Home > Learning, Love > I’d much rather love you

I’d much rather love you

“One of my friends said I’m a girl if I like pink,” my five-year-old sighed from his car seat.

I burst out laughing. I didn’t mean to make light of my son’s gloominess, but the statement was so preposterous–in so many ways–I couldn’t repress my mirth. 

I’ve heard statements like this many times before, but somehow taken them In A Very Serious Adult manner. I’ve sternly explained to my son all the ways I know of that’s wrong.

But this particular evening a few weeks ago, I laughed. I kept laughing between apologies, until I could catch my breath and try explaining my laughter.

“He can’t like pink because he has a penis?” I imagined asking Li’l D’s friend as I stifled my giggles. “Or is it his Y-chromosomes that should hold his innate hatred of pink? Exactly how much do you think you can know about a person by these things?!”

I’ve had a lot of moments like this recently. Things that once would’ve riled me up now have me busting up laughing because they’re just so plainly wrong. Because it’s just so plainly wrong, and bizarre, that anyone would genuinely think that.

What else can you tell by a chromosome or a reproductive organ? No, really? What?

flying flags

Let’s be clear: I’m under no illusions I’m perfect.

am perfectly biased.

Yep. Deep down below where my conscious thoughts meander are many embarrassing implicit biases:

  1. I couldn’t figure out how to play with my niece the last time I visited. I had no problem playing with her baby brother, but didn’t want to hurt her by doing the wrong thing. It shocked me when I realized I was thinking of her as “dainty” for being a girl. Aware of what was happening, I took steps to ensure I treated her as I would have treated a slightly younger Li’l D.
  2. I’ve heard many stories about one of my husband’s gay friends. He sounds delightful. But when I actually saw a picture of him, my first response was visceral distaste. If I could translate that distaste to words, they’d be: “He’s one of those gay men!” It was a horrifying thing to catch myself thinking, but think it I did. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it since, and breaking down–for myself–how very little a single image can tell me … about anyone.
  3. When I take the Implicit Association Race Test, it consistently takes me much longer to correlate good words with black faces than with white faces. My test results reveal a moderate preference for Caucasians. My husband and sons are black, for pete’s sake! What the hey?!

It’s from this place of imperfection that I face questions about transgendered people. And laugh. I don’t laugh because it’s easy for transgendered people in this world; far from it, with so many people trying to dictate to others exactly what is and isn’t appropriate for them. Rates of attempted suicide among transgender teens are just one staggering reflection of the hatred transgendered people face every single day for simply being true to themselves.

Do I have some horrifying implicit biases running amok in the depths of my mind? I surely do. I will just as surely have to walk myself through hundreds of self-coaching sessions after discovering more of these biases in the moments I recoil.

But at the forefront of mind, in the areas that house my ideals, hopes, and dreams, I laugh at the absurdity of–collectively or individually–trying to tell people who they should be based on things like chromosomes, reproductive organs, the color of their skin or the make of their car.

When it comes right down to it, my only answer to questions like “What about transgender people?!” is a single question:

Who am I to tell you who you are?

I’d much rather love you for who you are.

Different, but united

Beauty in all our colors

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  1. June 3, 2015 at 8:31 pm

    I always tell my kids that this ¨pink is for girls¨ thing is a marketing scam, and if they go overseas no one will understand what their problem is. I don’t want them to be judging a guy with pink pants when they are in Beijing.

  2. June 3, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    Did the test. Did not much like the result, although it could have been worse (a LOT worse!). Am inclined to blame it on poor coordination and a chronic inability to tell left from right… 😦

    • June 3, 2015 at 8:53 pm

      I tried to tell myself that the first time, but after seeing the exact same trends in each of the sections the second time around … I had to admit there was a pattern. :/

      I did spend a few hours looking up factors contributing to different results. A lot of what I read talked about exposure. Growing up in a place with very, very little diversity clearly impacted me, though I had some exposure through my Central American godsister and my dad’s photos from his travels. How exciting was the world out there! If only that excitement had allowed me to teleport and absorb other experiences …

      And yet, I am doing what I can now, and ensuring my boys see all the world of possibility outside … and within. 🙂

  3. June 3, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    I like to ask my son to show me where the pink whatever’s lady parts are if it’s a “girl thing.” In spite of the rest of our family, he’s slowly learning that it’s okay to like what you like, period.

    • June 3, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      YAY! I hope he gets deeper and deeper into that comfort.

