You know, I think PJI had it all wrong. I mean, obviously I think they are wrong, but I think they committed a grave strategic error. Instead of attacking a defenseless, young, trans woman in Colorado, a state with a healthy history of showing respect to our community (though as with every state, there is work to be done.) Instead they should have looked to my hometown of Brockport, where they could have found an ally in one of our local elementary school principals, as evidenced in the letter friends with children in the school received. Take a gander at this.
Now no rational person would have a problem with items two, three and five. Those are practical safety issues though I suppose a simple note saying, please exercise common sense would have sufficed. Item one is far too ambiguous for my taste. Who gets to decide if a costume is gory, depicts violence, or is profane? Is it OK to dress up as a World War II era soldier, someone who actually killed someone, but not as Ice Cube, an important cultural figure who brought to light the horrible living conditions of folks in South Central Los Angeles? Who gets to choose?
Never mind all that though. The real beauty is in item four, which I have zoomed in on, and highlighted the truly offensive part below:
I am wondering what he means by cross dressing. Is a little girl in a football uniform cross-dressing? What if she is dressed as Abraham Lincoln, would that be alright? Something tells me they would be, or at least the latter, because everyone should want to be male. It is OK in that case, so long as the little girl does not express a real interest in being a boy.
No, we need to be real clear here, Mr. Bruno wants to make sure no little boys show up in skirts or dresses. It does not matter if he is raised by his educated, single mom and wants to show love for Alice Paul, who made it possible for his mom to vote. Perhaps some young man admires Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the greatest champions of all human rights our world has ever known. Maybe he just want to challenge gender norms in general, we would not want him to do that now, though, would we?
Because we want to make sure these kids toe the line. It is important they understand that male is the default good and if some boy debases himself by dressing as a girl, well then, all hell will break loose. Then the teachers may actually have to call out the boys who do not get it yet and undo all the damage the gender binary has done. It may give girls the idea that it is just as good to be a girl as a boy, and that would be beyond horrific. Oh, and lets not let any of the kids questioning their gender identity get the idea that they may not be terrible freaks after all.
There is so much failure in this letter it hurts to actually read. I do not need to tell you that item four is my biggest beef, but why did he have to lay down any rules to begin with? All he had to do was ask folks to exercise common sense when it came to safety and maybe give some good suggestions. Instead he comes across as officious and arbitrary. He has declared what he deems acceptable, though in item one, again, it is stupidly subject to interpretation, and let everyone know he will brook no challenge to it.
Well I hope a large number of parents challenge him on this, even, maybe especially, those parents whose boys are not questioning their gender identity. It is time we stood up to the gender police and held a gender riot. Even with our kids, because if we do not teach them to stand up for what is right now, when do we? I have a dream that if not this year, because it is kind of late for it now, and I am sure plans have been nailed down, then next year, every boy comes to the school dressed as Susan B Anthony. Would that not be the most delicious justice ever?
I hope Sean Bruno gets wind of this. I hope this was just an error of judgement, a momentary lapse into cowardice in the face of a world where he would have to face angry bigots if a boy did come to school in a dress. That is no excuse, mind you. Because he has an obligation to help these kids learn to, in the vernacular, smash the patriarchy. It needs to be smashed, because it hurts our boys as well as our girls.
It is the patriarchy that tells boys that they are only allowed anger and mirth and no other emotions. It is the patriarchy that tells them they are destined to become lustful beasts unable to control themselves at the sight of a woman’s skin. It is the patriarchy that demands they put themselves in harm’s way to prove their manhood.
It is also the patriarchy that tells our girls that they are to be unassuming. It is the patriarchy that tells them they are destined to be baby factories. It is the patriarchy that demands they be relentless gatekeepers of not just their own libido, but that of every man around them. It is a rotting frame for a society that is long past being demolished in favor of a wiser and stronger one. Its beneficiary, the male with even an iota of power, does not want to see it go.
Sean has a chance to do the right thing and do his part to send it on its way though. I hope he takes this opportunity and sends an apology to every parent of every child in his school. I hope he takes the time to remind all of his students that the young women in his charge are not, in the words of a much better writer than myself, the second sex, and the equal of any boy. I hope he takes this as an occasion to sit down with his boys and remind them that while society has said otherwise for years, being male should not be the default position, and that “dressing like a woman” does not make them less, because being a woman is not less. I do not hold out much hope, but maybe he will surprise me. At the very least, I hope he does not continue to add more rotting wood to the rotting frame of our sexist culture.
- The Causes and the Consequences of Controversies around Transgender Rights (gendersociety.wordpress.com)
- Op-ed: Why Are Americans Terrified of Transgender 6-Year-Olds? (advocate.com)
- Labels, Identity and Sexuality. (unilantern.wordpress.com)
- The Perils of Patriarchy for Men as well as Women: Another Mass Shooting, another Reason to Begin Discussing Violence and Gender by Jeffrey Nall (zcommunications.org)