I recently chose to challenge Target about their marketing of a line of sweat clothes that they labeled “Boys” and “Girls” based on shades of blues and pinks.
Posting it on my own Facebook page was easy. I am surrounded by a group of like minded individuals who know me and frequently align with my thinking. Even those who do not agree know something about me and are likely to either keep their thoughts to themselves or comment with compassion.
Posting it on the Target Facebook page was not easy. There I opened myself up to the real world, a world of 50/50 that doesn’t hold back.
I was called a soggy cheeto, a whinging moron, an idiot, a dumbass, and what’s wrong with the world. I was told I need to get a life, control my rage, and to give up my children to another family because I am a failure as a parent.
I won’t lie. Some of the comments initially stung. But it didn’t last long. Because this I know:
The human brain does not like change. It was created to be efficient and keep us safe. Thoughts of change do not feel safe. They leave room for uncertainty and can leave us in a place that we want to freeze or hide. Or in the case of the 300+ individuals who commented on my post, having our black or white thoughts challenged can lead to a response of wanting to belittle or fight.
We have been socialized in a binary system of girl and boy, pink and blue. I watched as families entered the Target store and passed by the rack of pink clothes labeled “girl” and blue clothes labeled “boy. ” Parents were unknowingly exposing their children to the collective beliefs around gender, further socializing them to not question what colors belong to what gender or that there could be a possibility of more the 2 genders. With things like this almost everywhere, it’s no wonder our brains feel challenged when someone like me questions the norm.
When we want to enter the world and challenge gender norms, it is imperative we ask ourselves how much emotional capacity we have to go against the grain. Because it’s not going to be easy. We are going to encounter brains that don’t want to be challenged to consider another way. It often requires being able to hear the insults and whatever else may come.
It’s not that the people that were responding to my post were “good” or “bad”. It’s that they weren’t ready to challenge their brains to think in a new way. But in order for growth to occur, we must be open to seeing truth in both sides. There is always something available for learning in our own way of thinking as well as another’s way of thinking. It doesn’t mean we have to agree, only that there is value in understanding and possibility solidifying that which we choose to believe.
I know what is true for me. I know I am called to make change. And I know I have the emotional capacity to be called an idiot and be told I am an unfit parent if that’s what it takes. I will continue to show up and to do so with love. Not just love for those who agree with me but also for those who believe the best course of action is to insult me. Because it is true that sometimes I am a dumbass and sometimes need to control my rage. But I am self aware enough to assess when those things are true and when someone else is acting out from a primitive brain response.
It’s not unusual for us as parents of supporters of LGBTQ+ youth to hear strong opinions about ourselves, our children and our parenting. We have a choice to be reactive or to see it for what it is- brains being challenged into a new way of thinking that someone may not be ready for. We can choose to educate, confront or accept. I don’t believe any are right or wrong- we each have to develop our own ways of being in the world. But doing so from a place of empowerment, choosing instead of reacting, loving instead of hating and being open to considering where the other person is coming from and why they are believing the way they are will always be more effective.
Being open to a new way of thinking and being is a harder way of life. It requires us to be willing to question our beliefs, be open to the beliefs of others and to show up when it matters. For me, this work is a calling. I challenge you to meet me on this path and question where you believe something has to be one way or another. It may be harder but I promise it’s worth it. And we will change the world, one soggy cheeto at a time.