Today I dropped the kids off at camp, where Crazy Hair Day was in full swing. Some campers wore mismatched barrettes all over their heads; some had braids going every which way; others had colored their hair with rainbow stripes. Sam and Ruby had matching hairdos in their long hair: three braids down their back. Admittedly not that crazy, but they thought it was awesome.
As I signed the kids in for the day, a counselor complemented my “girls’” hair. I slipped in a “he” when I responded about Sam, and the counselor lobbed back a “she.” I find that when Sam meets new people, the long hair trumps any number of “hes” I can throw into the conversation. They just can’t see the he-ness in the way he looks.
When the counselor left I asked Sam if he minded that she thought he was a girl. Sam knew that I’d talked to the camp director about his gender expression before the start of the summer, specifically so that the counselors would be on the lookout for bullying, but clearly not every counselor knows he’s a boy. “I don’t mind at all!” he said. “Most people here think I’m a girl, except my main counselor and one kid in my group.” Worried that issues might come up—what if someone hassled him in the boys’ bathroom?—I asked Sam if he wanted me to tell the other counselors. “Nope,” he said, “it’s fine this way.”
On my way out, I mentioned the situation to the camp director. I asked if she felt it mattered if kids and counselors didn’t realize Sam’s a boy, and told her my concerns about the bathroom. She said she would mention it to the counselors, for safety, and added that there are other campers at camp this week who have similar gender issues. I didn’t even imagine that possibility! And then she said that later today, when the whole group meets, they will all talk about gender, and what to do—and not to do—when you see someone whose hair, or clothing colors, or bathroom choice, is not what you expect.