"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Sunday, June 17, 2018

PRIDE: Find Your Flag

It began, I suppose, a year ago. Almost to the day.

We were at the library and spotted a display near the Teen section...an area of mystery and intrigue to my three not-yet-teens. The display read "Beyond the Binary...Our Community is Beautiful" and was a large circle, filled with small, differently colored circles.

Upon closer inspection, I realized that the poster was in honor of Pride Month and the colorful circles each corresponded to a different gender identity label. I called Max over and, together, we read through each of the identity descriptions until he lit up. "That's me!" he exclaimed after I read the description for the "gender fluid" label. "I'm gender fluid! That's who I am!" He excitedly reached for the striped circle that corresponded to that particular label and, as he taped it onto the display, he noticed something incredible....

"There are two other people in our neighborhood who are JUST. LIKE. ME." 

I don't want to say the moment was life-changing for Max, he's always been confidently "MAX," but it confirmed something in him...and it made something abundantly clear to me: Labels are Important. 

Sometimes labels can limit or force a box around a person....but sometimes, labels can validate who you are and the fact that you are, indeed, part of a community. Labels can give a name to something that is bigger than you...to prove that you're not alone. In hindsight, that moment in the library may have changed Max's life. He certainly walked out of that library with a certain swagger in his step that day...a swagger he's maintained ever since.

On more than a couple of occasions this year, he came home from school and told a story of how he described himself to his friends, using the term "gender fluid" to explain how he felt on the inside, which was reflected in how he presents himself on the outside. There was one friend in particular who was especially interested in his gender fluid identity. "How do you feel today, Max?" she'd ask on a regular basis. "Are you feeling more like a girl or more like a boy?" He'd tell me that he giggled at the question and explained to her that it wasn't something that turned off and on, rather a changing feeling all the time. Fluid.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine who is a teacher at our school, gifted me a bracelet she had made. She has made jewelry for a long time but recently began creating Pride bracelets for her daughter and her daughter's friends to hand out at Pride events they attend. She had started making rainbow-patterned bracelets, reminiscent of the familiar rainbow Pride flag, then learned of the transgender flag, so began making bracelets in a light blue, white, and pink pattern.

The bracelet she handed to me in the school cafeteria a few weeks ago is pink, white, purple, black, and blue. The gender fluid flag. 

"Does Max know he has a flag?" she asked as she handed me the bracelet, excited to share the news. I replied that it was familiar, remembering the colorful circles from the Beyond the Binary display at the library. I didn't think of it as a flag before, though, and couldn't wait to share it with Max. 

Over the next few days, my friend made several more bracelets to match mine, though smaller in size. Max was over the moon. He recognized the colors and pattern at once as the flag representing people who identify as gender fluid. He wore two to school one day shortly after he received them. He came home with only one. "I hope Ms. G doesn't mind," he said apologetically, "but I gave one of my bracelets to my friend." I assured him that Ms. G wouldn't mind at all, in fact, that I was sure she would be thrilled.

"I gave it to her because she understands me the most. I told her that when she wears it she can think of me and the word gender fluid. She can think about what it's like to be like me."

And that's when I taught Max about Allies. 

Since then, my friend has given Max more bracelets to gift to his best friends, his Allies. 

I don't think any of them realize how important this is. I don't think a single one of these adorable, sweet little kiddos understands how huge it is to a kid like Max to have Allies. I don't think Max has any idea how crucial it is that, at eight, he already has a word and he already has a community of support that stretches beyond his family.

These kids today? They're changing this world.

Thank god.

We went to our library this week. I peeked over by the Teen section to see if there was another Pride display. Sure enough, there was. Unbelievably, it was about finding your flag. 

Max knew exactly how he wanted to design his...

Max's Flag, top right
Lesson Learned:
Find your flag. Wear it. Share it. Be proud of it.

Also...celebrate the flags of others. Wear them. Be proud of them. Stand up for them. Be an Ally.

Happy Pride Month!