I have an aversion to groups of girls. It is deep seated. The girls at P.S. 40 Manhattan were a mean bunch, a nasty clique. When I see a group of girls together, I flinch. I don’t see them as adorable or playful. I don’t trust them. I can’t remember back to when girls were just girls.
I went to school, from kindergarten through sixth grade, with the same twenty or so girls. Line up, recess, lunch, dismissal. Outside the classroom I was a target. Push, elbow, poke. Eww, keep away from me, you’ve got cooties.
Teased and shunned. For being fat, for wearing ugly clothes, for being a misfit. Eww what’s that smell? Get away. There were two ringleaders who kept the other girls in line. They weren’t girly girls, they weren’t rich girls, they weren’t smart girls, but they were good at what they did. I had no friends at school. Wendy and Julie saw to it.
Don’t let her touch the ball, we’ll have to decontaminate it. I did not want to play their games. I did not want to sit at their table. I see London, I see France, What is in your underpants? I did not want them to police my behavior or my gender (if I’d only had the terms to describe it then).
Before I started kindergarten, before I knew the jargon, before some of the jargon existed, before I could formulate the words, I knew I was not like them. I was a boy and I was attracted to women. If I didn’t have the thoughts concurrently, I intertwined them quickly.
Besides thinking I was a boy, I started hating being a girl, and hating all things associated with girls, especially the ones at P.S. 40. This included all things pink or frilly, girl’s games, girl’s books, and girl’s behavior. I have no tolerance for cattiness, name-calling, cliques, or ostracism. I know that these are not genetic traits. I know that boys are just as vicious and petty, but my tormentors were girls.
I’d like to be less judgmental of girls who are girly. I ‘m comfortable being butch, being masculine, and being transgender. I’d like to distance myself from girls and femininity without scorning them. I don’t want to begrudge any child a pink tutu or a sparkly wand. I don’t want to be a hater.
I clomp around in construction boots. I assiduously avoid anything feminine (unless it is from the men’s department). No one is trying to dress me in pink tulle or make me attend ballet class. I don’t experience any pressure to be more feminine or female appearing than I am except when I am in a “women’s only space” e.g. a bathroom, a locker room, or a dressing room.
Who gets to decide if I am a woman or a man, both or neither? I do. Neither the Macy’s sales associate counting the number of shirts I want to try on, the receptionist handing out towels at the gym, nor the women on line to use the toilets get to decide. Nor do Wendy and Julie. Nor do the RadFems.
In the August 4, 2014 edition of The New Yorker there is an article titled “What is a Woman?” When I read the title, I was hoping for an article about sex and gender, chromosomes and hormones, fluidity versus the binary, or how we conceptualize our identity. I was not expecting a biased and reactionary article about Radfems and their insistence that trans women are really still men. Or an article that conflates being transgender with having erotic compulsions.
The article did not discuss legal identity versus social identity. Or who gets to decide if we are men or women (medical doctors, psychologists, judges, or government agencies), or what happens when policies are personalized, vary by county and state, and are inconsistently applied. We will have to continue writing those articles ourselves.