An Open Letter To Those Praising The New York Times ‘Tomboy’ Piece
chase strangio

I didn’t see her article as trying to erase trans identity or any identity. I took her comment about hoping for a time when a girl could dress like a boy (or boy like girl) and not be questioned about her gender identity -as hoping for a time when all gender identities are accepted — a time when it no longer matters (and I don’t mean that ones choices don’t matter as in they are disregarded, but that no matter what their identity is, it has no adverse affects in society or available opportunities).
And I believe there is a clear difference in gender nonconforming and gender role nonconforming. Fluidity in gender roles has been around longer than fluidity in gender identity. As little as 25 years ago, female and males were expected to adhere to gender specific roles i.e. girls dressed and acted like girls — playing with dolls, sewing, cooking, “domestic” arts”, etc., while boys dressed and acted like boys — playing with trucks, playing sports, being entrepreneurial (because they would grow up to be bread winners). There was a time when a girl wanting to play hockey or basketball or football was whispered about, teased and bullied. Women who wanted to join armed services were one of two things — lesbians or sluts. Men who were interested in cooking or sewing or fashion were gay, though the words used were uglier. These gender roles, for the most part (outside of some fundamental, faith based constructs) have loosened, but clearly not completely if seeing a girl that dresses like a boy causes confusion for some.
I was a tomboy, most of my friends were boys, I climbed trees, I played in the dirt, took most dares (couldn’t let the boys best me) and I could be tough as nails if I had to. I liked the toys boys had — not dolls, not sewing, (I did like to bake/cook). I wore my hair short and I had no curves. In todays world, it would be understandable for people who are trying to be sensitive to ask as to my gender identity — but I have to say, it would have also been devastating to me. In that deep down place inside of me, that place that tells you who you are, I was a girl, attracted to boys, but because of my tomboyish behavior and less than womanly body, I was not “dating” material. This caused me many, many tears and years of self doubt — not about gender or preference, but about my worth. There are worse problems to have, but I get where the mom who wrote the piece is coming from. Why should it matter if her daughter’s behaviors reflect what we still want to identify as male more than female?
Perhaps what we need to focus on is not the guessing game that all of us must play — is he (what?), is she (what?), should I ask which pronouns are preferred? . . . but more so we should be teaching our children to be perfectly comfortable in stating that themselves if and when they so choose.