When I read trans-related stuff, I often read things like: “Of course, I was more interested in (insert opposite-sex related activities here) than in (insert socially approved gendered activities here).” So, for example, many FTMs will comment about how they preferred climbing trees than playing house and many MTFs will comment about how they preferred wearing dresses rather than pants.
That’s fine. I can remember playing with Matchbox cars (I had a little carrying case for them!!) and toy trucks instead of dolls.
What bothers me is the “Of course . . . ” part of those statements, as if it went without saying that a gender variant person would have adopted all the attributes of the “opposite sex” in childhood. Yes, I played with cars and trucks and I didn’t like dolls. But I DID have stuffed animals, some of them with pink bows.
Anyway . . . even though I played with toys usually associated with boys, and I was already starting to “see” myself as a boy at a young age, I can’t say that I was ever a tomboy. I wasn’t very athletic. I played on the basketball team one year because I wanted to try something new but I would actually avoid catching the ball, unless it was on a rebound (I was good at that for some reason) because I didn’t really understand what to do with it. I was always the last kid to be picked for teams in gym or at recess. In my spare time at home, I read books from the library, especially sci-fi or astronomy stuff, or the encyclopedia.
But, oh, how I WANTED to be a tomboy, especially just before and during adolescence. I envied tomboys. They were spunky. They were boyish. They were cute. But they were still feminine somehow. By virtue of being girls doing boy things, in my mind at the time (although I wouldn’t have been able to articulate it as such), they were female.
My problem, I thought, was that if I did boy things like the tomboys did, it would show that I wasn’t a REAL girl. Everytime I wore sneakers as a teen, I felt unfeminine. I wondered how it was that other girls could wear boyish clothes and still look feminine and sexy. I knew I couldn’t get away with it. This led me to largely exagerrate my femininity, with brief interludes of quasi-tomboyishness. I thought that the only way I could conceal that there was something wrong with me would be by concealing any hint of boyishness, or non-girlishness, that could possibly appear.
This lasted well into my 20s during which I felt like a big clutsy fool whenever I wore anything that wasn’t overtly feminine. However, I increasingly felt like a big clutsy fool even when I wore very feminine clothes! I would walk around with a fear that somehow, people would see me for what I was: someone pretending to be a girl. And then I not only exagerated the feminine look through clothes but through my behaviours and gestures. Every movement, every step, every glance, was well thought out and planned to be as convincingly female as possible. EVERY thing. I wouldn’t let anything slip.
Boy was it tiring!
Ironically, the past few years of gender exploration have been spent undoing that damage. I had to unlearn all these subtle gestures, glances and postures. I had to unsuppress the reflexes that I had learned to supress because I had feared they were too masculine. And now I’m free.
Now I don’t even care about gestures that may make me seem feminine to others. I don’t think about my movements, posture, expressions . . . anything. I just am. And it’s amazing how much I’ve been accomplishing now that all those parts of my brain that were occupied with presenting a false face to the world are free to do other things!