That’s what my son told me a bully at school called him. It was pajama day and he wanted to wear hot pink zip up jammies with a hood. They also had kitty cats on them. Not just any kitty cats, but a type that appeared to be a hybrid of if a cat and a Bratz doll had a baby.
I pondered the scenario and knew it was likely that he might get a comment from someone at school. But what was I to do? Try to protect my son from the teasing at the sacrifice of both my beliefs and his wants? That’s not how we do things.
So I sent him off to school in head-to-toe hot pink cat pajamas. This wasn’t his first inclination for things that aren’t traditionally “boy” like. He paints his nails, picked out pink thermals before our trip to Colorado, and just recently got his ears pierced for his ninth birthday.
Long before I had children, I was very into blogging on MySpace (loooooong before children). I was in my 20s and mulling over thoughts about gender and expectations because, as a new college student, I was being introduced to so many ideas. I wrote a piece entitled “Vagina Schmagina” where I pointed out the ridiculous notions placed upon me (and others) as a woman.
Going even further back, my mom said there was a boom of boys the week I was born. She remembers they were all wrapped in blue blankies and there I was swaddled in pink.
“Oh look at the girl! She’s so sweet, so precious, so beautiful!” Onlookers would exclaim.
My mom looked at me and my red shriveled little face and thought to herself, “She looks exactly like all the other babies, she just has a pink blanket.” Gender expectations begin the moment we’re born or so it would seem.
As a young adult blogging on MySpace, I couldn’t shed everything society had placed upon me, but I could write about it and decide how I wanted to be as a parent.
In 2011, I found out I was having a boy. In 2013, I found out I was having a girl. I was determined to raise them the same…not parent them the same since every child has their own personality…but raise them the same. Living in a gender neutral zone is not as easy as it seems. When my daughter says she wants to try cheerleading, I’m internally groaning. But if I don’t let her try things she wants just because they are largely female-oriented, then I’m still not doing my job impartially.
It helps that I have a feminist partner who was a scene kid and wore skinny jeans and eyeliner. It also helps that he openly expresses his feelings and cries in front of the children. We are leading by example, showing a human life full of all kinds of proclivities on a not-gender-specified spectrum. It helps that my children’s half sibling is nonbinary. It helps that we have a best friend who is transgender. It helps that we promote living openly and honestly.
You may be wondering the aftermath of my son being bullied and called “tutu girl.” How deep were those wounds? Not very. He shrugged it off and told me that he’s going to be who he’s going to be. He said he talked to that boy some more and they’re rather friendly to each other now.
Because here’s the thing — when you have the support of your parents, your confidence in who you are skyrockets. A home that is a safe haven of people who have your back makes all the difference in the world in discovering your identity and feeling good about it. A strong sense of identity helps children know they have value in the world as who they are. They’re more likely to try new things, go after goals, and successfully complete achievements.
When a child feels safe and secure at home, they will seek out relationships later in life that are healthy and make them feel that same way. They generally will have a stronger sense of empathy and insight about how their words and actions affect others.
Sometimes, it’s hard to hold back and watch my son make choices which could be controversial. I worry, as any parent would. But ultimately, that concern is for me to deal with in my own being. I have to assure myself that he’s going to be OK, and if he’s not, then I’m here for him.
He’s going to grow up celebrating differences and similarities in the population. As our family continues to empower him, I have no doubt that he will be a productive, intelligent, critically thinking adult with the utmost confidence, and for that I am proud.