An article about an eight year-old girl not being feminine enough is making the rounds of the internet this morning. Give the masses a little time to get outraged and we’ll see if it actually “goes viral”. Here’s a link to Huffington Post’s coverage if you haven’t seen it.

My first thought wasn’t, “how dare they”. Rather, I thought, “hey, that little tomboy looks me at that age”. She might have been my sister or cousin or tomboy best friend. The resemblance is uncanny:

tomboys

Left: Me circa 1992. Right: Sunnie rockin’ a sweet Steeler t-shirt today.

As an eight year old I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin – a little chubby, a little nerdy – but I was not yet burdened by the paralyzing self-consciousness of adolescence. Dressing however I wanted eased that awkwardness. A haircut from the boy’s section of the stylist’s handbook. A favorite pair of stonewashed overalls rocked least once a week – despite a distinct lack of farm work. Spandex shorts and Mickey Mouse t-shirts worn with abandon. I was one comfortable kid.

To add to the similarities between Sunnie and I, all of this happened at a parochial school.

Even those uptight Catholic school administrators back in the day knew a tomboy was just a tomboy. They didn’t read into it. I wish this southern Christian school could do the same. Don’t make this girl’s haircut and clothing choices something more than they are. It’s hard enough being a kid. Navigating social landmines of the playground, learning to multiply, studying geography, deciding if you really like the Steelers or you just like that t-shirt. This kid doesn’t need a group of adults telling her that she is doing it all wrong.

Let’s try having a little goddamn compassion.

This little girl could grow up to be a doctor, a lawyer, a businesswoman, a soldier, a fashion designer, a professional poker player. She could be gay or straight or trans. We don’t know. I doubt she knows. Maybe in twenty years this little girl will look like a larger version of her current self – a short haired, sports lovin’ lady. Maybe she’ll be a goddamn swimsuit model. Maybe she’ll be both.

Right now, she is just a kid.

My tomboy phase never really ended but finding comfort there allowed me to become who I am today. I am most comfortable in jeans and a hoodie with my hair pulled back. This utilitarian style just make sense to me. On the other hand, I’ve also grown to enjoy getting gussied up:

glamgirls

Playing dress up isn’t just for kids.

In this day we can take what we want from each gender’s stereotype and make it our own. A dress today. Jeans tomorrow. Awesomeness forever. Even if some people are still catching up to this idea it sounds like Sunnie’s grandparents are already telling her this.

Hopefully their (our?) positivity can outweigh the school’s bigotry. Hopefully.

Advertisements