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from Messenger, by Mary Oliver

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Thursday
Oct202011

Why Pink Matters

My family is probably tired of me complaining about how gendered baby clothes are, and harping on how I want to dress my son in all kinds of clothes, not just blue ones that have some sort of sports paraphenalia on them. Sometimes, it might seem like I'm just being stubborn, but this post from Liz Rose-Cohen speaks to the heart of why I stand so firm on this.

My favorite parts:

When I picked him up that afternoon a little boy asked me if Moon Boy is a girl or a boy.
          “A boy,” I said. “Are you asking because he's wearing pink sandals?”
          “Yes,” said the child. “Why is he wearing pink sandals?”
          “Because I want to,” Moon Boy said, with the same happiness.
          “Oh,” said the boy. “I like to play with my sister's wand.”
          And that’s when I realized why my son wears pink shoes.  He doesn’t wear pink shoes because he’s gay.  He wears pink shoes because your son might be gay.  My son is making room for yours.  Right?  I mean, my son has two moms whether he wants to or not.  (And he’s black, and Jewish, and adopted.)  He cannot disguise these things.  Room or not.  But your son, your son can blend.  If there’s no room, then fine.  He can wear his hunter green, his navy blue, his burgundy.  He can slide under the radar for a while, but then sooner or later he’s going to need the room.  Because he’s going to stick out.  And it’s my son who will be there, making that room.

and

...I hear it in on the playground, around the neighborhood, in the hallway at school.  “I’ve got boxes of clothes waiting for you,” one mom says to another.  “I hope your baby’s a girl ‘cause I’ve got so many sweet things I could never put on my son.”   And it’s hard to imagine how we can hold these things in our brains at the same time. How we can be sticking like crazy to these arbitrary gender rules, even for infants, and then saying we’re committed to ending anti-gay-bullying in schools. Because that’s what anti-gay bullying is: picking on kids who cross the lines. And who are the first people to draw those lines? Who are the first to tell our sons they can’t wear pink? To insinuate that no boy should wear pink? We are. Even before they are born. Listen carefully while I say that again: we start training our kids to bully their gay peers even before they are born.

It matters. Yes, something as simple as boys wearing pink.

Reader Comments (2)

Wonderful post!
A big hug to you and to Liz for making room. I wish someone had made room for me, for the 9-year old me playing with tea sets and sparkly stickers, playing with Barbies with the girls at recess. I wish someone would have made room for me when my Dad made fun of my fussing over how my hair looked. I wish someone had made room for me when I snuck into my Mom's room to try on her high heels or her lipstick.
Had someone made room for me, I wouldn't have lived so damn terrified of my genderqueerness for the next three decades, only now venturing to breathe a little of the free open air. Being different is scary, but being ME is so much happier than being "what they will let me be."
I'm now making wide swaths of room for my two kids. Whenever the McDonald's drivethrough lady says "and is the kids meal for a boy or a girl?" I say "I have two kids, and they both sometimes like either toy. Let me see what the toys are."
I fight the gender stereotypes crap for the sake of my kids daily. When my 5-year old daughter assumes girls can't play drums, I go to YouTube with her and we peruse some awesome teenage girl drummers. When my boy says Tinkerbell is for girls only, I buy Tink magnets for the fridge and tell him "I like Tinkerbell and I'm a boy."
My kids will most likely grow up to be gender-binary heterosexuals. But they'll be rainbow-painted. They'll be unafraid of different, and they'll nurture and encourage and befriend peers regardless of whether those conform to the dichotomy or fall anywhere within the big rainbow-bright spectrum.
Thanks again,
Greg

October 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGreg

Hi Greg! Thanks so much for your gorgeous comment, and for doing a wonderful job of making room with your kids. The world needs exactly who you are, and who they are, to evolve. I'm just at the beginning of this parenting gig, and I hope to do right by my kid in these ways, too.

October 22, 2011 | Registered CommenterJennifer Gandin Le

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