It’s Purim, the Jewish holiday I love for its signature cookie, Hamentashen, for its dress-up potential, and for its wonderful tale of social justice and feminine strength. I’m also loving this essay by Anat Shenker about the holiday, and her three-year-old son’s desire to dress up as Queen Esther. My son Sam dressed as Queen Esther in kindergarten, and, fortunately for Sam—and thanks to gender education in the classroom—his costume went over splendidly.
This year, Sam dressed as Anakin Skywalker from the third Star Wars movie, Revenge of the Sith (for those of you who have been reading Sam’s story, how’s that for gender-bending?). My husband and I went to Sam’s school yesterday for the annual Purim talent show. Near the school entrance, we bumped into the head of school. He was dressed as a woman. With his shaggy brown wig and beige gauze skirt, he looked more like a hippy cavewoman than the fabulous transwomen I see walking around San Francisco every day. But still, the sight of the head of school in women’s clothes made my day.
I’ve been trying to get the school to do a training for the entire school community–teachers, students, and parents–for the nearly three years that Sam has been there. We’ve found both a loving attitude toward Sam as an individual and an administrative reluctance to bring his gender nonconformity to the attention of the broader community. At times, particularly when he gets harassed in the bathroom by kids who don’t know any better (and should not be expected to know any better, until the adults in their lives commit to teaching them), this makes me furious. But yesterday, with the school’s Purim celebration in full swing and the head of school dressed as a woman, I thought: this school is modeling the message I want heard, in a language everyone can understand. It’s no replacement for gender training, but it’s a wonderful message just the same: Dare to be different. Gender lines aren’t fixed. Be yourself, and you just might end up a leader.