Huxley is barely able to say the word “shoe,” does not yet know the word “pink,” has no clue what “gender” is, but last weekend somebody called him a sissy. He is not yet two years old.
This is interesting and it is a little complicated. And it involves multiple waves of offensive idiosity, so get ready for a longish story…
About two months ago I was putting Huxleys shoes on, and became frustrated because once again, they did not fit. He was growing past shoes faster than we could supply them, and since he almost never wears shoes anyway, that meant he was growing past nearly unused shoes one pair after another. Rather than squeeze his feet into too tiny sneakers, I popped him in the car sock-footed and headed off to the Mother Ship to reshod the child.
[A repost with minor revisions…Huxley is now WAY over 2 years old.]
With Huxley in the shopping cart, we wound back and forth in the shoe section of the large department store until we found the general category of shoe that would go on a 1.5 year old, and I quickly determined that there were two choices. They were similar to each other, but one had the kind of Velcro strip that had quickly broken on an earlier pair he wore, and the other had a sturdier looking closure (still Velcro). The fist was about $35, and the second was less than $8, a price almost too low to be believed, perhaps a mismarked bit of merchandise. Putting aside the lower quality pair, I tried the $8 pair on him and they fit nicely. A little big, which is good.
Now, I should mention that as I was fiddling with the shoes, a family consisting of two adults, one kid in the kiddie seat of the shopping cart, another kid standing in the shopping cart, and one kid on foot, came along also looking for shoes. They were wearing crosses and had a glazed look, but were also tense and terse with each other, and looking around judgmentally. Church people, no doubt.
So there was this moment when I had one of the shoes on Huxley, was fetching the shoe box they came in, and gathering up the second shoe, and the family of church people was literaly rubbing against me and pushing Huxley’s cart aside because they needed to take up all the space as they moved tersely and tensely and judgmentally down the aisle, when I suddenly noticed that Huxley’s new shoes were pink and the model name clearly indicated a female gender association. (Well, actually, they were white with pink trim.) So, I said out loud.
“Huxley, these are girl’s shoes!”
The family stopped and stared.
“Cool!” I added.
And I put the shoes in the cart and squeezed my way past the stern looking church people who were not approving. And that story was not worth the retelling at the time it happened. Until further developments.
So now it is a couple of months later, Huxley’s rate of foot growth has slowed, and the pink girl shoes which were a little on the big size now fit perfectly and have thus been serving him well. And on Sunday, Amanda and Huxley went to an apple orchard for a few hours of seasonal recreation. While they were there, they saw the Twin Cities Trolley, a local tour bus, waiting near the apple farm, having unloaded a load of tourists. Huxley showed interest so the two of them went over to have a look. There was an older guy and a high school age boy with the Trolley. The older man invited the two of them to go into the trolley and have a look around.
And as they did so, the man said:
“Is that little girl or a little boy?”
“A little boy! Yeah, it’s kinda hard to tell sometimes.”
“Yeah. Especially with those sissy shoes he’s wearing!”
That guy called Huxley a sissy!
OK. I’m not going to tell you what Amanda said to him, or what she later wanted to have said to him, or what she said to me. When I heard about this I honestly felt three different emotions (other than confusion). First I thought it was funny that an adult would think of calling a toddler a sissy. Not funny haha. Funny strange. Funny pathetic. Funny OMG. Second, I was a bit mad because some stupid-ass old man who drives a Trolley felt he had to use my baby son to assert his heternormative patriarchal crapola and play Footwear Gender Cop. Third, I was astonished that there were still people in Minnesota who did not know, when it comes to issues of gender and I assume (in his mind) sexual orientation, that if they retain mid 20th century attitudes, that in the presence of other humans they don’t know, especially if they are in a service industry on the job at the time, to shut up.
If all you can say is something like
“Hey, you’re wearing sissy shoes!”
… to a 20 month old, then just… shut. up.
The thing is this: I not only don’t care if Huxley is wearing sissy shoes, I don’t care if he is a freakin’ sissy! I don’t care if he is straight or gay, not even a little tiny itty bitty bit. Or something else that’s not gay or not straight. Nor does Amanda. We are not “tolerant.” We are not “willing to accept him as he is.” We simply have no sense whatsoever that it matters at all as long as he does not run with the scissors. And as he grows up we want to teach him and guide him so that he treats all other people with respect. Or a Republican. We don’t want him to be a Republican.
The old man with the Trolley would not get that. Indeed, he does not even get that identifying someone as a sissy (or some shoes as sissy-shoes, to be exact) is stupid. He does not get that he might actually offend people with that kind of talk, and he does not get that the reason he might offend people could well be something OTHER than the offense of implying that someone is not straight. If I was there, as the guy-dad, I coulda said “Hey, don’t call my son a sissy!” and looked all tough and shit, but I wouldn’t have said that because what I would mean by that and what the guy would think I mean by that would be too far apart. Old guy with the Trolley could not even understand why I would be offended in a way that is utterly different than he thinks I would be offended!
So, next time you are in town and need a Trolley, Twin Cities Trolley is the way to go. Just make sure your fashion choices are totally straight arrow or you’ll get called something.