The year was 2017. Marriage equality was brand new, "Tiktok" was the sound a clock made, "that's so gay" was still regularly used as an insult and "pronouns" weren't talked about except for in grammar lessons and in certain circles that I wasn't yet a part of. I had barely hit puberty and was so deep in the closet I was practically in Narnia. It was certainly a time.
We were staying with some family friends- by which I mean my parents' friends (I didn't know them). We went out to a newsagent and there was a wall of soft toys, Beanie Boos specifically. My parents said (to my delight) that I could pick one. If you aren't famililar with beanie boos, I will enlighten you. They are brightly coloured toys of various sizes made of artificial fabrics with overly large eyes, vaguely resembling animals. Their defining trait is that all of them come with a little heart-shaped name tag with what loosely can be defined as a poem underneath. I wasn't drawn to any in particular, but after a while, I stumbled upon a pink raccoon. Looking at the nametag, however, I was shocked.
"That raccoon has a boy's name!" I exclaimed, loudly, not knowing what else to do. Adults around me were almost equally as shocked. "Is it a boy or a girl?"
"A girl," one of my parents friends reassured me.
"You should change its name," said another of my parents friends, "Call it Rockette or something."
I didn't. I considered changing Rocco's name, changing his gender, but I didn't. I'm not going to say I saw myself in the overpriced raccoon-esque kids toy, but I definitely saw something in him.
A couple of years later, I gave him away. I caved in to my Mum's demands to "get rid of" some of my toys and he seemed like pretty high on the list. Because, really, what kind of kid owns a sparkly pink toy? A girl.
I don't regret getting rid of the toy. But I do find it interesting to think about. How femininity and masculinity were, in my mind, opposites, not different traits, but each an absense of the other, two ends of one linear spectrum. How quickly and easily the strict borders between the masculine and feminine, the male and female, man and woman, can break down, and yet how often they remain rigid in spite of this.
I'm too young to talk about "kids these days", but I very badly want to, because when I see the future generations, I find it easy to envy them. My six year old second cousin already knows what trans people are. If she went with her parents to a newsagent, they probably wouldn't even mention Rocco's name.
To be honest, though, that's an incredibly bitter and simplistic way of looking at things. This same cousin, after all, asked *me* if I was a boy or girl. That's a funny (yes funny) story for another day though, my actual point is that greater visibility doesn't always mean greater acceptance and to be honest, I sometimes wish we could go back. My grandma brought up trans people at the dinner table, one time, and in that moment I wished I could live in a world where she didn't know that trans people existed in the first place rather than to listen to her talk about trans people's (my) infertility. The only way out is through, though, and despite it all I have hope. Maybe the difference between new generation and the old is that the new will ask "are you a boy or girl", and the old will answer for you.
I don't know who designed Rocco. I wish I did. When they designed him, were trying to talk to kids like me, or to themself, or both, or where they just bored? Who were they? Who are they? What does it mean?
What does a pink sparkly toy mean when in this capitalist hellscape? The meaning is commodified. It is not enough to appreciate Rocco the Raccoon, one must own him. To own something legitimises your connection to it. I think that's why so many people liked NFTs.
I was going to end this here, reckoning with push and pull between the meaning and meaninglessness of this one toy I got as a kid. But, see, I can't. Because, I looked up Rocco the raccoon. And they don't sell him anymore. They sell another Raccoon. Let's see if you can spot the difference.
Can you spot the difference? Look at this new raccoon and tell me what he lacks. Yeah, that's right. Pink.
So yeah, it does matter. *He* does matter, if not to the grand scheme of things, to me. It matters that he was there because at some point some executive thought he was too controversial, or too feminine, or not new enough, or any other bad business choice, and phased him out. And yeah, he's garish and childish and polyester, but he also represents something, some hidden message to the youth of- yesterday, I suppose. "Hello, there. Are you a boy or a girl?"
So to the kids at the age where they might have bought him, on the highly unlikely off-chance you're reading this, I have a question for you- not out of a desire to punish you for the wrong answer, or to invade your privacy. In fact, you don't even have to answer in the first place- these matters can remain unsaid. But because Rocco no longer can, let me ask you this: Are you a boy or a girl? An addendum: there are more than two ways to answer that question.
personal details have been changed bc of author's shit memory and also privacy issues