Today is The Day of Pink. School children (and others) are encouraged to wear a pink shirt today to celebrate diversity, and to show that discrimination and bullying will not be tolerated.
I spoke with my kids about the event on the streetcar home from school yesterday. The girl, whose wardrobe is about 80% pink anyway, decided she would go top to toe in pink this morning. The boy, however, adamantly refused. I asked if he could explain his reasons, and initially he just said that he hated the colour. After a bit more prodding, he opened up:
He is tired of people thinking he’s a girl.
He’s dealt with this his whole life: he prefers his hair long, and it’s big and curly. In spite of his dark, understated “masculine” wardrobe choices, the hair signals to others that he is female. Combine the hair with the delicate facial features he inherited from me, and strangers just don’t know how to process him.
Initially, I would correct people’s assumptions only by referring to him in masculine pronouns (only after he started referring to himself as male, to avoid placing expectations on his gender identity). If people apologized for their error, I was quick to say that there is no shame in either being a girl or assuming someone is a girl, and mistakes happen.
For a while, he actually enjoyed people’s assumptions about his gender, because he felt like a bit of a spy, always in disguise. If people were going to think he was a girl, he was more or less okay with that, because as far as he was concerned, the joke was on them.
The last year or so has been hard for him, though. At almost 11, he is extremely invested in his boy identity, and finds it frustrating when people don’t take a second look. Streetcar drivers. Restaurant servers. Older kids at school. All refer to the three of us as “ladies” when we’re together. At last week’s SlutWalk, representatives from Plan Canada’s Because I Am a Girl campaign offered him a “Because I Am a Girl” temporary tattoo. If there were a last straw for him, I think that was it.
He can take no more.
He knows that if he cuts his hair short again, people will take in the whole picture, but he’s not interested in fitting others’ ideas of what “boy” is supposed to look like. That said, there is no way he’s going to make it any easier for people to see “girl” when they see him. So, in spite of the fact that he thinks it’s ridiculous that people can’t look like and wear what makes them comfortable, he will not be wearing pink today (or likely any other).
I can’t really say I blame him. Gender performance is hard enough when we meet expectations.