June 5, 2018 at 2:12 pm PST | by Brad Bessey
 A sissy mans up

Brad Bessey is an Emmy Award-winning television producer, husband and father. (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

“Sissy” was a term with which I was teased, tormented and shamed before I was in kindergarten. Brenda Lynn, Sheryl Fultz, Diana Alfaro and I would play house, Barbies, and jacks. I was happy. When I’d play Batman with my brothers, Randy was Batman, Lance was Robin and I was always Batgirl. 

But in the perfectly ordered, roast on Sunday, Better Homes & Garden home of Nancy Bessey in Central California, boys did not play with dolls and they certainly did not run around the house with dish towels on their heads pretending to be Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl from TV.

The look of disgust on my mother’s face when she walked in on me in all my hands-on-my-hips, Gotham City-glory is seared in my mind to this day. LITTLE BOYS DO NOT ACT LIKE LITTLE GIRLS. I wrote, “I am not a girl” on a piece of paper and hid it. 

I also tried to hide who I was. And if some bully at school called me “sissy,” I would never tell my parents. I would rather keep my shame a secret than to have them ashamed of me.

Fast forward 50 years. At a recent Boy Scout campout with my son, I referred to my husband as “my husband.” One of the other parents blurted out, “If he’s the husband, are you the wife? I mean, who’s the woman in your marriage?” Yes, this is 2018.

The cis societal roles don’t apply to our union. Neither of us is a woman. Neither of us is the “wife.” Our roles within our family are always in flux. At times I’m the primary breadwinner, at times my husband is. We share household responsibilities and those of caregiver to our son. However, when our son is looking for activity, roughhousing or teasing, he makes a beeline to my husband. And when he falls down, wants to be comforted or nurtured or put to bed, he comes to me. Perhaps playing with dolls and being called a “sissy” for all my girly traits helped me develop the emotional and psychological androgyny to call forth the best of all of me, allowing me to be the proud man I am today. 

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