Crazy Hair Day

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.

Don't be alarmed. This is not one of my actual children.

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.

I am loving, loving, LOVING this camp director, this camp, and this Crazy Hair Day.





  1. tedra says

    We get this all the time, and I’ve got a few responses that I’d like to pass along. Often if it’s someone we’ll never see again, I don’t correct them, because why bother? If it’s someone we *will* see again, I do correct (but then, my son prefers folks to know he’s a boy). Inevitably people apologize all over themselves, and I *always* make a point of saying “no, that’s okay, everyone makes that mistake because of his hair.” Sometimes I’ll laugh and lightly say, “that’s okay, there’s nothing wrong with being a girl!”

    I think that trying to be really casual about it has helped my son also be casual about it–he’s able to be polite and gracious to adults when they make a mistake, and he pretty much lets it roll off his back if someone tries to hassle him about “being a girl” on the play ground.

    • shoffman says

      I do the same! I have generally taken Sam’s lead, because there was a time when he did NOT like us to correct people, because he really liked being perceived as a girl (back when he was wearing dresses). Then for a long time he wanted people to know he’s a boy.

      One of the responses I like to give is “Of course you thought he’s a girl. He’s just so beautiful.”

  2. Alicia says

    Crazy Hair Day at our school this year turned into a completely unintentional celebration of freedom in gender expression, especially for the boys. They were grinning ear to ear and rocking ponytails, pigtails, french braids, ribbons, glitter, and fabulous wigs. It was awesome!

  3. says

    That’s just a yummy post. Sometimes this is the salve one needs.

    Last year the kids’ school had crazy hair day. I fixed my girls hair up how they wanted it — crazy ponies — and then my son, who was three, demanded his fixed too. All three went with their crazy ponies, which was hilarious.

    This year for “wear pink against bullying” day, a couple of the male teachers painted their nails, and the nails of a couple of the boy kids (including one with cerebral palsy), hot pink. It was the talk of the day, all good.

    • shoffman says

      Thanks Karen! I’m so happy to hear everyone got into the pink nail spirit. I would LOVE to see that happen at our school.

  4. SherryH says

    Sounds like you found exactly the right camp! I am so thrilled for you. And even more so for Sam and Ruby.

    It’s funny how you tried to subtly correct the counselor with “he” and she skimmed right over it. Did she think you didn’t *know* his gender? If Sam’s okay with it, y’know, whatevs. But having had moments in my past where I was similarly oblivious to tactful social cues, I picture the counselor, months or years down the road, the long-forgotten conversation snapping into crystal-clear focus followed by, “Oh crud! I bet that mom was totally trying to tell me something!”

    Good on the camp director for addressing this with the counselors and campers in a direct, yet objective way as something that touches on everyone. Awesome.

    • shoffman says

      I think that the people who continue to say “she” after I say “he” just really can’t hear me. I don’t think it’s intentional at all. I wrote about it to make the point that his physical presentation is often so much stronger than any other cues for people who are just meeting him. It happens all the time. I do hope that there are those “ah ha” moments, not that people will feel ashamed or embarrassed (which happens often when people DO realize, and that makes me sad), but that they will think more about gender stereotypes.