are you a boy, or a girl?

At some point in my late childhood, I gave up on actively praying to become a boy.  I clearly remember vigorously and strenuously entreating the Almighty to please reverse what was obviously a grievous mistake and let me wake up in the morning with the correct anatomy.  I’m not sure how long this went on, months definitely, maybe more than a year.  Then I stopped, sure that if God was going to grant that wish, He would have done it already.  At some point after that, in my early teens, I gave up on god altogether.  I wonder now how the lack of response from my early gender-switch prayer campaign impacted that decision.  But I’ll save that for another story.

I’ve written about my early boyhood before, and in that post I talked about how much I enjoyed being identified as a boy, and as my father’s son.  It was a point of extreme pride and something I cultivated.  I went into junior high looking like a boy but starting to have all of those pre-adolescent girl feelings. I think most of you would agree that junior high or middle school can be torturous. It certainly was for me. The older kids seemed so much older and more worldly. I was a little country bumpkin suddenly mixing with kids from different elementary schools. I was terribly shy, one of those kids who blushed hot, blistering red at the least provocation.

“So are you a boy, or a girl?”

It suddenly wasn’t fun to have a confusing gender presentation.  I looked and acted like one of the boys, but I used the girls rest room.  Where before I’d gloried in rebelling against gender stereotypes and passing as a boy, now I wanted to fit in.  The need to belong and conform is very strong during those years and it swept me up as well.

I had little puppy crushes on some boys, sensitive types mostly.  I can remember passing notes, playing all the games girls play to get a boy’s attention.  None of it panned out.. I’m not sure those guys knew how to handle the advances of girls at all, much less one who seemed like one of the guys.

cowgirl_sm

happy cowgirl

I was recently looking through pictures from my childhood and they tell an interesting story, one I’m not sure I would have seen before now.   When I was very young, I was a little girl, happy and innocent and seeing the world as a huge fun adventure.  Not much out of toddler-hood, I started running smack into my mother’s prejudices about how girls should look and act.

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seventh grade Kyle

For a long time we had a sort of detente, she dictated the dress code for church and some other events, I dressed and acted like a boy whenever I could get away with it.  The official school pictures of me from junior high are of me as a boy.  Despite my mother’s vigorous efforts, my boyself had the upper hand in terms of my identity then and I was confident, sure of myself and my capabilities.  I knew I could work hard on the family farm, hop on my pony and ride away into the sunset — I might have been a boy, but I was also a romantic.  I remember reading about Indians, and explorers and adventurers.  I’d finish my chores and dash out the back door to practice ‘quiet walking’, challenging myself to walk as silently as the moccasin clad heroes I had read about.  I’d sit in the woods for hours imagining adventures and worlds far beyond my small town rural home.  I crept around, spying on my parents or my little brother and imagined myself a crafty, heroic spy.

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eighth grade Kyle

And then I entered puberty and then high school and my boyhood collided squarely with my girlhood and that took a long time to sort out.  My mom inflicted perms on me and taught/bullied me into plucking my eyebrows.  The transition from boy to girl in pictures is rather startling.  At the time, I was trying to get through that icky early puberty stage where being part of the herd is so important and belonging is necessary at almost any cost.  So my boyself went inside and watched in confusion as my girlself took center stage.  I was no longer sure of myself, my confidence shaken by the unfamiliar and arbitrary rules of girl social structure.  I thought maybe I liked boys, but saw them mostly as buddies, other guys.. my boyself still asserted himself in small, mostly unseen ways.

And then I became an adult and adopted a lesbian identity and carried on as a not super feminine female for a number of years.  I wasn’t super butch, but I certainly wasn’t femme.  I partied and had a long term relationship with another woman and didn’t think much about gender identity for a long time.  A couple of years ago, I even went through a more feminine phase, in terms of clothing at least.  Now it feels right to express my masculine side and learn more about the manly arts of clothing and accessories.  I can be comfortable hanging with the moms at school events and share birthing stories or the travails of finding a well-fitting bra.  And I can hang with the dads and talk about parenting and yard work and holding the purse while our wives try on clothes.

But right now, if someone were to ask me “Are you a boy or a girl?” my honest answer would be “no”  because that’s too exclusive.  I don’t believe in that ‘or’ any longer.  I feel like I’ve tried living the ‘or’ lifestyle much too long, and finally, in my 4th decade, I’ve come to the realization that I don’t have to choose.  I am a he and a she,  I have boobs and a cock, I am a Mommy and one of the guys.  More and more this multiplicity of gender works for me.  It’s starting to be comfortable, like a favorite shirt I forgot I had.

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