There once was a little boy who couldn’t help but behave like a little girl. He loved nothing better than horses, dolls, long hair and the colour red. All he ever wanted to do was play with his My Little Ponies and dress up as a princess. He made a great princess.
The little boy knew in some unarticulated way that he was different from other boys. He knew that people disliked him and his behaviour. But he couldn’t quite understand why, or how to change it. At school he was called names and sometimes other children would hit him or spit on him.
The little boy was very unhappy for someone so young. He grew up with a hole in his heart; an empty space where feelings of isolation and fear flourished. It’s a lonely place for a young child to be, that fringe on the outskirts of the norm. It’s hard to want to be someone you’re not when you’re too young to understand who you are.
Luckily for the little boy, he had four older sisters who loved him. Four kind, warm and beautiful sisters, who loved everything about him, even when he peed their beds. They loved who he was and how he behaved, so if the boy wanted dolls, then that’s what they would buy him. Barbie after Barbie after Barbie.
It was fortunate for the little boy that he had his sisters, because they made him feel like he was okay. He still felt wrong and lonely and that was not going to change for a long, long time. But deep within the hole in his heart, a seed of hope had been planted. If his sisters could love who he was, perhaps he wasn’t entirely bad or broken, just a bit different.
As the boy grew older, he began to understand where the hurt and confusion came from. He discovered a new side to himself and although it took many attempts to accept it, the gift of unconditional love slowly solidified into something strong, defiant and hopeful. Maybe not love for himself, but a certain amount of respect and a willingness to try harder.
He met other people of all ages and walks of life with similar hollows in their self-esteem. He was stunned to find that many of them had grown up natural leaders, fitting in perfectly, with lots of friends at school. And he also discovered that many little boys and girls hadn’t made it. Fear and hate killed them – other people’s and their own. It made him angry as well as grateful.
Angry at those who decide that some people’s love for each other is worthless. Angry at the judgement that ignorant fellow humans will pass, as easily and self-righteously as if they were simply taking a breath or air. But grateful for his sisters, his family, his friends and his life.
This story could be about anyone. Your neighbour’s son, your friend’s daughter, or even your own averagely behaved and perfectly “gender appropriate” child.
Kids don’t have to be girlie boys or tomboys to know in their gut that they are different – and they don’t have to be bullied to sense that their difference is deemed unacceptable. Being popular, beautiful, clever or good at sports can’t plug that hole in a scared child’s heart – nor can religion.
We all came from somewhere; the vast majority of us came from straight, god-fearing parents. We didn’t pick our sexuality up like a bug, or graduate from some kind of homosexual academy, run by a mob of nasty power-gays. We just are who we are and always were…human beings, born of other human beings.
So remember that, all you people who say you want to protect children from harm, but then go on to teach them that some people are worth less than others.
Your son or daughter could be one of those scared, hurting, second class citizens – and the only way to protect kids from that particular mean and lonely place, is by proving to them that every child deserves to be loved for who they are.
And in some cases, lots and lots of Barbies may also help.