This school year has been a shitty one and I really just want it to be over.
But, before that can happen we have a lot to get through. Two open houses. Three potlucks. A play. A class science experiment. A football game. A field trip. Oh, and a violin recital.
“I HAVE GOT to write a letter!” C.J. proclaimed as he slammed a piece of paper down on the table in front of me.
It was a flier for the violin recital. The top read “Performance Assembly and Parent Show Details.”
He pointed to the words of concern.
I wanted to bang my head on the table. At this point the school should know better than to send anything to my house that isn’t inclusive of the LGBTQ community or that enforces traditional gender norms and/or society’s expectations of “normal.” Because my son will reply with (in his opinion) a strongly worded letter.
“Are you sure you want to write a letter?” I asked. I was tired and not being as supportive of his advocate spirit as I should have been. Here’s why. I’ll admit it. The violin recital was the next evening and I really just wanted to attend as drama-free as possible. We’d have to see his bullies and their parents and it felt easier to me to just send the letter after the recital – or, hell, not at all. (We are SO CLOSE to the end of the school year.)
“Yes! Tonight!” he insisted. Then, he explained that days earlier, the music teacher was talking about the suggested attire and told the boys that they couldn’t wear blouses because blouses are for girls.
And, so, later that night we sat down and I put my fingers to the keyboard while he paced the room and dictated a letter to the music teacher and principal. (Somehow, over the last year, I’ve become his secretary. A good summer project will be bettering his typing skills.)
Here’s the final version of the letter he sent.
Dear Mrs. Principal and Mr. Music,
I was looking over the “Assembly and Parent Show Details” flier that was sent home for our violin concert.
When I got to the part about “Suggested Concert Attire,” I noticed something that upset me. It says “Boys, you know what would really make mom happy? Wear long pants instead of shorts.”
This upset me because some kids don’t have a mom. Their mom might have passed away or left them. Or, maybe their family never had a mom because they have two dads. Having two dads is okay. Any kind of family is okay, as long as you have someone who loves you.
Also, it implies that boys only wear shorts and don’t like to get dressed up or wear pants. That’s not true. I like to get dressed up. The flier could have just said no shorts for anyone.
A few weeks ago in class, you said to the class that boys couldn’t wear blouses during the violin performance because blouses are for girls. That’s not true or fair. Clothes are for everyone. Boys can wear blouses if they want. The dress code at our school even says that. Our school’s dress code is gender non-specific. And our state’s Safe School Laws and Title IX say that boys can wear blouses, skirts and dresses, just like girls can wear pants, shorts and polo shirts. People can wear anything to school they want as long as it’s appropriate and safe.
I hope you’ll change your flier for next year to be more considerate of different kinds of families and kids’ gender expression.
C.J. Duron, Fifth Grade
Although I initially had a lazy reaction influenced by avoidance, I went to bed that night proud of my son. When he sees (what he considers to be) a wrong, he wants it righted. Immediately.
The next evening he was in his room getting dressed for his violin recital, for which students were asked to wear white collared shirts.
C.J. had this shirt on.
“That shirt isn’t white,” I said.
“I know. I don’t have a nice, collared white shirt. So I’m wearing this one. It makes a statement,” he said.
“It sure does,” I said. “You never fail to make a statement.”
And off we went, to listen to fifth grade violin novices play songs from The Greatest Showman for 30 minutes. (God rest my ears.)