The Blog

Coming Out Ginger

My mentality towards being picked on for being red headed was that it was a pretty weak thing to pick on someone for. Which frankly made it all the more frustrating. That I was bullied by another ginger made it all the worse.

I've written about bullying before, but as a few of you may have noticed (or may not as it's gotten lost in the dredge of the rest of your news feed) recently there's been a Pro-Ginger campaign, by a London based photographer by the name of Thomas Knights, aiming to rebrand the red-haired male stereotype, from comedic and real life foil to having our time in the sun as the equally manly men that we are. Yes, with plenty of SPF. Har-dee har.

In a beautifully timed PR move with the reintroduction of pumpkin spiced everything (being the pumpkin spiced human beings that we are), in a recent interview with the Daily Mail, Knights explained 'We've been conditioned to think that good looking ginger men don't exist, but there are a lot out there." The 31-year-old went on to say "'Red headed actors are portrayed as undesirable, angry, and weak characters - or the bad guy. They are never the heartthrob, the hero or the action star, and it has created this notion that all ginger men are ugly and weak. I want to show that they're not.'

When I first heard about the cause earlier this year, I swelled with pride. At the tender age of 19 years old, I had already grown to tolerate, and even enjoy the uniqueness of having red hair. But not everybody does. I'm no longer embarrassed of my hair colour, as it's just another facet of me, and one I wasn't about to change. But not everyone's so lucky. Many people, in the UK especially, are victims of ritual bullying for years, and aren't able to come out the other side quite as unscathed, if at all. I can't pretend to know the full scale of it, as by my own admission, what I experienced really could've been worse. But my fortune doesn't make the issue any less real.

Obviously I realise the scope of what I'm talking about here. Nobody's in the streets shouting about ginger oppression, because we've hardly been through as much as some other minorities, and as a caucasian male I'm hardly considered oppressed as a person, let alone as a people. I've never been denied something based on the colour of my hair, been falsely targeted by law enforcement, or suffered a genocide -- to my knowledge. But that doesn't mean that myself, and I dare say almost all other red headed men haven't been ribbed, taunted, and made the butt of many a joke for something we're born with. Some argue that the orangey mockery stems from anti-celtic roots (Sorry, Scotland, please don't go!) and therefore is a form of bigotry and even comparable to racism. I'd never go so far as to suggest this, but the serious bullying that happens, based on a biological difference, is often promoted.

While South Park is usually one of the pinnacles of social commentary and spot on satire, the characters of the show's merciless persecution of gingers -- even prompting national "Kick a Ginger Day" -- didn't exactly help the already less-than-ideal situation. And that's just one of any number of examples of ginger bullying not only being validated, but also encouraged.

My mentality towards being picked on for being red headed was that it was a pretty weak thing to pick on someone for. Which frankly made it all the more frustrating. That I was bullied by another ginger made it all the worse. But his 12 year old self loathing aside, I had many other things society deemed wrong with me at that age that were ripe for a ribbing! My body mass was below that of a small dog. I didn't really have any close friends to speak of. I spent most of my spare time playing with Lego with my brother. But being ginger? There were just better things. I'm not advocating unnecessary bullying, but if it must happen as a social construct, is it too much to ask for some moderately intelligent bullies?

My point is, while it may not be the biggest issue of equality facing the world today, it is one of the easiest to solve. And hopefully this project will go some way in transforming the image of red headed men, their attitude toward their own features, and the public's attitude toward them, making a new generation of UV hypersensitive humans' lives a little easier.

I think it's a fantastic thing to install pride. Even more so if you can make someone proud of a trait they've been conditioned to loathe their entire lives. There would be far worse things that could happen in this world than if we were all able to be a little more proud. And if I have to look at fellow sexy ginger men for that to be the case, then so be it. I'm just a little put out that I haven't been asked to be on the calendar. So let the record show; if I wasn't before, I'm out as a ginger, and I'm proud.

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