“Look how pretty she looks in her pink dress!”

“She’s going to grow up to be a beautiful young lady.”

“She’ll be turning all the boy’s heads.”

“Look at this new truck we got him for his birthday! We got it in blue, his favourite colour.”

“He’s going to be such a handsome man, just like his father.”

“He’ll be a heartbreaker for sure.”

From almost the second we’re conceived, we’re categorized into Joe’s and Jane’s; our destiny already picked out for us. He will be handsome, he will provide, he will be manly. She will be pretty, she will be kind, she will be feminine.

But what if we don’t fall seamlessly into the positions we’re given? Do we fall past the love, the acceptance, and into the dark cracks of bitter disappointment? Are we destined to be part of the long forgotten? Are we destined to forever linger on the edges of hope, where we wait for someone, anyone, to pull us back with the silky ropes of kindness? Are we destined to wait forever for something that is never guaranteed to come? Waiting in the disappointment of the people we’re supposed to love, waiting in the disappointment of ourselves for not being “enough”?

Over the short 20 years of my life I have realized that we are not made to fit into expectations. Within the short 20 years of my life I have had to rope countless people away from their edges because they don’t believe that they will ever be enough. And why? Throughout their entire lives they have been told that they “will be”, and they aren’t. These beautiful faces that I have come to love, these beautiful people with so much to offer, don’t feel worthy because they aren’t “pretty”. Throughout the short 20 years of my life, I have come to realize that being a boy or a girl is only a role, like in a movie; and some of us aren’t actors.

It is with a certain weight that I try to tell them that they are more. The weight tugs me down into a desperate anger that I will always hold because they will barely hear the words I say, only listening when that ugly, two-syllable word is in front of my description. But even with “pretty” tainting my loving words, they will still taste the vicious poison that they have been given. It will still rush malevolently through their straining veins every time they glance outside and are painfully reminded that they don’t “belong”. It will smother them in every miserable classroom where they are surrounded by people who do “belong”.

The air rushes out of me as I hear that my best friend’s sister is once again in the emergency room. More scars will mockingly dance around her once flawless skin, the exposed flesh and hardened blood clots reminding me that once more, she is not okay. She is not right inside, and it will be cast on her exterior.

The acid tears cascade down my friend’s normally cheery cheeks like bullets as she confesses to me how once again, she was called a dyke by an anonymous voice in the wretched hallway. But this isn’t why she is crying, she is crying for the girlfriend she loves so much, weeping for her because once again she was attacked in the same hallway, for being a “dyke”.

I am screaming myself hoarse at a group of boys because they will not leave my friend alone, and I have finally caught them in the act. I brace myself for a fight that will never come, because they were taught to not hit girls. But it is perfectly all right to pick on a boy smaller than them, simply because he doesn’t like what they like.

I am grieving for a lost friend, an excellent hockey player, because he refused to let himself show any emotion because he was taught not to show how he felt; because feelings were for girls. I am burying a friend because he was too afraid to reach out; because I didn’t sew my silk fast enough.

These are only a few of the people I have come across in my short 20 years of living, these few people are from one small town. If you take a second to imagine how small our lives really are, can you imagine the amount of people in the whole entire world that are hurting because they were born with a certain chromosome?

Nearly 4,000 people die from suicide, in Canada, every year. That means 10 Canadians are dying every single day by their own bleeding hands. How many of those 10 people killed themselves because of a gender role they could never fill? How many of those 10 people were my best friend’s sister in the hospital? How many of those 10 people were one of a lesbian couple who just couldn’t take the bullying anymore? How many of those 10 people were my gay friend who was never left alone? How many of those 10 people were hockey players who kept getting told to “man up”?

Maybe today, they were none of those 10 people. Maybe they won’t even be one of those 10 people tomorrow. But for every 10 successful suicide attempts, there are 100 people who try. Maybe my friends weren’t those 10 people, but they are very likely to be a part of those 100.

