An 8-year-old boy’s hair has become the center of a new “discrimination” debate swirling around the U.K. that has even prompted the boy’s mother to float the idea of listing him as “non-binary” in order to keep the flowing locks that helped him rise to fame on Instagram.
In a story covered by multiple British outlets, including the BBC and the Daily Mail, Instagram sensation Farouk James, whose mother began a page for him when he was just 2 years old, is desperately trying to keep his long hair amid what his mother suggests are non-“tolerant” and “outdated” secondary school rules about boys’ haircuts.
The mother of the young male model — who has over 260,000 Instagram followers and has been flown all over the world in large part because of his unusually long hair, landing modeling gigs with the likes of Guess — is heading up a movement to force some secondary schools in England to change their grooming codes.
Appalled that the three schools her son wants to attend don’t allow boys to have long hair, his mother “began investigating different schools’ rules, after planning ahead for Farouk’s applications in Year 5,” the Daily Mail reports.
“We are told we are supposed to be tolerant, and embrace diversity,” said the boy’s mom, Bonnie, 41, who’s from west London. “However this policy teaches children that they cannot be different.”
“Why are we teaching — at such a young age — that long hair means there is something wrong with these children?” Bonnie asked.
“I have been trying to think of loopholes, and think how can I get him in,” she said, explaining, “The mixed schools I have been looking at have policies which clearly differentiate between boys and girls.”
One action she’s considered taking to sidestep the schools’ grooming policies, she said, is listing the eight-year-old as “non-binary.”
“Applying for a mixed school, I may just put him down as non-binary,” said the boy’s mom.
Meanwhile, Bonnie has started a petition aimed at ending the “discriminatory” and “outdated” policies. “I thought ‘I have to do something about this, children’s mental health is more important,'” she explained.
Along with allowing boys to better “express themselves,” the rule change, Bonnie believes, “will also allow transgender people to be more comfortable,” the Daily Mail reports.
Forcing kids to cut their hair, says Bonnie, can be devastating as it is “part of their identity.”
“Parents have shown me they have had to chop their child’s hair off, and the devastation it has caused,” she said. “It’s a part of their identity. You are asking someone to take away a huge part of themselves, to fit in to what is socially expected.”
As for her very young, very long-haired son’s early fame, Bonnie said it has been an inspiration for others and he has attained a “role model” status for some, “chang[ing] others children’s lives.”
“He’s become a role model for children, for boys with long hair,” she said. “Parents say they refer to Farouk’s page to give their child confidence. I’ve cried numerous times because, just from me allowing him to be himself, he has changed other children’s lives. Farouk globally can be himself, and be appreciated for who he is through Instagram.”
“But locally he is not accepted,” Bonnie stressed. “When he goes to secondary school, he is going to be told he has to change. He will be told, he is going to have to take a piece of himself away.”
The boy’s mother says she set up his Instagram page when he was just two years old after a social media influencer used a photo of young Farouk without her permission, the Daily Mail notes.