It happened. The conversation that I knew was inevitably coming, but was hoping wouldn’t happen for a while. A conversation about biological sex and colors. I know, it sounds ridiculous, right? Let me explain.
A little girl in my son’s class asked him what his favorite color was. He responded “Red is my top favorite, but I love ALL of the colors of the rainbow!” She asked, “Even pink and purple?” He verified that yes, ALL of the colors were great colors. She then went on to tell him that something was wrong with him, because pink and purple are colors ‘only for girls’, and he must be a ‘sissy boy or something’ if he liked them even a little bit. At this point in his re-telling of his conversation, he was visibly upset in the back of the car. I could hear the tiny tremor in his voice as he asked me, “Is there something wrong with me, mom? Do I have to stop liking pink and purple? Is she right?”
Friends, my heart broke. My sweet boy was sitting back there, questioning his own sense of self because a little girl in his class made him feel unsure. They are in KINDERGARTEN, a time for exploration and learning, not for bringing others down. This same little girl also berated him for his nail polish* a few weeks ago, but he was already well-versed enough on that topic to know that boys AND girls can wear makeup and nail polish- it’s for anyone. So he was able to put her in her place right away, and that was the end of it. He also threw in, for her benefit, that clothes and jewelry are for anyone, too, and that people should be able to wear whatever they want and enjoy. Apparently, she didn’t continue to tease him, but still looked at him funny for the rest of the day. Knowing this makes me so frustrated, but I realize that this is not her fault, but a reflection on what she is taught at home and has absorbed from society.
*The nail polish is his own personal choice, always. Typically, when I’m painting my own, both kids want in on it. I let them pick their own colors. When they ask for it off, I take it off right away. It’s always their choice.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand- pink and purple. Logically, you’d think that if he knows all about how clothing, makeup, accessories, etc. can be enjoyed and used by anyone, that liking certain colors wouldn’t even be a second thought. However, I never thought to cover that, and because I hadn’t, he was thinking maybe there was some secret exception to the “all things for all people” rule. I explained to him that no, pink and purple are totally valid options for anyone to enjoy. I listed off a few male family members who have and wear pink and purple shirts, including his Papa, his Uncle, and his Father, all of whom he looks up to and loves deeply. I could see the relief on his face, and it broke my heart again, because at that moment I could see just how strongly he had been shaken by the thought of having to ‘ditch’ pink and purple as acceptable colors.
This is a boy who is kind and sensitive, while also being wild and adventurous. He is so smart, and questions everything. He’s absolutely headstrong, and holds to his beliefs and opinions strongly. His imagination is unrivaled, and I love watching him at play, creating these incredible worlds and characters for himself and his peers. He rocks my world. He has taught me so much about life, about love, and about myself. I pray that he is always true to himself, and kind and compassionate to others. I couldn’t ask for more.
I recognize how privileged this is- that the colors my child likes are the biggest obstacle he’s facing in the world right now. I’m not going to pretend that this is the absolute worst thing ever that could happen to us, because it’s not. As white folx, we are unbelievably privileged, and I see and acknowledge that. I’m doing my best to raise my children to be kind, inclusive, and all-around good people. I want them to be authentic to themselves, while using their innate privilege to stand up for what is right.