In kindergarten, I learned the first real life-important lesson that I can remember. While the lesson is simple, it is still completely clear to me. Everything else about this memory—the images, the people, even the feelings—are completely degraded by time.
My kindergarten was organized into an activity area—a dense island chain of tables—and an instruction area—a big square of carpet with pillows, stuffed animals, a stool for the teacher, and a bookshelf. I was doing some activity. The most vivid activity I recall is using a straw to blow bubbles in some sort of food-colored solution. Let’s say it was that activity.
As we stood around the rainbow of cups, blowing vigorously as bubbles of all shades slid down to the table, some kid said something about pink being a “girl color.” This idea was familiar to me, so I didn’t really have a response. My teacher—even her name has been taken by time—did have a bit of push-back for him, though. “Colors are not for only girls or only boys, they are for all of us,” she said to him, throwing shade. (She may not have thrown shade, that may be an embellishment of memory). She offered no proof, but she was right, just by virtue of being the teacher. She had the answers.
Now I was listening. I do not remember if her claim struck me as revolutionary at the time. I do know it sat with me. I do know the memory has resurfaced regularly all of my life. It was the first time I experienced someone question a belief that I held as truth. That was the seed that allowed me to easily accept that not all the claims people make have truth to them, no matter how much conviction they have. The pretense of authority is not the same as actual kinship to truth.
From that seed sprouted my rejection of gender norms for most of my life.
From that seed grew a resistance to the small-town conservatism I was surround by. Repetition of the shared narrative, repetition of the alienness of the unfamiliar, spreads conservatism from one generation to the next and bonds the dominant culture in a belief of superiority. I had been given the antidote, though.
From that seed bloomed the realization. No belief is truth. So, no belief should shackle another.
Now, I can plant that seed further afield.