“So, is it okay that we all like different things?”
“Yes!” responded the class of kindergarteners with enthusiasm. One student even added, “It makes us all special.” And my heart melted.
Last week at a local elementary school in Tulsa, I read the book 10,000 Dresses to a kindergarten class. 10,000 Dresses is the story of a child named Bailey, a girl growing up in the body of a boy. Throughout the story, Bailey is described using the pronouns ‘she, her, hers’, but her family still only views her as a boy and expects her to like ‘boy’ things, even though Bailey says she doesn’t feel like a boy. This is really frustrating to Bailey, because Bailey loves dresses. Every night she dreams of different styles of dresses with her vivid imagination. The students in the class were amazed by the dresses Bailey dreamed of, especially the fragrant dress made of roses and honeysuckle. The students understood that Bailey felt bad because the people closest to Bailey were not supportive of her. For example, when Bailey asked her mom for a dress, her mother responded by telling Bailey that dresses are for girls and she is a boy. Bailey then got similar responses when talking with her father and brother. The story ends with Bailey making a new friend who needs help designing dresses. Bailey uses her creativity and wild imagination to help her new friend design unique dresses with style.
The class said this was their favorite part. They were happy that Bailey finally had someone in her life that understood her and supported her in her passion for dress design. The students were hopeful that as Bailey grows up, perhaps her parents and brother will learn to understand Bailey better. They said they would love to be Bailey’s friend and help her design dresses. So, after the story, we all designed dresses together. The kids loved coloring their own unique dresses and sharing them with the rest of the class.
I was so proud of this class and how much they learned from this story. By having these conversations now, I am hopeful that these young people will grow up to be confident when talking about their own gender identity and be understanding allies for all people.