|Winner of the Written Category
2012 KarMel Scholarship Submission
Description of Submission:
"This is a story of a parent with a child who does a bit of gender exploration. I wanted to write a story where a
gender-variant child could be seen as normal, even accepted, by other people, and I wanted to show that gender
doesn't really have to matter as much as some people think it does.." - Anonymous
Why Karen and Melody Liked It:
We love how this story explores the gender through the eyes of a parent and child. It is very unique point of view to
demonstrate a simple concept.
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On the first day, the parent sat down with the child to speak of important matters of growing up. The parent said to
"I just want you to know that it's okay to be whoever you want. Remember how you said you liked the color yellow
yesterday, and I said it wasn't my favorite? And how I said I liked red, like they have on fire trucks, and you said
you didn't like it at all. That's okay. No matter whether you like yellow or red, or whether you like peas or carrots,
or even whether you're a boy or a girl, I will still love you."
"Okay. But why?"
"Because it's important for you to be yourself. And as you get older, you have to figure out who you are and what
you like. I can't decide that for you. And if I tried to make you eat peas for the rest of your life, you wouldn't like it,
"No." The child made a face. The parent laughed.
"It's like that, okay?"
The parent let the child go off to play. It couldn't be certain whether the message reached the child, but the parent
always worried a little too much about being nurturing rather than neglectful.
On the second day, at the breakfast table, the child spoke out to the parent as the bread popped out of the
"You know yesterday you said I can be whoever I want?"
"Yes?" The parent was a little anxious, but waited to hear what the child had to say.
"I think I'm still a boy."
"Okay then. What do you want to do today, as a boy?"
The child thought about this.
In the morning, they drove way out into the mountains to go for a hike. The trees were so tall, and so lush, with
their leaves swaying in the summer sun. Each step brought them closer to the peak, and the pebbles crumbled
under their footsteps. The child ran ahead in the beginning, but by the end was just barely clinging to the edge of
the parent's shirt to string him along. From the top, they looked out at the forest below them, then laid back to
watch the clouds.
In the afternoon, they ate ice cream and hot dogs at a baseball game, cheering for the home team and waving
their flags. They sang the anthem with the energy of an army, and shouted their praises with the voices of the
crowd. The child won an opportunity to meet his favorite player, and was delighted to try batting himself.
In the evening, the child fell asleep to the sounds of monster movies, and the parent carried him upstairs to bed.
On the third day, the child's limbs ached from climbing, but he was nonetheless excited to face a new day. He ran
down the stairs and, even before grabbing the peanut butter from the fridge, addressed the parent,
"Today, I want to be a girl." The parent was surprised, but not unhappy about this revelation. Over breakfast, they
thought of a name to call the child when she was a girl.
In the morning, they went downtown and bought her a light blue dress and a pair of mary-janes. She danced
around the park, as happy as could be. They fed the ducks with a loaf of stale bread and she laughed when a fish
managed to grab a shred first. They sat under the threes and told stories until they both grew too hungry to stay.
In the afternoon, they went to the faire, where they rode the merry-go-round and scooped for goldfish. They ate
rainbow-colored cotton candy and salty popcorn while seeing the clowns perform their routines. The child lost the
game where the man tried to guess her age, but the parent won. By the time the sun was setting, the child sat in
the ferris wheel alongside her new friend, a giant, brown, stuffed bunny.
In the evening, the child fell asleep with her bunny, exhausted by the excitement of another day.
On the fourth day, the child woke in the arms of her bunny with the sun shining down on her face, and let out a big
yawn. She ambled down the stairs, wearing what she liked, and made another announcement to her parent,
"I think I'm not a girl OR a boy." The child's surprise was met with the parent's acceptance, and over breakfast
they talked about what what it meant to the child.
In the morning, they rode the train out past the mountains, to a nearby town where their relatives lived. They all
went for a walk on the docks, looking at all the different boats and talking to the people who owned the ships.
They sat and watched a parade going by, with the marching band and the decorated floats. One of the floats was
tossing candy, and the child managed to catch some. The relatives remarked on how happy and cute the child
seemed to be.
In the afternoon, they all went to a beach for a swim. The child played in the water, while the parent was content to
sit under an umbrella, talking with the other adults. The child followed the shallow waves going in and out, tossing
around a beach ball, and got into a mud fight with another child. Soon, however, they were building a sand castle
together, with sand royalty. By the time to say goodbye to relatives and new friends, the child was covered in sand
with the messiest hair the parent had ever seen. They washed up before they went home.
They rode the train all the way back, and by the end of the ride the child was already asleep.
On the last day, the parent had to call up the stairs a few times before ascending to investigate why the child was
not coming to breakfast. The child lay under the giant bunny, crying quietly and scribbling all over the people in
"What's wrong?" The parent sat down next to the child.
"I don't know what I am." The child threw the marker across the room, half-heartedly. It rolled along the floor until it
tapped onto the dresser.
"Do you want to know?"
"I'll let you in on a secret, then." The parent lifted the bunny off the child, so the child could sit up.
"What is it?"
"Most people don't know who they are."
"But how do they do anything?"
"Just because they don't know who they are doesn't mean they don't know anything about themselves. They still
know what they like to do and what kind of people they want to be around. That doesn't change."
"When you told me you were a girl, you still didn't like peas, right?" The child nodded. "And even though you said
you weren't a girl yesterday, you still really liked this bunny, right?"
"It's like that. It's okay if you don't know everything about yourself, the important thing is that you know what you
like and you stay true to what you DO know. But you don't have to know everything, and some things change as
you get older."
The parent gave the child a few minutes to think about this before saying anything else.
"That's what I meant, when I told you earlier that I would love you no matter who you are. You just be yourself,
even if you don't know everything about yourself, and I'll always be here for you."
They spent the rest of the day making up stories with the bunny and coloring the people in the coloring books with
the 'wrong' colors.