Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Is Barbie Only for Girls?

DEAR NATALIE: My son just turned 5 and is an only child. We went to the toy store the other day, and he begged me to get him a Barbie doll. I caved and bought him one, but my husband and I had a big fight about it. He believes that by giving him a doll, we may end up "turning" him gay. I don't know what to think, but whenever I try to take the doll from my son, he cries hysterically. I feel terrible and don't know if I made a big mistake. -- BANISH BARBIE

DEAR BANISH BARBIE: First of all, you can't "turn" someone gay. Clearly, your husband has some issue with homosexuality, even though he probably talks to, engages with or works with those in the LGBTQ community every day and doesn't even realize it. A deep-rooted fear, perhaps? That if he were to pick up the Barbie himself he may start to look at Ken a little differently? Sound ridiculous? Yeah, because it is. Toys should not be categorized by gender, anyway. There is nothing wrong with your son wanting to play with Barbie. Barbie is cool. She can be anything, from an astronaut to a fashion designer to a race car driver. She has awesome friends, the best clothes and lives in a mansion. Sounds like your son has great taste in toys. And if he does come out to you one day as queer or gay or questioning, know that you made the right choice in giving him space and freedom to explore the world in a nonjudgmental way. As for your husband? Sounds to me like he could use a visit to Therapist Barbie. 

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)