My little girl can walk into a toy store and be angry that there are “girl toys” and “boy toys”. She can argue the nonsense of girl sections and boy sections, and she will be looked at as a strong, independent, individual. Because she can play with anything and still be cool. Maybe she can even be “cooler” if she doesn’t conform to liking pink and baby dolls and barbies.
But if a little boy rides a pink bike to school, never mind that it is his fastest bike, or that he can do tricks on it. Never mind that his dad wears a pink tie sometimes or that his mother says “colours are not gender specific, people can like what they like”…his friends will make fun of him. They will ask him if he is a girl? They will say in teasing tones “do you play with baby dolls too?”
And maybe he does play with baby dolls too! But now, when he comes home and his mother is doing a sweep of what toys stay and what toys go, the beloved baby doll that he nursed at the same time as when his mom nursed his baby brother will be tossed, hesitantly, into the pile of “to go” toys.
He’ll start to test out these theories that boys don’t do “girl things” or like “girl toys”. And no matter what his mom and dad tell him, he will feel shame when he likes something he shouldn’t like. He will stop riding his bike, because it is pink.
Maybe, one day, when he’s older, he’ll realize that it is silly that he thought that way. That liking anything that might be considered a “girl item” would then make him lesser, weaker, “girly”. And when he is strong enough to be an individual and to remember his parents words “people like what they like, there are no girl things and boy things – there are just things” maybe he will start wearing pink again.
But until then it will be hard to convince this little boy that there is no shame in pink, or baby dolls, or even – dare I say it – being “like a girl”.
Enter Tig. This little dude wears pink all the time. In fact Tig LOVES pink. I mean he LOVES pink.
At the playground when he shoves himself into a group of little boys to see what they are doing and they twist around to wack him away, they always pause. Not sure if he is a girl because of his pink attire…and whether they can hit him or not.
And so, before he goes to Kindergarden and the awful shaming begins (and he starts to question his favourite colour) I am going to make sure that he gets to wear as much of his favourite colour as possible whenever he wants. When he gets dressed in the morning I let him pick his clothes, and by God, he would be dressed head to toe in pink all the time if I had enough pink clothes for him to do so. So before he goes to school and he starts to question his love of pink by the teasing of other little boys (and even the little girls and staff) who have also fallen victim to this hateful mind set of “girl things” – either by the influence of closed minded adults in their lives or simply by being aware and present in a society that separates boys and girls by colours and toys and sections – I am going to give him as much pink as I can.
Not just because I want him to be proud and happy in his clothing, and with his toys, but because his older brother is already in Kindergarden and it was his pink bike that he decided not to ride anymore, and his beloved baby doll that he gave away “because dolls are for girls mumma”. I want him to see his little brother being himself, a little boy who loves trucks and trains and pink.
And I also want him to understand that being like a girl isn’t an insult. That women are not weaker or less than.
But most of all I want him to know that there is no shame in liking things that typically girls are known to like, or any shame in wanting to be like a girl or feeling like a girl. There is no shame in being gay – that these words should not be used as insults! Girl, Girlie, Gay…And if he does than we need to examine what he thinks it means to be a girl and what it means to be gay.
If I can give my sons a voice that says “so what if I’m like a girl!?” Or better yet, if I can give them the strength to shoot back with “what’s wrong with being like a girl? Are girls bad? Is your mother bad? Weak? Less than?”
Then I will have done my job.