I always hated pink.
Gender norms have never been normal for me. I loved the Ninja Turtles as much as my dollhouses, and to this day I still want that elusive Optimus Prime toy. As a child I was encouraged to explore by a motivational mother bent on her daughter’s self-discovery. I learned all I know of mothering from her.
So when my daughter asked to become my son, I didn’t hesitate. My reply felt almost rehearsed – its flow from my lips smooth and cool.
It was all so easy. So simple.
She – he – hugged me tight, liquid light shining from excited eyes.
“Thank you mum!”
She always loved pink.
As a little girl, my son was the belle of the school. She wanted to be a princess. She wanted to be a fashion designer. She’d watch me put on makeup and ask me often,
“Mum, am I pretty?”
My answer was standard, but heartfelt:
“You are beautiful. Inside and out.”
If we’d had the freedom to paint walls, hers would have been pink.
As the world sets in…
I can’t protect him from others’ insecurity. Their own doubts about the world and their place in it reflect back on him in the form of hurtful words and pronouns intentionally misplaced.
I still misplace them sometimes.
I am insecure.
It was so easy to let her go.
It was so simple to see her wave goodbye.
“What’s your favorite color now?”
The carrots crunch under my knife.
My heart crunches with them.
I shrug back. “Maybe purple?”
A good compromise. Halfway between pink and blue.
Like an unhealed bruise.
She hated purple.
Maybe he doesn’t.
He stares out at the blue rain without an answer.
I never hated blue. It’s a soothing color. The color of skies in summer. Of water. And ice.
“What about… blue?” I choke out the word, hoping he doesn’t notice my hesitation.
Gendered colors have always been like gender norms to me. Boys can wear pink. Girls can wear blue. Silly, really, to think otherwise.
“Mum? Am I pretty?”
“You are beautiful, inside and out.”
Princesses never interested me.
“Mum, does she live happily ever after?”
“A princess always does.”
I always believed in happy endings. I knew hers would be the happiest.
It was so easy to say goodbye.
And now she is gone.
The hated pink is gone.
Part of my soul is gone.
“Mum?” he says, turning from the rain to smile at me.
I sniff, aware of the water on my cheeks, and smile back. “Yes?”
“I think… yeah. I like blue.”
I nod and turn back to the cutting board.
I always hated pink anyway.
Salt is good on carrots, even the liquid kind.
I feel arms around my shoulders. Strong. Tall.
I nod again, unable to speak.
“Blue is beautiful,” he says. “Purple too. And yellow and red and orange.
My favorite color is the rainbow.”
I pull back to look my son in the eye. “And pink?”
His green eyes – once hers – pause in-between a moment’s lifelong purgatory of emotions.
“Mum, am I pretty?”
The standard answer begins to form on my tongue. I stop it, for the first time unsure what to say.
“Do you still want to be?” I finally ask.
There it is again in his eyes. Uncertainty. Fear.
He nods without a word.
“Then of course you are,” I say.
The fear remains.
“Inside and out?”
A slap in the face. A punch to the gut.
And then I see it.
My child’s rainbow.
Her long brown curls were cut short and dyed purple for him.
Her lacy aquamarine tops were replaced by his striped blue and red chest binder.
The joy in her luminous emerald eyes is still the joy in his.
I hold him tight, close to my heart where he lives and always will.
Every color of him. Every facet of his beauty and power. And I know my answer is anything but standard.
“Always and forever, you are beautiful. Inside AND out.”