When I was three, my older brother and I would take baths together. We would take turns having Mom wash our hair and try to make beards out of the bubbles. Once I pointed to my brother’s penis and asked when I would get one. It made sense. When you get older you get taller and grow beards but before that you grow a penis, right? So when do I get a penis?
I was somewhat confused when I was told no, you never get a penis. Boys have penises. You are a girl. You have a vagina. I remember looking at my vagina and being disappointed.
As a child, I wanted to be a boy. I played with boy toys, I played boy games (mostly war and assassin type games) and I hung out mostly with my neighbor rather than his sister. However, I think I expressed my desire to be male not out of an identity as a transgendered individual, but as a desire for equality. I saw how boys were treated differently by my father and by my parents’ church. I saw how being tough was cool and doing manly things was something my father admired. He only admired women when they did tough things (running marathons, swimming the English channel, running a business alone) and never for more nurturing or feminine things. I wanted all the privileges that being male gave you. And I couldn’t understand why no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get that privilege. I was excluded and placed into the category of Other. Of weakness and femininity. And I hated that.
As an adult, I can look back and make some sense of my childhood. My childhood was not unusual. I was aware of gender bias at a very young age and found it unacceptable and tried to fight it in my own way. However, instead of fighting that bias, I played by its rules and strengthened it. Yes, being male is best. Yes, foolish acts of aggressive are good. Yes, men are obviously natural leaders.
To this day, I still struggle with the gender bias I was taught as a child. All that is masculine is good and all that is feminine is inferior. When I think someone is being tough, a trait men and women both have, I praise them for “being a man.” When someone is complaining, I tell them to “stop being a pussy.” This is such as hard bias to defeat because it is reinforced by everyone around me, men and women alike, feminists and bigots alike. From the beginning, we are taught that there is a two tiered system and guess what, the glass ceiling is only so high before you starting realizing that playing by the rules of gender bias gets you no where.
Part of a real and tangible resistance to that two tiered system is by denying that framework of thought. I am not a man and I do not desire to be a man anymore, but neither am I a woman. I am comfortable with my genitalia, but I am not one thing or the other. I am neither and I am both and I am comfortable calling myself genderqueer, without any pressure to be more specific. I can be masculine and I know that being nurturing does not exclude me from that definition. I can be feminine and I know that being authoritative does not exclude me from that definition.
Don’t get tricked by the patriarchy. Binaries of value are a community created idea and we can defeat it by creating a world were little girls don’t have to believe that being a boy is the only way to feel in control.