I don’t write much about kid Harry’s dad Ken, a fine-art photographer and retired executive creative director. We haven’t been married since Harry was nine years old, so he appears mostly in the stories of Harry as a gender expansive child. Ken and I remain close friends. I refer to him as my “wasband,” because I think it sounds nicer than “ex.” Ken took the many wonderful photos of Harry and me that appear throughout the blog and in My Son Wears Heels. In honor of Father’s Day, I want to share some of the photos I’ve taken over the years of Harry and Ken, along with a few of the standout memories I have of Ken being the best dad a nonbinary kid could ever have.
NOT AFRAID OF PINK
When Harry was two years old and their* favorite color was pink, it was Ken who bought them a pink sticker book, a pink beach pail, and pink streamers for their hand-me-down tricycle, a gift from the next-door neighbor. And when the two of them watched the Felix the Cat movie together, Ken asked Harry if he’d like a magic bag like Felix. Harry said yes and asked for a pink one. After much searching, Ken came home the next day with a pink nylon tote bag, just Harry’s size.
SELF-ESTEEM SEWN UP
At six years old Harry wanted to make clothes for his collection of Barbie dolls. My alterations lady gladly supplied Harry with lots of fabric remnants. Then Ken went shopping and presented Harry with a squeeze bottle of fabric glue and a bag of bric-a-brac trimmings and lace. In eighth grade, when Harry wanted to make their own clothes, Ken bought him a sewing machine for Christmas.
STANDING OUT FROM THE CROWD
Harry joined Cub Scouts in second grade. One of the many projects Harry and Ken worked on together was a long wooden tool kit with a handle. Harry wasn’t much interested in tools, so when it came time to paint the tool kit, Harry wanted to paint it yellow and turn it into a bus for Beanie Babies. The scout meeting fell silent. Then Ken said, “That’s a great idea, Harry. Let’s find just the right color for a school bus.” After that, another boy said, “I want to make my toolkit a bus, too.”
From this mom’s eyes, Ken was always secure enough with himself to let Harry flex comfortably between their so-called masculine and so-called feminine sides. He encouraged any interest Harry had in art, beauty and creativity. Choices of colors, toys and clothes didn’t matter. Ken allowed Harry to just be Harry, the individual. His parental qualities of unconditional love, acceptance, support and encouragement never wavered.
Ken gave Harry his first real camera when he was a year old. This year he was first with praise for Harry’s “Legends of San Francisco Drag” portrait series. I know he’ll always be there to love, support and encourage our kid. Sounds like Father of the Year to me. Happy Father’s Day, Ken!
*Note: Harry has no pronoun preference. I like to use “they” when I think of them as a person first, with gender coming second. But I’ll still interchange “they” with “he,” or often “she” when drag artist Harry performs as Amber Alert. In Harry’s words, “Mom, I really don’t care what you call me.”
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