Court Separates 13-Year-Old Boy from Mom for Not Conforming to Gender Norms

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woman reading smartphone on the grass


The idea that a lack of male role models causes boys to grow up to do “feminine” things like wear makeup and nail polish is false, offensive, and patently absurd. Still, the idea remains tragically pervasive. Recently in Italy a young teenage boy was ordered to spend 12 hours a day away from his mother, because the court says having too many female relationships and not enough male role models had led him to develop a “personality disorder” that was marked by nail polish, makeup, and acting “effeminate in a provocative way.”

According to The Local Italy, a youth court in Venice, Italy, ruled that the 13-year-old would have to spend 12 hours a day, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., in a youth community, to help him be more independent and less attached to his mother. A social services report had argued that the boy was overly attached to his mother and female relatives, and that plus a lack of role models had resulted in his developing a “personality disorder.”

This personality disorder was described as a 13-year-old boy trying “in every way to show that he is different” and acting  “effeminate in a provocative way.” As evidence, social services reportedly said that one time the boy wore nail polish and eye shadow to school. The boy’s mother said it was for a Halloween party. Even if it wasn’t, so what? It’s not a personality disorder to wear nail polish.

The Local reports that the court’s ruling said that having mostly female role models was depriving the boy of the right to the “full development as a person.”

According to The Independent, the mother was reported to social services after she told the boy’s father he couldn’t see him. The mother reportedly accused the father of abuse, and says that’s why she wouldn’t let him see their son.

A lot of people seem to think it’s child abuse to allow a boy to wear nail polish, or use a pink bottle, or in any way not conform to rigid ideas of masculinity. Look at everyone who accused Charlize Theron of child abuse for letting her son wear a skirt. It’s bad enough when those people are yelling at celebrities on Twitter. When they’re making actual legal decisions that affect people’s lives, that’s a real problem.

The mother’s lawyer describes the ruling as “outrageous” and says they’re scheduled to go before an appeals court next week. A local politician has also reportedly sided with the mother and is calling for a review of the judge’s decision for potential discrimination.