An Update On The Cheetah Coat
(Original Post can be found HERE.)
Remember my innocent, brave boy and his fascinating coat?
Remember how he came home that day from school, told me everyone liked it, and that was supposedly that?
I knew it wasn't going to be that easy.
A week has gone by since my son had worn his coat. (He wore it only once.) I inquired yesterday as to why it was in his closet. He replied,
"I changed my mind."
When I asked what that meant, he said,
"I didn't tell you the truth. The other kids on the bus didn't like it, and they teased me...they said it was a girly coat....and they called me names."
My heart shattered thinking of my little 8 year old boy being teased. (And admittedly, shocking myself a bit by the thoughts that went through my head of what I'd do if only I could've been on that bus with the 5th and 6th graders who were teasing my son...*sigh*. Practice, practice, practice.)
I won't go into all of the details of our conversation, but I explained that it is his choice whether or not he wants to wear the coat. I said he did spend his money on it, and he liked it...and that, truly, is what matters. I acknowledged how hard it must be to be teased (inquiring to make sure it didn't cross any lines and asked if he had told the bus driver if it did) and that this is one of the challenges that even adults face...coming to terms with wearing / saying / doing something that we feel right doing even when others don't agree.
He's growing up. Constant change. He knows he's loved. Never changes.
(He still hasn't worn the coat.)
I wasn't going to mention this here until I came across something shared on Facebook. It moved me, particularly given the recent events.
I'm not necessarily scared by the world we live in, as the author shares, but I am saddened...that this happened to the author, to my son, that these attitudes still prevail in most societies.
Please read this, and let me know: What do you think? Are you scared by these reactions? Or are they expected?
Here's the FB post:
On the first day, I wore a long-sleeve pink top cropped at the collarbone. I received many compliments, a few glares and even a free Venti gingerbread latte. On the second, I rocked a pink blouse with a high-waisted belt. Again, the same amount of well-wishes, questions and passing eye-rolls. These things were to be expected, as it isn’t necessarily the norm to see someone like me wearing things like these. I felt collected and confident in these modest outfits, seemingly convinced that the world around me could care less about the clothes someone wore. Most affirming was the response to my nails, which were almost always met with a cheerful grin, a high-five and a few words of encouragement.
What happened on the third day changed my perspective on humanity forever. I dressed myself as I normally would; band t-shirt, cardigan, plain Vans, etc. However, instead of black jeans, I complimented the outfit with a plain black skirt and matching set of tights. For me, this was a huge step in self-image. Years ago, I was barely confident enough to leave the house for school. These days, the opposite couldn’t be more true. As I set off about my day, the absolute worst in people came out in a full-force flurry of expletives and discomfort. I was ridiculed in whispers. I was mocked in glances. I was obnoxiously and filthily cat-called by a construction crew who, from behind, couldn’t tell that I was a man. Stopping by a bathroom before a lecture, a frat-bro went out of his way to shove me into the adjacent wall after eyeing me up and down on his way out. Expletives and names that might induce me to vomit were I to repeat them, were casually thrown in my direction with almost zero passing thought. By day’s end, I feared a full-on breakdown, unable to stand up for myself or what I believed in to maintain the integrity of the observer’s perspective. In a way, I had no right to feel that way, mostly because of the realization that this is the way that many have to live their lives. I fought back tears as every stare and ill-formed word engrained themselves in my sub-conscious.
Though I may not know you, I think that it’s important that we all come to understand why these things happen. In my book, cat-calling, shaming and harassment are among the worst actions we can engage in. As a heterosexual male, I will never truly know the fear that women may experience while walking home from work, going see a friend for lunch, or being sized-up in public based on their clothing. I will never truly know the gut-rot that a transgender individual may feel while being eyed up and down at the store or in class, strangers seeming to think as if the clothing they see before them begs a legal invitation of ridicule. I will never truly know the plights of these people, but as an ally and a human being invested in true equality, it is now my obligation to stand up for them as if I did.
What scares me the most is not the glances, mixed emotions, or 10-page paper that will inevitably come as a by-product of this project. No, what scares me is that this is the world we live in. We exist in a place where individuals living their truths can be subjected, directly or otherwise, to fear simply for living those truths. We live in an age where feeling ‘normal’ in your own clothing can create unfathomable contention with strangers, despite them having zero investment in their lives. We live in a world where the material, the fabric, the pieces that adorn you are somehow allowed to say more about who you are than the convictions in your heart and the sincerity in your deeds.
I don’t know about you, but I refuse that world. I refuse to let these things overcome the passion and genuine honesty that I’ve been so fortunate to bear witness to in my time. I refuse to let backwards, unprogressive mindsets stifle the glow and drive of those who are undeservingly robbed of it. Don’t say it can’t happen to you. If it happened to me, under the most average of circumstances on the streets in a progressive-leaning city, it could happen to anyone, and that is something I truly do not understand.
After all, it’s just a skirt.
What is it about a piece of inanimate, plain fabric that scares you so much?