Tonight was the night the science project results were revealed, at my nephew's school's open house, and my sister was supposed to take a picture so I could show all of you.
Except she couldn't. Because my nephew's project, alone among all of them, was not displayed. After much back and forth with various people, my sister learned that apparently some people were uncomfortable with his conclusions. Specifically the part where he said that what he really learned from this project was that some people don't want to be called boys or girls, and that those people need an "other" option. (And also that they tend to prefer blue to green.)
(This really has been a learning experience, and not just for Z, either. At my younger nephew's birthday party, Z was wandering around showing off his survey, and many of the older kids asked why he had included an "other" option for gender. Now, okay, you have to understand - Z is the kind of kid who, if you tell him you don't want to be called a boy or a girl, he will just kind of accept it. So you are other? Fine. People are mysterious anyway, and obviously this is just another layer of mysteriousness to them. He doesn't need to understand it to be okay with it.
Most of the other kids, though, found this concept fascinating and absolutely bewildering - obviously everyone is either a boy or a girl! Obviously! - and wanted to ask many many questions. Which was the point when my sister turned to me and said, "They're your friends. You explain it." You have not lived until you've tried to explain being genderqueer to a group of suburban elementary school students hyped up on cake and candy and penguins.)
So tomorrow my sister has to write an irritated letter to the principal, emphasizing that she wants Z's project - which also apparently was the only one to get graded twice, or possibly not graded at all; the story isn't clear - back, and she wants it considered for the district competition like all the other projects. And also that it's sad that the school missed the opportunity to show some genderqueer student or sibling or parent that, hey, you can have a different gender identification and still be considered and counted and included.
Anyway. Whether they give back the project or not, you'll still be able to see the results, because my nephew is nobody's fool and has a copy saved. But I still hope to be able to offer a picture of the poster, which is reportedly very nice.
In the meantime, I will be thinking about this: a concept that could be absorbed without distress by my nephew and a birthday party's worth of kids was just too scary and weird for some school official somewhere. It's a hard row you hoe, genderqueer people. I salute you! (And, parents, I think the take-home lesson here is: teach 'em early, while they're malleable. Or they might grow up to be narrow-minded educators.)