I like to wear different stuff to school during lunchtime. I think most of you know that I volunteer at the charter school where my oldest daughter is a kindergartener, during their lunchtime. The school goes through 6th grade and the interests of the kids are varied. It's a small school which for the most part only has 1 class per grade. After Harry Potter came out I wore my cloak to school (which was great because it had snowed and the cape kept the wind of my legs and kept me from freezing), but mostly I wear different graphic t-shirts, mostly from shirt.woot.com.
Today I wore my "Hello I'm It (run)" shirt. It's an old one and it's really just a simple joke about playing tag, a game that even the sixth graders still play. Because it is written with capital letters sometimes people think it's an equally appropriate Information Technology joke as both my husband and I have worked in IT. Most of the kids got the tag reference and some I tagged on the shoulder as they tried to scoot away. However, one sixth grader had a very different interpretation of what it means to be "it".
Ok, I'll admit that when I was in 6th grade, I was just a bit fuzzy on what it meant to be gay. I didn't know the concept of transgender, and I definitely didn't understand being bi. I remember gay men in the military was a big deal and a couple of my friends Brad and Will (they were girls, but used male pen names to gain more respect as writers) made a comic about a homosexual rabbit in the military. I suppose it was probably offensive, but it was meant to be thought provoking and funny, even though none of us had any idea what it was to be different in that way.
So this one girl, lets call her Annie, which is so not her name, assumed "IT' meant that I had no gender at all. That I was neither male nor female, so therefore I was an it. Ok, whatever, so she thinks I'm genderless.... personally my gender is not important to my role and so I don't care what she thinks of my gender, but the problems then built. Apparently, because being an "it" is utterly revolting she wouldn't accept hand sanitizer from me (a required part of my job is to give sanitizer to all the kids, since we do not have facilities for them to wash before eating). I finally followed her to a table and gave her the bottle to do it herself. Which took lots of convincing since I had touched the bottle and it was now contaminated with my "it" germs.
Annie continued to be repulsed and rude for the rest of the lunch period. She insulted me for being an "it." She questioned how I could have possibly have had children. Ultimately, she decided that I was a disease to all of humanity and she was going treat me as such. Now we live in a state that is; as was so famously posted on the University answer cube when asked where the library books on gay and lesbian issues were, "In the closet." As such, I could not directly address the issue that was the underlying problem, that she perceived me as something outside the binary gender mold.
Now, I do have problems with the acts of which are described in my faith as inappropriate, however; I acknowledge that not all people follow my faith and for them such acts are not inappropriate. I also feel that no person should be treated as less of a person because of something, that I firmly believe, is their personal struggle, and not a choice they have made. I know far too many members of the LGBT community to believe otherwise and I only know a few.
I can not believe that parents allow their children to treat others this way, just because the way they are is not "normal". I did nothing today that was any different than I have done any other day. Annie has high-fived me in the past, but today her actions towards me were completely unacceptable. When are we as a society going to stop growing haters, and start promoting life? When are we going to teach understanding first, so that our problems do not become our pride? Today I was genuinely shocked. I guess we aren't as "over it" as we should be. What if this had been about skin color? What if it had been about whether women had the right to work for the same pay (which we still haven't fully achieved), or whether fathers can take sick days like mothers can to care for their own children (a battle my husband has had to fight more than once, when we took turns with sick leave!) What does it matter what we believe sexually when our job has nothing to do with it?!?
UPDATE: Today at lunch Annie asked me if I was still an "it" then saw my spiderman shirt and was relieved that I was now "normal". Obviously, it wasn't just some passing joke, this kid seriously needs to be taught some social acceptance skills!