My daughter has a new haircut. I am shocked by the things she now tells her from strangers. –

“Adults questioning Jenny’s gender, out loud and to her, began shortly after the haircut,” the author writes.

Our 12 year old daughter would like to pee without being harassed. Lately, she can’t seem to escape.

Recently, after a long and fun-filled day at a local amusement park, Jenny used the bathroom on her way out. (Jenny is a lovely name, but she’s not our daughter’s real name.) Jenny was met with an adult gasp as she came out of the cubicle and asked why he was in the women’s room. Jenny replied that she is a girl.

This interaction, like many others in recent months (on a school field trip, at the mall, in restaurants), made Jenny uneasy. It was the latest in a series of proverbial paper cuts that, taken together, hurt deeply.

Jenny was born six weeks early. She scared my wife and me when she decided it was time to usher her into the world long before her due date. Jenny’s independence and strength have been evident from day one, when she came kicking and crying into this world, whether we were ready or not.

When Jenny announced that she was getting a haircut last spring, we didn’t think much of it. From the time she could speak, Jenny has forged a style that is uniquely her own. Not pink or purple. Pants, not dresses. Blue hair. Green hair. Jenny defines Jenny. As her parents, we don’t want it any other way.

The perfectly executed new haircut is cinched on the sides and fades into a beautiful curly head of hair. It’s a fresh look with practical value. Jenny plays soccer and basketball. The longer style of hers got in the way.

The adults questioned Jenny’s gender, out loud and to her, shortly after the haircut. During a soccer game, the father of a rival player loudly referred to Jenny as “he” and “him.” He was out of earshot of our sideline, and we didn’t find out until after the game. Our daughter’s teammates wouldn’t accept any of that. They checked the father in real time and warned him that “you have to check your pronouns, friend.”

No matter the twisted motivation or misdirected agenda, an imbalance of power exists when an adult confronts a child about their appearance, style, clothing, gender, or gender identity.

Jenny is a strong soccer player. Perhaps this dad thought our team had an unfair advantage because he assumed Jenny was assigned a boy at birth. Or maybe it was a political statement about trans athletes. Could he have been jealous of Jenny’s skill and wanted to distract her from the game? Maybe he was just a dinosaur who thinks girls and women belong in bouffant hair or Marcia Brady. No matter. No matter the twisted motivation or misdirected agenda, there is an imbalance of power when an adult confronts a child about his appearance, style, clothing, gender, or gender identity, even in the weak and passive-aggressive way this man adult approached him.

Jenny has identified with her birth gender her entire life. She’s a girl: short haircut, long haircut, or anything in between. However, no matter how Jenny understands her gender or herself at any time now or for the rest of her life, I will support her and love her exactly as she is. Children come in all kinds of expressions of themselves and personal style. The most important thing we can do is affirm and celebrate them, even if they fall outside the realm of what some consider commonplace or “normal”.

So what’s an adult to do when presented with a confusing child’s haircut? Easy: keep going. If you just have to worry about hair, make it yours. You might consider modernizing it like Jenny did.

And if a child’s gaze is too much for you, go find an adult related to that child. For Jenny, my wife and I will be outside the bathroom door. We will be happy to discuss why you are so concerned about the body parts under our daughter’s beautiful head of hair.

Jason Marshall is a public interest lawyer.

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