by Esther Thomas
Growing up as a ginger was tough. Throughout primary & high school I was seen as “different”. I remember when the term “ranga” become a thing; I was just starting High School. At the time, this term was incredibly hurtful. I would be walking through school and have people one after the next call out “ranga” to seem cool to their mates, or make ranga jokes for a laugh. I would be excluded & put down. I always felt different, because I was made to feel different. People would ask me “don’t you want to die your hair?” as most of the redheads I knew at the time were dying their hair to try and escape the association with being a redhead. And I would think to myself “should I die my hair?” But the truth is that I’ve always liked my hair colour.
I couldn’t understand why I was seen so differently. I got that I had a different hair colour to most other people, but aside from that I was just a normal kid/teen. I may have appeared confident & extroverted on the outside, but on the inside I was almost always made to feel different & ‘uncool’, and like I didn’t quite fit because I was a redhead.
Then I became an adult. And I started getting compliments on my hair on almost a daily basis. People would tell me that they were envious of my hair. People would tell me that they would pay thousands of dollars to get my hair colour. It was now seen as beautiful. As sexy. And I was equally as confused; as I had been told the complete opposite by most people my whole life up until that point.
I realised that people’s opinions are frail.
Over the years I have learnt to embrace being different. I love being ginger. I love that I make up less than 2% of the population. I love that I had to inherit the MC1R gene from both my mother & father in order to be born ginger. I love that gingers can produce their own vitamin D when exposed to low light, unlike other people. I love that gingers are more sensitive to hot & cold temperatures. I love that ginger hair turns white instead of grey as you age.
Redheads have been seen throughout history to be various things such as: witches, or born out of “unclean sex”, or to have no soul. There has also been a fair amount of superstition associated with redheads I.e. that we become vampires after we die haha.
I don’t know if it’s gotten any better for ginger kids/teens now or not. I hope it has. Because my journey growing up as a redhead was tough. I’m thankful that I learnt to embrace & love that I was different. But that is not the case for everyone. I know many gingers still struggle with discrimination, with their self worth, and some have even ended their lives because of it. And if you are reading this and are going through something similar, or have gone through something similar, I hope that sharing a glimpse of my experience encourages you. You are not alone, you are beautiful, you are unique, you are loved.
Discrimination is not ok. Bullying is not ok. We need to be embracing people because of their differences. I mean, how boring would this world be if we were all the same?
Let us be people who are known for how well we love one another. John 13:35
“Esther serves alongside her husband Mathew, who is the Youth & Young Adults Pastor at Wynnum Baptist Church. Esther was formerly an SU Qld chaplain, where she worked across 2 schools in Logan. In her 4 ½ years, as a chaplain she worked with many young people of diverse backgrounds providing support, advocacy, life-skills training and social skills development, anti-bullying programs, as well as countless hours of pastoral care and other valuable programs for young people. She also started up and ran a youth group on Russell Island before meeting Mathew and getting married. Esther has studied community services work, as well as ministry at Harvest Bible college, and is currently at University full-time studying to become a Naturopath.”
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