out over this."
"You did the right thing, OP. Your children have at least one parent who will put their well being over everyone else's feelings and personal opinions."
"Your mother-in-law was way, way out of line doing something like this. These are the kinds of MILs who sneak food into their grandchildren's plates because they don't believe in food allergies and what not, because 'they know better'."
"I'd say that you'd do well to restrict her interaction with your kids without someone else there monitoring what she says or does. It doesn't seem like you can trust her around them. NTA all the way. You did good." - pqrsthrowawayyyyy
Yeah... so we clearly know where Reddit stands, but what do you think? Was Grandma out of line cutting the boy's hair? Is Dad slacking by not standing up for his son or is he right to just move on and not make a big deal out of it? Did Mom go too far? Not far enough?
Hair will grow back, but trust may take a bit longer. All of grandma's grandsons have had a seed of her bigotry planted about their hair, but they've also learned grandma can't be trusted.