My husband forwarded a news story to me this morning. A 4 year-old boy in Texas was suspended from his preschool because his hair is long. (Yes, you read that correctly. Because his hair is long.)
Why was my husband sending me this story? Well, we have a 4 year-old son with long hair, too. And while I know that his downtown liberal preschool isn't going to suspend him, it brings up an important issue. Why are we still so hung up on "unconventional" expressions of gender? (I know what you're thinking. Long hair on males is hardly unconventional...I think so, too.) But apparently, some school systems deem long hair a violation of their "grooming policy". (That policy, of course, doesn't apply to girls.)
Without a doubt, my son is referred to as "she" or "her" at least once a day. He finds it very funny. "I'm a boy," he replies. When someone answers back, "I'm sorry," he responds, "That's okay. Happens all the time."
My long-haired boy loves his long hair, and I for one would never be the Delilah to his Samson if that's not what he wanted. Long hair doesn't make you less of a boy. Long hair doesn't make you more of a girl. In addition to being archaic, suggesting that there is something wrong with these expressions perpetuate misogyny and homophobia - whether we care to admit it or not. I am happy that we don't go to school in Texas.
My rough and tumble long haired boy also loves the color pink. Not just any pink, hot pink. This morning, my son's babysitter brought him a hot pink hat and matching gloves because he had been asking for some to go with his dark blue (and not pink) coat. He put them on and looked adorable.
He looked at me and said, "Mommy, my friend Rachel said that pink is only for girls. I told her it's for boys, too." (My heart was breaking. He was dealing with this already?)
"Mav, is there such a thing as a boy color or girl color?" I asked.
"No, Mom. That's silly," he replied.
And I smiled. "Boys and girls can like whatever colors they want."
When I dropped him off at school he showed all of his teachers and classmates his new gloves. One of his teachers said, "Mav, I love those gloves. They look great on you."
When my son walked away to talk to a friend, I said to his teacher, "Maria, this morning we talked about colors and gender. Mav told me that a friend said he couldn't like pink."
She responded, "Yes. We actually talked about that in class yesterday. We overheard the conversation. As a class, we discussed that there is no such thing as a boy color or a girl color. We have a lot of boys in this class who love pink. And it looks great on them."
I was ecstatic. Our neighborhood supports long-haired boys who wear pink. Phew.
Fast forward a few hours. Later in the day, we were getting out of a taxi when our cab driver looked at us (kids and me) and said, "You have beautiful girls."
Maverick looked at him confidently and said, "I'm a boy who likes pink." The driver smiled.
I couldn't have been more proud.