The dark has settled faster than I expected. Mother told me to be inside before the streetlights came on. That was a long time ago. I pull myself closer, trying to revel in the warmth of my own skin. Mother told me to bring a jacket, I was in a hurry. A white car pulls up beside me, I am shyly wary but as the window slowly squeaks down and I see Mr. Joe’s face, I am relieved. He is my neighbour. “Would you like a ride?” He smiles broadly at me, waving his hand at the empty passenger seat beside him, all leather and seemingly untouched. It is inviting, and I accept.

“Witnesses describe the 12 year old victim as dressing older than her age, wearing make up that made her seem as if she were in her 20’s and wearing clothing that no little girl would normally wear. They describe the victim’s friends as being older teenaged boys…”

Mrs. Jane is laughing as her son and I climb into her van, playfully pinching her perfect nose, teasing us about how much we stink. The Aerostar is full of fabricated warmth from the wheezing heater, and easy conversation as we drop off Joe at his girlfriend’s house. Mrs. Jane turns to me. “You can sit in the front seat if you’d like.” Her whitened grin is hard to resist, and I accept.

I look into my father’s blue eyes as I recount the tale of what happened the night before. He beams with pride and claps me on the back, saying how jealous he is of how such a pretty cougar would pick his son out of all the other young boys. All the other underage boys.

The night has started out wonderfully, my friends and I got invited to an older grade’s party, and the boy I’ve had my eye on for the past month has been supplying me with the evening’s alcohol; beer, not something I’ve been too keen on, but it’s free. It has a sweetness I haven’t tasted before but I like it. I’m two cans in, and I never thought I would be such a light weight. He starts up the stairs and puts his hand out for me to follow him, and I accept.

I look into my best friends accusing blue eyes as she stares at me in blatant disgust, and childish disbelief. This was my fault, I was the one that wore that short dress. I was the one that took the beer, the beer laced with GHB. I was the one that passed out. I am the victim, and I am to blame. I will never tell anyone else what has happened to me.

I have described 8 out of 10 people that will die today. Do you know them? Have you watched them through pretty eyes as they watch the golden rays dip into the expansive Earth’s cool, sapphire lakes and disappear through the emerald waves of endless forests? Have you watched them with pink and blue goggles as they stared at the disappearing white and flat grey cloud, wondering, “where will I go now?” Have you watched them with pink and blue eyes as they wandered through the damp, dewy grass of the early morning, for the last time? And as they turned to look back at the painfully familiar world with their beautiful multicoloured eyes, did you know it would be the last time?

As a woman you must be seen and not heard. As a man you must be strong and protective. These roles have been used against us in so many different ways. We are expected to be them, and we expect everyone around us to also be them. Trust is put into the filthy greedy hands of strangers we know, and taken from us so quickly that we barely have time to watch it be stolen from our fingertips that gave it so freely. Misled and confused, we look to the people that have taught us these things. The people that put us into blue or pink clothing before we could even support our own heads. Our parents. Our parents are the ones that have categorized us and set us up for a lifetime of failure and disappointment.

From the moment we are cast into this chaotic world, our fates are determined. Whether we will be outgoing, quiet, kind, boisterous, intellectual, caring, or a bully. Every single quality is determined by how our parents treat us, and raise us. Most of those qualities are organized into pink and blue.

As I watch everything all around me, it is hard not to look deep inside the multicoloured pits of myself. I reflect on the path my life has taken, and how I have been so unfairly limited. I was never taught how to fix my car, which will cost me thousands of dollars throughout the span of my life. I was never taught how to play football, or to be into sports, which will lead to me being slightly lethargic, yet wide awake in my mind because I love to read. I was taught how to bake a cake, which will become one of my major hobbies. I was taught how to cook a meal, which I will use to feed my future family and the one I am with now. I was taught how to care for those younger than me, as if I were a mother.

I will continue to watch the world through the many colours of my beautiful friends, and continue to tell them that we are more than just “pretty”. I will suck the poison out of their wounds with my loving lips, and teach my children that they are more. We as people, are “pretty” extravagant, “pretty” amazing, “pretty” compassionate, “pretty” creative. We are more than just “pretty“. I will choose this path because the world contains such a beautiful spectrum, and it deserves to be appreciated with the reciprocation of all it has to offer. I refuse to see this beautiful world, with all these beautiful people, through pretty pink and blue eyes.

Photo by Arleen wiese on Unsplash

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