It’s not a mothering problem, Albert Mohler.

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and professional dehumanizer of LGBTQ people, does not approve of my parenting.

That’s not hyperbole — Albert Mohler is so concerned about Target’s removal of gender signs in their toy and bedding departments that he took to his podcast yesterday morning to criticize me, personally, as a mother:

Jessica Contrera, writing for the Washington Post [link] says that two months ago, an Ohio mom’s tweet went viral when she called out Target for separating building sets and girls building sets. […]

The incredible confusion our culture is now embracing is demonstrated by the mom identified as the one who sent that tweet complaining about the fact that there were girls building sets in the target aisle according to signs, but it turns out she doesn’t have a daughter at all, instead she is the mom of three boys, ages 7, 9 and 12. And according to the Washington Post, these boys,

“Used to have no problem picking out or playing with dolls.”

The next sentence, remember coming from that mom about her three boys, ages 7, 9 and 12 is this quote,

“These days, they’ll say “Eww, I’m not going in that aisle, that’s girl stuff.”

She goes on quote,

“And we just have to have those conversations, that you can play with anything you want to and there’s nothing wrong with girl stuff.”

Well, you look at this article and what you have are three boys, 7, 9 and 12, who aren’t living up to their mothers understanding of how open they’re supposed to be with going into the girls toy aisle and playing with what they perceived to be girls toys, specifically identified here as dolls. As the article makes clear, her real problem in terms of her worldview isn’t what she finds in the Target store but what she finds in her own house and let’s just state the obvious, changing the signs at Target isn’t going to change those three boys, in terms of their willingness or eagerness to play with dolls. It’s not a signage problem, mom.

Well then: Here is my response to Dr. Mohler. First of all, Al — can I call you Al? Since the people who are qualified to comment on my parenting are generally people I’m on a first-name basis with — I’m just going to sidestep your unspoken, but very clear, implication that I’m disappointed that I don’t have any daughters, and that I’m somehow trying to make up for it by trying to girlify my sons. That’s a pretty disgusting thing for you to imply about me, and it indicates some rather ugly things about your character.

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I’m happy to tell you that these days, my boys are over being dramatically grossed out by walking past the pink aisles at Target. You see, there was a time in their lives that they didn’t think about gender stereotypes when they chose their toys, but as they got older and were exposed to more people’s views on gender, that began to change. They began to believe that some toys and hobbies were only for girls, and girls were gross, and girls’ toys and hobbies were gross.

But that’s not an innate idea, Al. There’s nothing about toy grocery carts and baby dolls and the color pink that God has ordained to be For Females Only. And there’s certainly nothing innate or God-created about the idea that girls are gross and inferior. That’s all culturally constructed.

The good news is, my boys have since learned better. It has taken loads of work on my partner’s and my part, but we have helped our sons to understand that there is nothing wrong with kids pursuing their hobbies and interests and playing with the toys that they like, even if those things don’t fit inside their gender stereotypes. It has taken work because it is un-teaching gender roles that is counter-cultural. There is absolutely a movement towards abandoning gender norms and seeing gender for the construct that it is, and I am thrilled to see that progress happen; but for now, the vast majority of messaging that my children encounter tells them that there are certain specific ways to perform boyhood and girlhood that they are responsible for conforming to, and it tells them to shun people who stray outside of those borders.

My partner and I teach our kids to reject messages that tell them there are certain limited ways of being a boy or a girl. Instead, we teach them that all people are made in the image of a boundless God. We teach them to honor the image of God in other people by embracing the vast diversity of humankind.

Better yet, my kids and I are active members of a vibrant faith community that helps them learn these things. See, Al, your condemnation of my mothering is worthless to me, because you don’t know me, and you are not a part of my life.

You know who does know me? My priest, Mother Debra. On Sunday, when the Good Morning America producer called me, I was at church having coffee hour. I ducked out of the room to take the call, and when I came back in — rather stunned, because Good Morning America — I told Mother Debra about it. FullSizeRender-1

“How exciting!” she said, hugging me. “Well, you be sure and tell Good Morning America that you’re part of the [church name] family, and you tell them that all of us are so proud of you and that we support you a hundred percent!”

You are not my people, Albert Mohler. My church family, the people who know me and who are part of my sons’ lives, the priest who leads us and the community that surrounds us — these are my people, and they are the only ones who are qualified to comment on my parenting or my faith. My sons, my partner, and I are known and loved there, and that is enough.

And frankly, if I’m the kind of woman and mother and Christian who meets your disapproval? That’s a badge of honor.

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