I don’t know why you felt the need to tell my eight-year-old son that he was in the wrong bathroom at IHOP. I’m not sure why you felt that his presence was a problem. What was your intention? If you truly felt that he was a girl, and that you were somehow going to protect him by questioning his gender, wouldn’t it have been even more effective to simply just make sure that he was okay? Why were you so concerned about his gender? Shouldn’t you just have finished your business, washed your hands, and gone back to your pancakes? After all, that’s what my son was planning to do. Instead, you told him he was in the wrong restroom. And when he told you he was a boy, you informed him that he didn’t look like a boy. And then you took it one step further: you told him he should cut his hair.
My son came back to the table, explaining that some man just told him he was in the wrong bathroom, that he looked like a girl, and that he should cut his hair. I asked my son how he responded to you. He explained that he just told you that he was a boy, but that he wished he could have told you that you were rude. I wanted to give my son permission to tell you that you were rude. In fact, I flippantly told him that he should have said exactly that. But, I have raised my kids to understand that telling something they are rude is, in fact, a bit rude. My son said, “nah. That would have been awkward.” And so my son let it slide. But he was definitely shaken by your rudeness.
What right do you have to tell an eight-year-old child what he should and shouldn’t do with his hair? I have raised my son and my daughter to understand that their bodies = their property, and that no one else has the right to touch their bodies without their permission. And this goes for their hair as well as any other parts. They have autonomy over their own bodies, sir, and you have no right to tell them or anyone else what to do with --or to-- their bodies.
My son likes his hair. He knows that people, at first glance, think he's a girl. And he's okay with that. "I'm a boy," he says, and usually they say, "oh, sorry man! Great hair!" and then he goes on with his life. He's comfortable in his own skin, and he's comfortable with who he is. But he's not comfortable with a stranger telling him what he should or should not do with his body. "It's my hair," he said. "Why does that man even care about it?"
I know that girls have had the same issue recently. Our policing of gender has escalated, because somehow we all believe it is our duty to put each and every person into a box convenient to our limited understanding. Or maybe our policing of gender norms has always been this opinionated, and it’s only recently that we’ve become obsessed with bathrooms.
It seems to me that what really needs to be done in the bathroom is related much more to hygiene than to gender policing. And what my son needed was the chance to pee, wash his hands, and then come back to the table to eat his pancakes. If you truly wanted to be helpful, sir, you could have simply said “hi” and just made sure he could reach the paper towels. If you felt that commenting on his appearance was somehow necessary, you could have said, “hey, kid, nice hair.” And, if you really felt it appropriate to give him some advice, saying, “you have a nice day,” would be totally in line. Just think: you wouldn’t have felt so self-righteous and you would have taught a young kid how to be a decent human being. Instead, you pulled rank on an eight-year-old kid and taught my son exactly what kind of a man he never wants to be.