Tolerance: IRJE #5

In the beautiful novel this is how it always is by Laurie Frankel, a young boy named Claude explores his gender identity by dressing in feminine clothing, including dresses. One summer when Claude is five years old, his grandmother, Carmelo, tells him that she will buy him a new swimsuit; whichever one he wants. So, Claude picks out a pink and floral bikini. Later, on a Sunday afternoon at the pool, Claude wears his bikini in public for the first time. Claude’s mother, Rosie, voices her concerns regarding Claude’s swimsuit to Carmelo.

“He’s happy,” said Carmelo as if that settled it, as if it were just that simple. “Happy, healthy, and fabulous. What more could you ask?”

“Other kids will make fun of him.”

“What kids?” said Carmelo.

“I don’t know. Kids.”

“Kids don’t care about that stuff anymore.”

“They don’t?”

“No. And why do you?”

“You do realize,” Rosie turned to her mother, “that I’m supposed to be calming you down about all of this, not the other way around? I’m the one who supposed to be talking you off the ledge. You’re supposed to be panicking and dragging him off to church or something.”

“So few Jews at church these days,” said Carmelo.

“You’re too old to be open-minded and tolerant,” said Rosie.

“I’m too old not to be.” (p. 45)

I wish everyone was like Carmelo.

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