Birdie came down with a very bad case of strep throat. It came on suddenly. Saturday morning she was as well as always but by 2pm she had a fever and it hurt to swallow. This was great because the extended hours of her doctors office go until noon on Saturday. So I had to take her to a walk in clinic.
Now, as anyone who follows this blog knows, my daughter likes to wear very short hair. I understand that folks are used to seeing girls with long hair and boys with short hair and when they see the reverse some folks get confused. I usually try to avoid confusion by using her name or mentioning her being my daughter in to conversation. I don't get angry by initial droppings of the wrong pronoun. I get angry when they don't let it drop once they have been informed of their mistake.
Which is what happened at the walk in clinic. Birdie and I walked in the door and up to the receptionist's desk.
Receptionist: And who are we seeing today?
Me (placing a hand on my daughter's shoulders): My daughter is not feeling well. I think it may be strep.
Receptionist: You mean your son?
Me: No, I mean my daughter. She has a fever and a sore throat.
Receptionist: Has he been here before?
Me: No this is HER first time here.
Receptionist: And do you have his insurance card?
Me: Yes, HER insurance card is right here. There is HER name and HER social on the front.
Birdie was much too miserable to listen to anything that was going on around her and didn't hear any of the conversation. But it wouldn't have been the first time she has run in to the situation.
When my daughter decided that she wanted to start wearing her hair short, we discussed what public reaction might be. We talked about people's preconceived notions about boys and girls are and how they might not understand a girl wanting to wear their hair short, just like they might not understand why a boy might want to grow his hair long. We role played situations in which she might say something to someone who mistook her for a boy. And every time it has happened Birdie has shown grace and courage. She has not gotten angry. She has simply corrected them. Sometimes she will tell a little joke and every one will laugh. But I can't help wishing that the world we live in would just be a little more accepting of her and kids like her. I wish she didn't have to explain why she likes her hair the way she does, or why she wants to wear the clothes she wants.
I wish she could just be herself and that we didn't have to educate random strangers at walk in clinics. But that is not the world we live in. Not yet. The world we live it is still consumed with the idea that girls should wear pink, and like sparkles and play with dolls and if they don't they must be defective in some way. And as much as we attempt to educate there are still people out there who can't wrap their brain around a girl who doesn't fit in their mold.
All we can do is keep on. We will keep correcting. We will keep educating. Birdie will keep being brave in the face of small minds. And hopefully one person at a time she can start to change the world. Hopefully the woman at the clinic went home a little more enlightened. Hopefully she goes home embarrassed about how she handled the situation. Maybe she will tell the story to others, who will also think twice before assuming that a girl is only allowed to look one way. Maybe her world got a little bigger today. Here's hoping.