SHOW AND TELL – What happens when a gender creative boy brings his doll to school

The stakes are high in kindergarten. New school, new friends, new teachers. We are two weeks in.
Jay found his backpack over the summer at a thrift store in Santa Barbara. It’s all business. Grey with pink plaid checkers. It has a front pocket just for pencils! Each night he organizes it so it’s ready the next morning. School, SO FAR, is great. No complaints. Just big fear that he’ll talk at the wrong time and Ms. H will write his name on the board which in Jay’s 6 year old eyes, is the worst thing that can happen. Jay is a rule follower. He never wants to be in trouble, especially at a place as important as Kindergarten.
Although Jay is a boy he loves all things GIRL. The pictures he draws are all of rainbows and heart shaped peace signs. He jazzes up anything and everything he can get his hands on by drawing eyelashes on it or adding a unicorn sticker but at school he flies under the radar. The uniform is grey and blue and the rules are the rules. He does figure out that there is one place he is free to express himself. Friday is SHOW and TELL day.

Jay is scouring the house for what to bring. I suggest a family photo from when he went down Splash Mountain with his dad and little brother at Disneyland. 
“You can tell people how much you love Splash Mountain. Its a picture AND a story.”
Stuffed animals whiz by me as he digs. “No, mama. ” 
“What about your “Where On Earth Book?” You can show them your favorite page- the one about Acts of Nature. You can teach them something.”
“ I want to bring JULIE.”
Julie is Jay’s “American Girl Doll”.
Its only the second week of school. I don’t really know jay’s teacher Mrs. H. very well. She’s round with shoulder length grey hair and large frameless glasses. I’ve only spoken to her a couple of times and I feel like both times she’s mentioned Jesus. She’s been teaching here for 25 years and it is a Catholic school after all. I can’t be responsible for what i will do if i hear they are mean to my kid. If I even smell judgement about this we’ll have to find a new school. Jay is a heart with legs walking around in the world. I can’t bear the thought of him getting teased but I don’t want to stifle him just because I’m afraid.
“Okay” I say. Whatever you want.”

American Girl Dolls are a phenomenon. They are what Cabbage Patch kids were in my day. What the Beatles were in my parent’s. They cost an arm and a leg but their hair is long and feels like silk spun by the gods. For a year Jay looked online trying to decide which American Girl doll to get until he finally settled on Julie. Her blonde hair, blue eyes and 1960’s patchwork dress really impressed him and frankly, she impressed me too. She looks fun, summery, carefree. Ready for whatever life throws at her! 

Friday morning Jay packs and organizes his backpack and zips Julie into her hot pink carrying case. It has a plastic window so when you wear her on your back she can see everything and more importantly, She can be SEEN.
We arrive at school but before we get out of the car.
“Mama, Jay says from the backseat. You carry Julie until we get to my classroom, ok?”
His need to self protect has kicked in. I know from the handful of books I’ve read that I shouldn’t interfere. I have to follow his lead.
He hands her over to me. The walk across the grounds to the Kindergarten building feels long. My heart is pounding.
I wait at the door to the classroom while Jay plays on the playground. Ms. H arrives and sees me.
“Can I talk to you for a minute?” I ask. My is voice tense and awkwardly high.
“Sure…let’s go inside.” 
I follow Ms. H into the classroom and bring Julie with me. She closes the door behind us.
My mind is racing. I don’t know where to begin. Jay is 6 now. We’ve already been through kids teasing him at the park, shoe salesman who won’t let him try on glittery rainbow light up shoes because “they are for girls” even two men performing in the Disney parade made comments when they spotted Jay wearing fairy wings as he watched them sing Chim Chimmeny Chim chin charoo. At birthday parties when Jay wants the goody bag intended for girls we came up with a phrase to say “I like what I like, you can like what you like.” We can easily leave those other places. but here, at his school, the place where we plan on being for the next 8 years, the place where he’s discovering himself, where he’s learning how to be in the world it’s more complicated. I’m terrified. I get right to it. I just start talking at Mrs. H as fast as I can. Rapid fire.
“Jay knows he’s a boy but he likes girl things. We support this at home. We want him to feel safe to be himself and we want him to feel comfortable here because this is his school and…Jay brought Julie for Show and Tell! I push the doll toward Mrs. H.
Ms. H calmly puts her hand up to stop me.
“Are people making fun of him?” She asks.
“No, not yet. I just wanted to let you know in case any of the other kids have questions or say…anything.”
Her big gray eyes blink at me from behind her glasses.
“I want you to know something.” Her voice is firm.
Uh oh. Is she going tell me I’m a crazy mom and all of this is too much? I brace myself.
“I want you to know I have Jay’s back. I not only have his back this year, while he’s in my class, but I have his back all 8 years he’s at this school.”
Tears are cascading down my cheeks. I hug her- hard. Too hard maybe but when I pull back – I see she is also crying.
The bell rings. The other students are knocking at the door. As she goes to open the classroom door she turns back to me and for the first time I realize Mrs. H is wearing a man’s Hawaiian shirt and kacki pants.
Jay comes walking in and grabs Julie off the table. I give him a kiss.
“Bye mom.”
“Bye Jay. Have fun.”