Tomboy

In response and support of the New York Times article, “My Daughter Is Not Transgender. She’s a Tomboy” by Lisa Selin Davis:

“No dresses, no pink, no polka-dots, no bows,” I rattle off to my mom. I’m 9 years old, and we’re shopping for new clothes. My favorite outfit is a T-shirt, tennis shoes, and zip-off cargo pants. I love dinosaurs and Star Wars. Everything I own is blue and brown, I despise the color pink. I cringe when people called me “sweetie”, “honey”, or “dear”. Most of my friends are boys. At night whenever I dream, I dream that I am a boy. In fact, I hate being a girl. But, I am not transgender.

I trained in gymnastics since the age of 3. By the time I was 9 years old, I could do more pushups and pullups than anyone else in the 4th grade, boy or girl. Yet, I was never picked first in gym class. My parents’ friends would just laugh condescendingly when I told them how strong I was. “Sure you are, sweetie,” they would laugh.

My dad traveled often, leaving just my mom, me, and my sister in the house. I was nearly as strong as my mom, and twice as agile. I was the one using my calloused hands to open jars and lift heavy furniture for my family. One winter, it snowed over 2 feet in one night, and I was the one to shovel us out.

I was a bright kid, yet it took 3 years of my parents pleading for the school system to put me into their advanced math program. I was the only girl. Most of the boys didn’t trust my answers to problems, partly because I was a new-comer to the group, partly (I suspect), because I was a girl. I was extremely careful with my math, never rushing, always checking over my work twice as much as others, so that my classmates would respect my abilities and trust my answers.

Once while I played Star Wars with my (all male) friends on the playground, I tried to start a lightsaber fight. One boy just looked at me, and said “Girls in Star Wars don’t use lightsabers. Padme has a blaster.” I tried to protest, but it was clear that they would kick me out of the game if I didn’t follow this canonical “rule”, so I made a finger-gun with my hand and kept playing.

A few weeks later, I read an amazing Star Wars book about a young girl who was a Jedi-in-training, named Tash Arranda! When I went back to the playground and we picked our Jedi names, I confidently sang out: “I’m Tash!” The boys laughed. “Ok, TRASH,” they told me, over and over again. At the end of recess, I was holding back tears.

I hated anything feminine. I hated being shorter and smaller than my friends. I hated having a high-pitched voice. I hated other girls when they would talk about nail polish and Polly Pockets. I hated how I didn’t know how to be friends with girls, and the boys were often unkind.

As I grew up, I slowly became less of a tomboy. However, I still hated the feminine. “I’m not like other girls,” I shared confidently on Facebook. Most women’s friendships, patterns of speech, and fashion trends disgusted me. If I associated with those things, I thought I wouldn’t be taken seriously.

Through all of this, I was never transgender. Today, I am happy to be a woman. I value my friendships with women and regret the dismissive attitude I held in my youth. I believe that my feelings as a child stemmed from the constant, cruel dismissal of my abilities and interests due to my gender. Hating being a girl is not something that welled up from inside of me (as others may experience). Instead, this hatred was pushed onto me by my teachers, my classmates, and community members. I am thankful that my parents never once suggested to me that I could be a boy instead. It would not have solved my problem. My solution is to keep working for equal representation and opportunity for young boys and girls.

P.S. Watching Star Wars Episode VII in the theater was a huge treat. As I watched Rey confidently face down Kylo Ren with a lightsaber, I started to cry in the theater. I had never before seen a lightsaber-wielding woman get a feature fight on the big screen. With more movies like this, hopefully no Star-Wars-loving girl will ever be called “trash” on the playground again.

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