      I’m laying the foundation for Li’l D to ask himself, when someone says something bizarre like that, “Who benefits by my believing this? Who’s hurt by my believing this?” Those are questions that sometimes help guide me, and I love it when I hear him pointing his own thoughts that direction. I love it even more when he points me the right direction.

      • June 3, 2015 at 9:10 pm

        I like how you phrase that and make him think, will have to try that with Little Man. 🙂

    • June 3, 2015 at 9:09 pm

      Oh my goodness, I love this and am going to steal it for my own children, should I ever need it!

  4. June 3, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    A lovely, candid post. I didn’t have a clue that you were dainty around my girl! She’s such a tomboy, and I’ll admit, I’m a little sad that Anna and Elsa are replacing Batman in her books. 😛 Back to your message, though! I *love* it. ❤

    • June 3, 2015 at 9:18 pm

      I mentioned it after it hit me … but, as I type this, I think I mentioned it to Nick, because as I imagine talking about it, his thoroughly unimpressed look comes to mind. 😀

      That unimpressed look will hopefully push at least a few patients toward healthier choices! It’s sure worked for me. :p

  5. June 3, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    Very well said!

  6. June 4, 2015 at 12:18 am

    Thank you.
    On so many levels.

  7. June 4, 2015 at 3:57 am

    Want to hear something funny? I have the opposite results as you, despite my history my bias is against my own though not by much. I know where it comes from.

    I wish I could post a picture of my two sons with their much younger cousin one Christmas. They were roped into playing Pretty Princess with her, they were all decked out in plastic jewelry including lovely crowns. They were beautiful. I cherish that picture.

    The bias we have, they come from many places. Our experiences, our history, our upbringing. I loved this one, especially your laughter and your introspection.

    • June 5, 2015 at 8:05 pm

      I don’t need to see the picture to love the image! Such smiles to imagine it.

      Reading up on the development of biases, I saw that lack of exposure can have a profound impact. Growing up in very, very white Oregon (and my especially white hometown, which liked to “celebrate diversity” as long as it was somewhere else), I might consider myself lucky to have stumbled my way elsewhere.

      It does make me sad that changing those biases involves having positive experiences with groups of people, when so many flock together and will never have the foundation for changing those implicit biases.

  8. June 4, 2015 at 4:31 am

    Yup! You absolutely nailed it! I have said that same comment to myself, to my son and to my husband on various occasions.

    • June 5, 2015 at 8:07 pm

      Oh, man! Reading this comment reminds me of a fantastic article I read a few days ago. I told myself I didn’t need to copy it because I’d for sure remember it. Yeeeeah … that worked! (It was about questions to ask yourself when you suspect you might be seeing things through the wrong lens.)

  9. June 4, 2015 at 6:52 am

    I tend to laugh over the broad statements like that as well, but then again, my son had his toenails painted pink at the salon the other day, so I must have done something right – he just doesn’t see the “rules” that society says he has to fit in as actual rules!

  10. June 4, 2015 at 7:53 am

    Yes! I do these things too! If we want a fair and equal society we’ve gotta start somewhere! Lord knows I need to start with myself as well!

    • June 6, 2015 at 6:45 am

      Sometimes I feel so far away from being able to effect change … but, though I can’t impact everyone everywhere, I can work on myself and try to nudge my boys the right direction.

  11. June 4, 2015 at 9:49 am

    I like pink, and I think everyone should.

    • June 6, 2015 at 6:56 am

      I actually used to dislike it because I thought it was too girlie. When I moved to L.A., I came to love pastels … and particularly pink!

      One of the Japanese schools I taught at used my favorite color as a question one Game Day. “What is Deborah-Sensei’s favorite color?” It made me chuckle when two-thirds of the kids moved the right direction (green!) and the other one-third moved over for pink. No one would’ve made the mistake just a few years prior … but those kids knew me to love both pink and green, my two favorites! 🙂

  12. June 4, 2015 at 10:07 am

    I purposely bought GI Joe and trucks for my daughter along with Barbie and pink kitchens. I wanted her to decide girly-girly or Tom Bot. Tom Boy won and I love that about her. The only rules she needs to be considerate of are those she sets.

    • June 6, 2015 at 7:00 am

      I love this! I introduced D to stereotypically boy and girl toys as well. I was a little disappointed when he gravitated toward dirt and trucks and Transformers, but that disappointment was tempered two ways: (1) I knew he was following his interests, which is good and right, and (2) he still loves My Little Pony, which means great MLP v. Transformers romps for both of us. Can’t help but giggle at that!

