I’ve been a member of the LGBT community for a few years, and I’ve had friends scattered all over the gender identity and sexual orientation spectrums. I don’t claim to know everything about the nuances of sex, gender identity, and romantic/sexual orientation, but I would consider myself an accepting individual, and am always open to learning more about people and their identities. So when I first encountered the idea of gender fluidity and non-binary identity, I was intrigued.
When I was born, I was declared female and I was pretty much raised that way. That’s not to say I was a girly-girl: I loved playing in the mud, I disliked jewelry and the color pink, Legos were my favorite toys, and I opted to play on the boys’ team when participating in girls vs. boys games on the playground. But I wasn’t a tomboy either; I loved playing Barbies and dress up (even though usually I was a firefighter or a railroad engineer), and I didn’t really have an interest in sports (although that was mainly because I was never good at them, not because they were “for boys”). I guess you could say that my gender expression as a young child was fairly gender neutral.
I do remember one instance when I was six where I was insisting to my mother that I was a boy, because at that time I thought of myself as a tomboy because I wasn’t super ultra-feminine like the other girls at school. Finally, my mother convinced me that I was a girl because I peed sitting down rather than standing up. But my notion that I was a boy never stemmed from a desire to actually be a boy, but rather that I should be because of the gender roles society enforces on us at youth. Never in my life have I suffered from “penis envy”. I’m glad I was born female, and I doubt I’ll ever change that.
That being said, now that I’m older, and have learned from my friends and my online community that there’s more than two genders, if I was asked, I would say that I don’t really feel like I have a gender—that I’m agender, if you will. Sheltered from such ideas until up into my late teens, it never occurred to me that I could be anything other than what my parents, my doctors, and society had classified me as. I still wear feminine clothing, but that’s because I find women’s clothing appealing. I dress for me, not my gender identity. I go by feminine pronouns (she/her) out of convenience, not because those pronouns particularly feel right or wrong.
But I always come back to that one moment when I was six and my mom convinced me that I was a girl.
I think it’s important to listen to children, because despite popular opinion, they aren’t stupid. No one knows us better than ourselves, and childhood is one of the most important developmental stages in our life, second only perhaps to adolescence. If our teenage years are the time that we come into our own identity and realize who we are, then childhood is the time that we collect the building blocks—morality, opinions, personality—that will someday form into ourselves. When my parents made me believe I was a girl, that had an indelible effect on who I am as a person, and I’m not unhappy the way I am. But I’ve often wondered: what if I’d been allowed to continue believing I was supposed to be a boy? Would I still be the person I am today, or would I be someone completely different? Would I dress the same, act the same, have the same beliefs? Our actions can shape people in ways we can’t imagine, and our parents arguably have the largest effect on us all.
I decided a long time ago not to have children of my own, but someday I might adopt kids. If I ever do, I know what kind of parent I want to be: a loving, understanding one. One who her children can confide in about anything. One who really listens to them. One who her children aren’t afraid of, but who rightfully earns their respect, and respects them in return. One who will sit on the front row at their wedding and cheer them on, no matter who they’re marrying, or whether they’re wearing a tuxedo or a wedding dress. ~TRL