Rising up, not having my ears pierced typically left me feeling just like the odd one out. In Puerto Rican tradition, many dad and mom pierce their kids’s ears shortly after they’re born. It was typically a ceremony of passage, and being with out my very own pair appeared to confuse some individuals. I used to be typically requested why my mom did not pierce my ears after I was youthful, and I by no means precisely had a solution for them; it was only a resolution my mom selected not to make for me. Typically, I might flip the query again on them, asking why they selected to make that call for his or her youngster. The commonest solutions had been that folks did not need their child woman to be mistaken for a boy, or that it was merely custom.

The (typically literally devastating) gender reveals which have just lately been shaking up the information cycle have introduced me again to musing over this less-obtrusive manner that some dad and mom select to let the world know their child was assigned feminine at beginning. “This persistent and obligatory coupling of female and feminine is, partially, what results in ear piercing as a visual signifier of femaleness itself,” Sasha T. Goldberg, a doctoral candidate and analysis assistant in gender research at Indiana College Bloomington, tells me. Tying femininity, or lack thereof, to an ear-piercing appears to me like a heavy expectation to placed on a toddler that has no say within the resolution in any other case. As Jessany Maldonado, an affiliate teacher and graduate pupil at Indiana College Bloomington, specializing within the research of Black sexuality, extra plainly places it: “In case you’re making an attempt to push a ‘gendering agenda’ …making an attempt to pressure different individuals to assemble your youngster as A or B, then there’s some inside insecurities that [you] must work out.”

As my fellow millennials and even youthful gen Zers begin having our personal children, a few of us discover ourselves having to parse two probably opposing views. Many of us understand gender to be a spectrum and never one thing that may all the time be precisely assigned at beginning. Many people additionally come from households the place piercing a child’s ears, particularly if they seem to be a woman, is solely custom. Because it’s typically part of our tradition, it is typically anticipated that we’ll be desirous to proceed the development once we turn into dad and mom. “Getting your ears pierced as a lady of coloration is seen as a ceremony of passage within the Black group,” says Taylor Gibbons, 27. “It is so ingrained in older Black men and women that after I don’t have earrings in my ear, I’m known as out and scolded for it whilst an grownup.”

The Tradition of Piercing

This was a standard theme amongst the general public I interviewed for this piece: Greater than having a hyper-specific spiritual or cultural reasoning for piercing a child’s ears, their dad and mom pierced their ears primarily as a result of everybody they knew did too. (It is value noting that the American Academy of Pediatrics says there may be “little risk” associated with ear piercing, no matter age.)  “My dad and mom pierced my ears after I was a child, however they by no means gave a selected motive why. Once I ask, they are saying ‘as a result of we did,'” Justice McNeil, 21, says, noting that they didn’t do the identical for her brother, who later selected to pierce his ears when he was about 9 or 10.

“It is fairly unusual for Indian individuals, particularly for a lady, to not have your ears pierced,” says Aarati Akkapeddi, 27. “I feel there may be additionally a spiritual significance for Hindus…I do know there are all types of theories around Ayurvedic pressure points within the physique. I am positive my dad and mom did not give it some thought in such element, however piercing your child’s ears was positively normalized of their social circles.”

Traditionally, cultural ties to piercing are widespread throughout cultures, even when they may not be the express motive many dad and mom pierce their kids’s ears at this time. As an illustration, ear piercing, also called karnavedha in Hinduism, is likely one of the 16 sanskar rituals that mark phases of life and signify cultural heritage and upbringing. Often, kids can have their ears pierced after their beginning in a karnavedha ceremony that celebrates this symbolic observe.



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