  13. June 5, 2015 at 6:14 am

    When I was a kid, my Dad discouraged me from watching reruns of ‘That Girl’, since it was ‘too girly’. 40 or so years later, I’m planning a ‘My Little Pony’ birthday party for my 5 year old son.

    • June 6, 2015 at 7:01 am

      This makes me beam. Just beam. Thank you.

      • June 10, 2015 at 10:36 am

        Now here’s the sad part…His friends are pretty evenly divided between girls and boys. But apparently, parents of girls just don’t go to boys birthday parties. Of those who were invited, only the boys can come. He realized that the boys don’t really like My Little Pony, so he
        changed his mind on that ‘theme’.

  14. Paul
    June 7, 2015 at 5:56 am

    Fun post Deb. I took the test and it said I was moderately biased towards Whites. I suspected that even though I don’t see myself as biased. I think the reason is that I don’t see or know many blacks so I automatically pause when I relate with some one who is black. My step-mom’s son in law is black and he is an amazing guy. One Christmas when we were visiting he and I were having a scotch by the fireside – alone in a house full of people and we had this very same conversation. I told him that I was concerned about my bias as I saw myself pause when I met or first interacted with someone black. He had a very pragmatic definition of prejudice and it hinged exclusively on action, not on thoughts or perceptions or any other esoteric criteria, He thought my concerns were a tempest in a tea pot – as long as I treated blacks equally.

    As to your son’s concern about pink, I knew a guy that would have been ideal to introduce to your son. His name was Harry Ruggeburger and he was German. Harry loved to bake and he loved ballet and pink was his favorite color. In fact he was once involved in teaching ballet and could do as good a pirouette as any ballet dancer I’ve seen. I met Harry when i started working part time at the age of 13 (my Dad lied on my application as 14 was the minimum age at the time – and I was proud that he thought I was mature enough to work). It was at a large commercial bakery in Halifax, Nova Scotia (over 500 employees). At that time Harry was the Master Baker at the plant – an official designation that is internationally recognized. He controlled all the operations and ,of course the recipes, new products, special products (we did not retail some products but made them for hospitals and such , like salt free bread). He and my Dad became friends as my Dad was a supervisor in sales at the time. As a teen single child I hung out with adults a lot and most were amused and tolerated me. So when my Dad dropped in to visit Harry at home on weekends, I went along for the ride. It was there that I learned that Harry had immigrated to Canada as a young adult after WW2. He had fought for Germany in that war under Erwin Rommel, The Desert Fox – one of the most highly regarded Tank Generals ever. Rommel was not a Nazi – and neither was Harry – in fact Rommel was forced into suicide by Hitler when he was discovered as being part of a group attempting to assassinate Hitler. Harry was a tank commander in the North African Desert directly under Rommel – he worked with the legend daily and ate with him in the mess tent as Rommel would not allow his troops to treat him any different than they treated their colleagues. Rommel’s tactics were pure genius and Harry was right there day by day , commanding the tanks as the battles rolled out.

    Harry had many pictures in his home from the war and they included pictures of him and Rommel. It was so amazing to sit and listen to the stories that legends were made from. To hear about the real person behind the stories.

    Harry was very organized and believed strongly that everyone had to work their way up in life by working hard and doing what needed to be done – as you would imagine from his life. He marched through that bakery and he made it tick like a well oiled machine – always running right on time and with as much efficiency and perfection as was possible. Ultimately Harry was a fair man and when I worked there for a while I realized that the men cherished him and enjoyed teasing behind his back. One of their lines, after Harry had marched through was (with a German accent): “So, you vant to be a breadman, eh? First you drive ze tank.” This became a sort of mantra meaning that all gains in life had to be through hard work. Any time a new hire would complain or grumble they were met with the mantra. And working in a commercial baker is no walk in the park. At the time with all the huge conveyor ovens and proofers and such, it was not possible to air condition the bakery, so in summer the temperatures would reach 110 degrees F. And Harry would be right in the middle of it all.

    And Harry loved pink as he loved the ballet and baking. He was probably one of the most masculine and fearless men that i knew – and he had the credentials to back it up.

  1. June 24, 2015 at 9:14 pm
  2. July 12, 2015 at 9:04 pm
  3. January 19, 2016 at 4:46 am
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