12 year-old girl attacked for having “boys name”

Saturday was the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day when we remember of all the lives lost to transphobia and hate in this world. My friend Veronica points out it’s also a day to honor the resilience and trans and gender non-conforming folks, and all those who survive and thrive in a difficult world.

This story is a reminder that gender policing has serious negative consequences on all of us, in different ways, whether we are trans or not.

A 12 year-old girl named Randi was beaten by five other students in Mississippi, according to Change.org:

“They started talking about me like I was a man,” she told local news station WREG. “That I shouldn’t be in this world. And my name was a boy name.” The four girls and a boy surrounded her after a Fellowship of Christian Students meeting, and, she said, kicked her in the rib and leg, hit her in the face, sat on her, pushed her face into the floor, and threw her onto a cafeteria table.

We don’t have to be trans, or even LGB, to feel the effects of gender policing (Randi is reportedly not LGBT). If we really examine it, it’s likely that all of us have felt the affects of gendered rules and restrictions. Most of us learn these rules early on, as young kids. Most of us avoid violence, don’t have our safety comprised.

We are the lucky ones.

It doesn’t take much (a unusual name, haircut, clothing choice, mannerism) for us to feel the weight of these rules. It doesn’t take much for the fear of gender transgression, of gender rule-breaking, to turn to violence.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/radicalhw/ Shannon Drury

    I commented on the Peggy Orenstein post a few days ago that my 10-year-old son was teased for telling kids that “I heart boobies” bracelets were offensive. Not beaten, though, so I suppose I should be grateful….

  • zooeysalin

    This brought back some memories for me. I have a traditionally male name (Evan) and it’s shocking how unnerved that makes people. Everything from purposely mispronouncing my name (to something more “feminine”) to asking why my parents “would do that” to me to outright anger over my name dominated great parts of my childhood leading me to going by my middle name (Elizabeth) for almost a year. I remember coming home one day crying because a teacher flat out refused to call me by my name (instead calling me “Even”). Or when in high school I started dating a boy named Evan (which was interesting) and friends and even a couple teachers told me I should go by Elizabeth since it would be too weird to have Mr. and Mrs. Evan Smith and have it literally be Evan Smith and Evan Smith (since, “of course”, I would take his last name and I had no right to be named Evan).

    I feel for this girl who learned, though violence, that gender policing can even attack your name. I hope she learns, as I have, that her name is beautiful and hers and that she should love it and embrace it despite other people’s discomfort.

    • http://feministing.com/members/dark_morgaine_le_fey/ dark_morgaine_le_fey

      I am so sorry this happened to you. Kids can be cruel, and they learn it from others. Sadly, gender policing still occurs, and is often viewed as justifiable. We’re taught to group people in every way, and not being able to do this frustrates and enrages people.

      There’s so much in your comment to address. Like the teacher who insisted on calling you “Even”. What, she thought her refusal would force your parents to alter your birth certificate to something she found more acceptable? Did she think you stole her grade book on the first day of school and changed your name as a joke? Come on! Besides, what kind of message is that for grade school kids? “You can call someone something other than their name if you don’t like their name?”

      As to “how your parents could do this to you,” what, pick a lovely name that they like and give it to their offspring, as is every parent’s right?

      Also, double ick over the whole “Evan Smith” thing. You change your name because, as a woman, your last name is just temporary anyway, and after all, a girl shouldn’t have a boy’s name, and your name exists as a convenience for everyone else rather than a self-identifier. Made me think of all my friends who used to talk about when Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner were dating, and how, “When they get married, they’ll both be Taylor Lautner!” Although, Taylor Swift probably would change her name.

      I too hope that Randi overcomes this horrific incident, and doesn’t let ignorant people shame her out of her own name. I am distressed that this assault occurred outside a Christian gathering. That Christ’s name is often partnered with blatant prejudice sickens me. This was a man who told people not to rebel against their Roman occupiers, a cause I would consider a just one. Why on earth would he encourage such heinous acts as beating a little girl over her name?

  • http://feministing.com/members/nancyshrew/ Nancy Shrew

    I didn’t think “Randi” was that uncommon of a first name for girls (e.g. like “Bobbi(e)”. I’m really sorry that happened, people are absolutely ridiculous about gender policing.

  • http://feministing.com/members/sandra/ SamBarge

    Is anyone surprised that this happened after a meeting of Fellowship of Christian Students? No? Me, neither.

  • http://feministing.com/members/thimblesedge/ Kerry

    I’m Kerry. Not Carrie, not Keri, not Kerri, not… whatever. Where I live, it’s an unusual but not unheard of name, but most of the people named Kerry here are male.

    I’m often assumed to be male by people calling over the phone or booking appointments because of my name, despite the ‘Ms.’ check-box I select. I’ve been asked why I spell my name ‘Kerry’ if I’m a girl. Because it’s my name, maybe? I’m named after my mother, who was named after the county our family is from in Ireland. Why would I want to change that? I have no problem with the ‘i’ in place of a ‘y’ for names like Kerri or Bobbi or Randi. That’s just not my name.

    And like most women with names that might be considered masculine, there’s always the ever-present question after introducing yourself of “Oh, your name is xx? That’s unusual. What’s it short for?”

    I feel terrible for this little girl. I hope she comes out of this alright.