Posted by Leo Tarvi
Zinnia tweeted a link to this and it got me thinking. The link is a blog called Raising My Rainbow about a five and a half year old boy, C.J., who has always drawn himself as a girl. The specific post that links to tells that C.J. just started kindergarten, apparently this school pairs up the kindergartners with sixth-graders, they call them “kinderbuddies”, and they read or do some activities together once a week. Excited about this, CJ drew the two of them together, depicting himself as a boy for the first time.
This exchange followed:
“Hey, Buddy…how come you drew yourself as a boy?” C.J.’s Dad asked casually.
“Oh, that’s because I didn’t want my Kinderbuddy to know that I like girl stuff,” C.J. said matter-of-factly.
There’s an awful lot under the surface of that simple statement. It’s probably good that C.J. is already thinking in terms of whom to open up to, but it’s also a little sad. His parents love him and put real thought into these things, which makes me optimistic about his future.
But it was something in the comments that I wanted to talk about, or rather my reaction to them. Someone people suggested talking to the kinderbuddy or the school principal about this and trying to make allies, and my first kneejerk reaction was something along the lines of “No, that’ll make him a target!”
See my first thought was that this sixth-grader would likely be hostile towards the idea, and that there’s a good chance that the principal would be as well. My instant reaction was that the risks outweighed the potential benefits. And of course I don’t know anything about this situation. I don’t know these people, I’m just some schmuck on the internet. That sank in as I thought about it more, but that first reflex was so strong it surprised me.
Perhaps my perspective is skewed, I mean I’ve written at length about Minnesota’s Anoka-Hennepin school district before, and you wouldn’t have to dig too hard into my blog’s archive to find me ranting at and about people who would say that this little boy should be beaten into conformity, or segregated from society in a concentration camp, or worse. Maybe my view is darker because of this, perhaps I’ve started to only see the bad. I hope so.
But as I thought about it what struck me was the lack of a good option. It’s almost a Catch-22.
If you are open then you make yourself a target for every asshole, bully and thug, including those who may be a teacher or principal or other alleged professional who is responsible for your health and safety, or even a member of the government whose job is to represent your interests. But on the bright side you’re pushing the envelope, making diversity more normal, and probably contributing to a better future. Just as important, you’re who you want to be.
If you hide then you’re safe as long as your cover doesn’t get blown. But you’re living a lie. You can’t be honest about yourself, perhaps even to yourself. And hiding also gives the bullies ammo, it suggests that there’s something shameful about you, and should one of them find out they’ll gleefully tell the world. Hell, they might anyways when they didn’t know anything at all, making things up and lying is a common tactic in your average thug, just look at politics.
The reality, I’ve no doubt, is a very complicated mess of evaluating circumstances and compromising. I think it’s something that everybody does to some degree, even the most stereotypically hetero-normative people out there. Maybe we can build a world where people don’t have to waste too much thought on how someone else will react to their outfit.
I want to end this on a positive note, because I really do think things are getting better. There’s a lot of noisy pushback from certain groups who are apparently terrified of anyone who’s not a carbon copy of themselves, but it’s getting noticed now. We’re talking about these things openly now, discussing them on a larger forum than the world has ever seen before, and the general trend seems to be towards tolerance and acceptance.
And that’s good for everybody, in the long run, because life is short and we shouldn’t be wasting it trying to figure out what colors or hairstyles or clothes are socially acceptable for people, we should be enjoying life and each other’s company as much as we can.
We should ditch the lies and just be ourselves and let others be themselves. Young C.J. said it very well, he didn’t want to keep the picture of himself as a boy. He wanted to throw it away, in his own words, “Cause that’s not really me”.
About Leo TarviMostly fictional.
Posted on September 29, 2012, in Daily Post and tagged be who you want to be, is it just me or are my tags getting boring?, postaday2012, Raising My Rainbow, trying to be positive but I'm still feeling sick. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.