My Crowded Gender Identity
I was just a girl who wanted to play baseball. Back in the dark ages while I was growing up there was no outlet for girls to play baseball. Softball, yes, baseball, no. I just wanted to become an awesome southpaw pitcher like my neighbor Craig. Alas! It was not to be.
I knew I was a “tomboy” growing up, it was hard to deny it. I hated what was labeled as ‘girl’ stuff (dolls, sewing, cooking, etc.) and loved the rough and tumble life of boys (jumping off roofs, riding bikes and playing sports.). Because I grew up in Southern California it was easy to be outside all day and play baseball, kick-the-can, skateboard and bike ride. I think my parents thought- hoped -I would grow out of it and become a proper girl like my sister. Every Christmas I asked for a race car set. I never got one. Or a baseball mitt, a skateboard, or a basketball hoop. I think they were afraid of encouraging me. To them -my father at least -my ‘sportiness’ was a slippery slope to lesbianism. He had an aunt who had joined the army, never married and lived with a female ‘friend’ her whole life. He was scared I was going to be another blot of the family record.
I could have assured him that wasn’t going to happen because I loved boys. From early on I loved me some boy. When I was 11 The Beatles invaded America and my psyche. Paul took up residence in my brain for many years. My parents were thrilled. I may have dreamed of Paul at night but during the day I really wanted to play baseball. The idea that both desires could exist in one person was a very foreign concept back then. I had no idea I could be gender binary. That wasn’t even a whisper of a thing back then.
According to the website transequality.org ‘gender binary’ is a person who identifies with two genders. I do wonder that if this had been known back then if it would have changed my life. I’m not sure. I think it might have changed how I thought about myself. Maybe I wouldn’t have tried so hard to be girly or felt like such a failure when I failed. Maybe I would have embraced my male characteristics, like ambition and assertiveness, with more joy.
I have heard many stories about people who discover their true gender or sexuality at an advanced age but it took a friend asking what being binary meant for me to open my eyes and do some research. In the current lingo I am a cis-gendered heterosexual white woman who dreams of a tad more melanin. My father might have feared my personality but realizing I am gender binary has been a huge fucking relief. Better late than never, eh?
We did have a couple of examples back when God was a boy, that, if we believe, were gender binary. Katherine Hepburn was my personal goddess and her insistence on scandalizing everyone with her trouser-wearing along with her vast personal power gave me so much solace. I was not alone. Yet she, like Lucille Ball and many other women had to hide that masculine, driven, no-nonsense part of themselves for the sake of popularity. The new film Being the Ricardos goes as far as to insinuate that Lucy emasculated Desi and that’s why he drank and fooled around. Bull shit. He drank and fooled around for the same reason most people do. Still, it hurts to see history pulling its punches in this way.
My other heroine, though I was not alive during her lifetime, was/is Eleanor Roosevelt. She did so much good in the world and had so much empathy and love for others. Whether her husband loved her truly or just married her as a shield for his activities we’ll never know. I grew up hearing only about how ugly she was. How masculine and ugly. I think she was the most beautiful woman in the world.
I have tried to reconcile my two distinctly different gender identities my whole life, never feeling that I belonged to either one. I never felt I was transgender, but I did envy boys and their freedom. As a smart, assertive, ambitious girl I was always being told to simmer it down or I’d never get a man to love me. I think because I did my best to hide my true identity, I made sure I would never find a man who would love me, because he would never really know me.
The truth is I met everyone I dated (except one) after they saw me on stage acting. What they saw was just the woman side of me because I was playing women. They saw me in curvy costumes with make-up on and assumed that was who I was. I hated disillusioning them but if we dated long enough, I always did.
I hate make-up. I hate fussing over how I look. I just want to get up and go places, do things, more than curling my dead follicles or eyelashes. What a fucking waste of time. For me. Most of my female friends like that stuff. My roommate in college spent hours, really hours, getting ready for a date. I made sure my clothes didn’t have stains and that my teeth were brushed. Funny enough, I still got my fair share of sex without the fuss.
Oh yes, sex with men was a delight. Still would be I think if I could handle the old codgers and their issues now. You would think that with all the boy in me I might be a bisexual. On the Kinsey scale I check out about 98% heterosexual. I tried sleeping with a woman once (we’ve all been to college) but was so disappointed there wasn’t a cock involved I didn’t do it again.
Just because I have an equal ration of male characteristics has nothing to do with sexual preference. That’s such a stupid idea. We accept that in the gay community there are men who are more feminine and others who aren’t. They both like guys. Same with lesbians. Gender identity and sexual identity are not related. It’s time we learned that and stopped thinking every boy who wants to learn ballet must be gay and every girl who likes to use power tools is a lesbian.
I think the issue gets muddy because we have isolated so many personality traits and interests into either male or female attributes. We label caring, empathy, artistic ability, nurturing as female and assertiveness, ambition, logic and stoicism as male. What if we never labeled any characteristics as anything? What if we just take each person as they come? I like to think that is happening more and more but man, it’s slow.
To me my biggest regret (so far, I still have time to do more stupid stuff) is that, like so many of us, I lived an inauthentic life. What a major crime against nature for anyone to twist and turn to change ourselves to please society. I think most of us realize that our very existence is a miracle. I wish I could live long enough to where parents watched with wonder and joy as their child revealed their one-of-a-kind nature. And love them for exactly who they are.