Dear Boy and Girls,
It was not so long ago, that I was a girl. I ran in the woods and played soccer and sailed and had dolls. I loved playing restaurant and school. But I loved pretending to be a spy even more. When I was little, like you are today, I had the freedom to be who I wanted to be.
I’m not so sure you have the same freedoms today, although technically we should be about 27 years more advanced than we were in 1985. It confuses me as to why we are moving backwards. Everywhere I look, I see messages called stereotypes that tell you how to be a boy and how to be a girl. These messages are unfair, and to be honest with you, there isn’t a lot of truth behind them. I see them in your toys and your clothes and your media, like the tv and movies. The problem is, your grown ups aren’t always aware of that. Sometimes grown ups believe these messages, and they think there is only one way to be a boy, and only one way to be a girl. Sometimes growns ups don’t even know how to think outside of these strereotypes, or they don’t consider questioning them. Sometimes grown ups are scared by these stereotypes, especially when kids try to break them down. I’m so glad that every day there seems to be kids like you that know better, and love art and cars and dolls and sports and mud and sparkles and all the colors of the rainbow.
Sometimes, grown ups take these stereotype messages too far. Sometimes, grown ups use these stereotypes to teach hate. Sometimes the grown ups will say their reasons are because of their religion. A man from North Carolina did last week, when he was advocating for his church congregation to “beat the gay” out of their children who he feels stray too far out of the rigid gender roles he sets forth. Gender roles means only certain things for boys to do and certain things for girls, and you can’t break the rules. This man was saying that if a boy is acting too much like a girl, his parents should beat him. Or if a girl gets too dirty playing sports, she needs to quickly go inside and get clean and pretty and sweet smelling again. When this man talked about physically hurting children, it made my stomach sick like I was going to throw up. I’m not sure why the people sat there and listened to him. If I had been there, I would have stood up and said very loudly how out of line he was, and then walked out with my family. An important person to me taught me a long time ago that when you hear or see hate, you be not silent.
You need to be careful when you hear hateful words from people. There is never a time when it is okay for a grown up to hit, punch, or break the bones of a child. But this man from North Carolina said it was okay, because he thought his religion said so. Only small men tell people to hurt others. Even smaller men try to take away the rights of others. There isn’t any right way to be a kid, and I don’t think people should put limits on you, especially when you are playing and discovering. I don’t ever think an adult should ever physically hurt you.
What I really think is that adults need to get a little braver, and take a stand when they hear hateful words or see hateful actions. I read the story about the man from North Carolina, but I didn’t read anything about people getting up and leaving. They were not being careful about the words from a hateful man. They were wrong to have thought so highly of him. They certainly were not being brave.
A very little boy doesn’t put on a dress because he is gay, he puts on a dress because he is playing. He does not need to be punched. We need to give our sons the space to be human.
A young girl does not “butch it up” on the soccer field because she is gay, she is dirty and sweaty because she is an athlete. She does not need a beating. It is not our daughter’s responsibility to be pretty and sweet smelling for the world.
A young boy’s love of art or enjoyment caring for a doll or beloved stuffed animal is not a result of his “limp wrist” and implied impending gayness, he loves these because at a young age he sees beauty and loves creating things and caring for things. My guess is, this boy will grow up to be five times the man that this fella from North Carolina claims to be. Real men do not hurt children.
A young girl who wears shorty short hair or loves bugs or dinosaurs or sports is not necessarily gay, she simply finds things interesting that lay outside of the sparkling pink box she is maybe being told to stay in. My guess is, this girl will grow up to be a smart student who loves science and has all kinds of friends because she knows there is no right way to be — you just be you. You do how you do.
Girly girls and tomboys and geeky girls and sporty boys and princess boys and nerdy boys and and and ……. It doesn’t really matter to me what kind of kid your are. Maybe you’re a mix of all kinds. I think grown ups should just get back to calling you “children”, and get out of your way as you explore our world and discover all that you can be in it.
Now go outside and play.
Melissa (mom to Ben and Amelia)