Chacos: How to stop grown men from squirming when boys wear pink
Our different opinions and way of looking at the world keeps us at the top of the food chain. We’re also spicy, opinionated individuals making us guilty of two things.
First, when we band together, we become a dynamic, dysfunctional bunch that goes along with what we’ve been taught from our youth, from our parents, from our friends or from our religion because it travels the path of least resistance. Second, we churn those beliefs into our very own yellow brick road of truth. This combination fuels the emotional baggage that somehow arrives every year between turkey dinner and the new year.
When someone questions their deeply rooted belief structures, it requires integrity and no small amount of courage. I recently had a friend do this very thing. She called to talk about my daughter’s identity as a girl saying she wants to understand the situation.
On the surface, her desire to learn about gender and sexual orientation appears to come from a concerned and heartfelt place. However, I’m defensive. My knee-jerk reaction is to be angry, as I believe her questions are based in fear and the information she has is full of ancient stereotypes.
Right now, I want to call her saying something obnoxious like, “My youngest son’s favorite color is pink. Should we clear this one up first?” Clearly, I need to work on my tact before I pick up the phone and say something as outdated and misinformed as her fears.
To listen to this mom’s worries with genuine care, I will first need to work on my soft skills and watch some Brené Brown TED Talks about vulnerability and empathy. I’ll channel grandpa sitting quietly at the holiday feast who silently listens to extended family on opposite ends of the political, vaccination or religious spectrum.
Kudos to those who listen to the latest conspiracy theories from Tucker Carlson’s minions on cable television and choose not to throat punch them into silence. I’m clearly going to need a lot more sedatives before I return my friend’s call.
I may only get one shot to speak to this mom before she calls me a liberal lefty spewing moral righteousness (I reluctantly admit to that). But facing topics that make adults squirm doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to explain them.
For example, everyone needs to learn that sexual orientation isn’t a choice, and someone’s gender identity is more than simply a passing feeling. We listen to a child’s truth because, alternatively, their depression and suicide rates are simply terrifying.
In the end, my friend’s integrity and courage to ask questions will only get her so far with me. I’m hoping she will eventually use her strength of character to untangle the roots that bind the beliefs she’s been taught over the years. At some point, she may be asked to stand up to stigma, adversity and point a moral compass in the right direction for our children.
I hope one day soon I can count on her as an ally. If she needs support and a tribe with whom she can connect with, there’s Generation Z, our teenagers of today. They are gritty, self-aware and comfortable living in their own skin. And I’m honored to call three of them my own, especially my daughter, the one who teaches me how to lean into some crucial conversations.
Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale, balancing work and happily raising three children with her husband. She strives to dodge curveballs life likes to throw with a bit of passion, humor and some flair.