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    Gender Norms and the Bias Against Boys Wearing Pink

    By Lyndsey Schlax

    (Editor’s Note: Teacher Lyndsey Schlax of the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts launched the nation’s first on-site high school LGBT course in 2015. She has resumed teaching that groundbreaking class. In this column, her students share their thoughts about LGBT-related matters, including their concerns, what they have learned in class and more.)

    Gender Norms, and Why I Can’t Wear Pink

    Student, Grade 10

    “Why are you wearing that shirt?” my sister blurted out loudly as I entered the kitchen. “You do know that pink is for girls, right?”

    Self-conscious, embarrassed, and ashamed, I stood isolated in the middle of the room. Glancing at my mother in search of support, I was met with a cold stare. I turned to my father for defense but again … nothing. Feeling nervous, I ran back to my bedroom. Two minutes prior, I stood in the same place feeling confident, courageous and at ease. Now, I regretted everything.

    I quickly took off the hot pink t-shirt and replaced it with a navy blue one. I thought I was being brave by showing myself in pink in front of my family but it turns out that I only made a fool of myself. Why is it that, because I’m a boy, I am not supposed to wear pink? I happen to think it’s a nice color. I think it goes well with my eyes.

    The reason apparently goes back to gender norms, which tell boys and girls what they can and cannot do. For example, boys play sports and girls play family. Or, in my case, boys wear blue and girls, pink. When gender norms are defied, it takes a lot of courage from the person in question, so when they are met with hostility, it takes a heavy toll on their self-esteem, especially at a young age.

    The kicker about these norms is that they are completely made up. As humans, we didn’t evolve with them; we created them later on. They are merely a social construct that exists simply to categorize us, leaving those who do not fit into the two boxes—boy and girl—ostracized from our families and communities. If gender norms only exist because we say they do, then there must be a way to overcome them.

    Intersectionality in the Workplace

    Student, Grade 12

    Intersectionality is the intersection of groups or individuals—for example, a black woman, a gay Asian man and a teenage lesbian. Kimberlé Crenshaw, a professor at both the University of California Los Angeles and Columbia University, is known for bringing intersectionality to public attention. I was recently introduced to her work via a TED Talk.

    Her talk brought up an old court case, where a black woman was denied a job at a factory. The woman sued, accusing the factory’s leadership of gender and racial bias. In court, the judge asked which she was suing for, and she said both. The factory retaliated with the fact they have black people, but all of those individuals were men. The factory added that they had women too, but all of those women were white. 

    The court case was dismissed. Crenshaw recognized this injustice and named it, inspiring many, including myself. 
    In her TED talk, Crenshaw also said that the black male victims of police brutality tend to be known but that the black female ones are not. For example, do you know: Charleena Lyles, Yvette Smith and Darnesha Harris? If you do, I commend you.

    If you do not, that is okay. I did not either, but now that you do, look them up, read their stories, and recognize that brutality is apparent to more than just black men. Say her name:

    The Roads of Our Life

    Student, Grade 12

    In our LGBTQ and Ethnic Studies class, we sketched out our “Road of Life,” where we marked our most important events that affect us to this day. While creating this project, I discovered a lot about the course of my life and how I got to be who I am at this moment.

    I realized that, despite my obstacles, I have accomplished and experienced quite a lot of positive events. My road of life, however, also made me think more about those hardships that made me somewhat emotional. This individual exercise made my personal connection to major events evident.

    When we all completed our roads, we were put into groups with students we trusted and talked to frequently, and with students with whom we do not converse often. In these groups, we shared our roads with each other. This activity made my peers’ life experience more relatable to my road of life. This surprised me, since I do not really talk to people about my life.

    The overall experience taught me that you don’t know what you don’t know—about yourself and others in your community. Reflecting upon that, it is important to be cautious for the sake of your peers, because everyone is good at pretending. This experience brought my class as a whole closer together, and rebuilt and strengthened the already existing respect that we have for one another. I can say that this class is teaching me about myself in many ways. Each week we talk about, or create, something new.

    For more information about the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts, please visit