When you were a kid, did you ever play the game, Guess Who? You know, the 1980’s mystery face game where each player chooses a person and then using yes or no questions, they try to figure out the other player’s person?
Turns out, the game still exists! I’ve been playing it with my son recently and it’s been a total blast from the past.
Nothing much has changed with the game.
The people are still mostly the same.
The format is still the same.
The rules are still the same.
And yet I’ve noticed the questions my son has been asking me about my “person” are now not the same as the questions I probably asked when I was a kid playing this game.
Not once has he asked me about the colour of my person’s skin.
He’s never made a judgement about the possible size of my person’s body (based on the shape or size of their head).
And he rarely, if ever, asks me if my person is a man or a woman.
Instead, he asks about the colour of my person’s hair, or whether they are wearing earrings or a hat or whether their mouth is open or closed.
When I picked him up from Kindergarten the other week, his teacher explained that he’d peed his pants and they’d had to change him. She was all bumbly and awkward and apologetic that the only spare trousers they had were a “girl’s pair.”
He was wearing a pair of pink trousers.
In the car on the way home, he asked me why his teacher seemed so troubled by him wearing pink trousers. And so I had to explain to my confused 3 year old why most of the world we live in seems to think that the colour pink is only for girls.
This conversation has opened a door for many more conversations between the two of us about sexism and sizeism and heteronormativity and gender neutrality.
I don’t use those words, of course. But I carefully explain to him about things; like the fact that some people are physically born a boy, but feel more like a girl and some people are physically born a girl, but feel more like a boy and some people are physically born a boy or a girl, but they don’t feel like a boy or a girl or they feel a bit like a boy and a bit like a girl but don’t want to be called a boy or a girl and this is called being gender neutral.
He nods when I ask him if he understands what I mean.
And I think he does.
“So does that mean that one of those people can say that they are a poo-face instead of a boy or a girl, mummy?”
“Erm…. I guess so?” I reply.
Maybe we still have some work to do there…
Yesterday, again in the car, he confidently piped up from the back, “Mummy, girls are strong, boys are cool and girls can’t wear baseball caps.”
I pulled over the car, Googled images on my iPhone of women and girls wearing baseball caps, and passed it to him.
His eyes widened. “Oh!”
Someone had told him that girls can’t wear baseball caps. I do not know who.
Maybe it was the same person who told him that the movie, Frozen, is just for girls.
Or maybe it was the person who once told him, when he’d had his hair cut short, that he now had a “great boy haircut.”
I feel like I am constantly course-correcting him.
He spends hours away from me these days.
And during these hours, he is absorbing information and messages from other adults and teachers and children and the parents of these children.
He is learning who he is and how the world works from other people. People who, just like me and you, are flawed and make mistakes and have deeply-held beliefs and entrenched ideas and assumptions about the world and how things should be that feel real and true to them, but might not be that real and true at all.
I cannot shield him from it all. I cannot completely control what he is learning.
And so I encourage him to stay curious.
I encourage him to accept that there’s always different and unique ways of looking at the world and how things should be.
I encourage him to tilt his head by just 10%, to examine whether what he is being told is actually a fact or merely an opinion.
I encourage him to ask another person to see if they think differently.
I encourage him to question everything.
And I encourage you to do the same.
Over and out.