Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Where have all the pink boys gone?

He still rocks the hair and tiedye
Not too long ago, the pink boy was everywhere. Essays about toddlers and young boys who adored the color relegated to the girl sections of stores popped up on blogs everywhere. I have a pink boy, but I never thought of him like that. He was just a boy who loved his pink Hello Kitty boots, pink t-shirts and his now-threadbare pink gingham pajamas. He loved pink. A lot. Now he’s a tween, and he still loves pink. But what happened to the rest of them? Those fearless boys who wandered elementary school halls in variations of the favorite shade once reserved for girls? Where are their mothers, those brave women who held their heads high in defiance (as they should) if anyone questioned letting their son ‘look like a girl.’ Especially when those sons, like mine, also happen to adore long hair.

I like to think it’s over. The pink boys have taken a stand. Colors assigned by gender  are ridiculous. Pink is considered a strong color. It is bold and makes a statement, and boys should get to wear it, too.

I think the majority of pink boys hit puberty. They got to middle school, and peer pressure began to slowly erode their desire to wear pink in public. Maybe they now choose pink socks instead of pink hoodies.  Red shirts and sweaters faded so much they have a pink hue. Maybe they still walk the halls in pink, because this upcoming generation of kids really don’t care what color their friends like. I think the most pink boys began to blend with their peers.

There are others, though, the other pink boys that didn’t phase out of the habit. We don’t hear much about them because they aren’t pink boys. They are something else: Gender Nonconforming. Transgender. Gay. Somewhere in between boy and girl. The flash-in-the-pan issue of the pink boy was a precursor to a larger national conversation on first, the absurdity of gender coding, which led to Target removing gender-based aisles, and second, on the true issue of children who do not fit comfortably in either the ‘boy’ category or the ‘girl’ category. This group is known under the umbrella term LGBTQ in the hopes of covering every conceivable scenario.  The argument over whether a boy should wear pink, or be allowed to wear a dress to school, is minimal compared to the discussion over whether a school should be allowed to tell a boy who identifies as a girl, dresses like a girl, and appears like a girl, to use the boy’s bathroom. It’s a larger discussion on how to help children who fall somewhere outside the norm navigate public society. With legislation in some states obsessively focusing on who uses what bathroom, and a desperate desire by some to allow discrimination against the LGBTQ community,  it’s not a small discussion.

And where is my pink boy? He’s in Middle School. He surrounds himself with pink at home and is still wearing those threadbare pink gingham pajamas, but he tones it down for school because, he explained, pink is best used as an accent. No amount of peer pressure can take away his love of long locks, though, and he often still gets mistaken as a girl. He expects that problem to go away when he gets some facial hair in.

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