The story of the kid who was betrayed by adults who should fucking know better has gotten a lot of play over the last day or two:
A 9-year-old North Carolina boy who was physically and verbally attacked by classmates after he brought a “My Little Pony” lunch bag to school has been instructed to start bringing his lunch in something else because school officials believe the bag — not the bullying — is the real problem.
Grayson Bruce says that he knows that his favorite cartoon may be marketed toward girls, but doesn’t see a problem with boys watching and liking it, too. He says he likes the show’s message of friendship, and, when the time came to choose a lunch bag for the school year, he picked one featuring his favorite character from the show. As for the classmates who have attacked him over his lunch bag, Grayson is heartbreakingly measured in his response. “They’re taking it a little too far with, you know, punching me, pushing me down, calling me horrible names,” he told WLOS ABC News 13. “Stuff that really shouldn’t happen.”
No, stuff like that shouldn’t happen. But the glass snowball of memory has been shaken, and old neurons are flurrying in my head.
Let me take you back a bit, to Honolulu in the early 70s. I’m maybe a few years older than our young friend, ten or eleven. I love me my cartoon stories, my monster movies. I race home if there’s a Godzilla marathon on. I gobble up Kikaida and Kamen Rider, Gigantor and Rainbow Man. But I had a dark secret. Because my favorite, my very favorite cartoon story was…
…wait for it…
Yes, an unabashedly girly cartoon. Plucky, cross-dressing heroine, silly sidekick, outlandish adventures, peculiar combination of retrograde and progressive notions of gender, seen in far hindsight, but I just ate it up. I wanted to be Princess Knight/Sapphire. I dreamed I was her. And yet I was totally ashamed. I knew if anyone, anyone knew, that I, already teased and bullied, would become a pariah. So I watched it the way anyone full of shame watches anything that fascinates them: in the days before remotes I sat right in front of the TV and changed the channel immediately if I heard anyone coming into the room (my mom would say “Don’t sit so close, you’ll ruin your eyes!” and I’d nod and scoot backwards, briefly). If I was actually caught, I’d roll my eyes broadly and mutter “Ugh, what is this?” and change the channel to something more acceptable. I’d hear the girls in the cafeteria rehashing the day before’s episodes and listen, listen so hard, and want to join in, but are you kidding me? It would label me a fag, a mahu (basically, pidgin for "fag"), put a target right on my back. So I just listened, and pretended not to listen.
So much shame, so much pretending.
So I read about young Mr. Bruce, and my heart jumps a bit and I want to tell him he’s a better man than I was at his age. And that maybe things are getting better, through people simply deciding that there’s been enough shame and pretending, and that it’s not a dynamic worthy of buying into. Except then he’s betrayed by adults who should fucking know better, and I don’t know what message to settle on.
Except that I’m 100% Team Grayson. Go, kid, go.