This post is part of my participation in the 30-day genderqueer challenge, which I have modified to a weekly exercise.
Today’s question: How did you grow up with your gender?
I am just going to take this as a more general prompt to think and talk about my experience of gender growing up, and how I got to where I am now!
I am honestly not sure what to say about my gender growing up. I don’t think that it makes sense to say that I have always been genderqueer, in large part because of the particular political affiliations I associate with my genderqueer identity today, that I certainly didn’t have as a child. But I very easily could have been agender then, as I often still am today.
At the risk of sounding like a total cliche: I was never a terribly girly child. I liked some “girl” things, and didn’t like others, and in my preschool years I spent most of my time playing with my little brother (we are just a year apart in age and were very close growing up) playing with a mixture of toys, from My Little Pony and Barbie, to just plain stuffies or Mighty Max or whatever else.
Most of my friends growing up were girls. All of the close ones were, actually. I mean, all the kids in the neighbourhood (and we had a *lot* actually, in retrospect) played together pretty regularly, but the friends I would call on every day and walk to school with were girls. I didn’t think about it much, and I don’t put a lot of meaning on it besides probably minor social pressure, expectations and norms, but it seems worth mentioning.
Mostly, we just played board games together. And cards. And sometimes vast epic imagination games, where the entire neighbourhood transformed into a strange abandoned, haunted amusement park we couldn’t escape or some such. It wasn’t as if we were somehow doing significantly different things than the neighbourhood boys (or at least, I don’t think so, anyway?).
I never had a strong sense of identification as girl, and I definitely never wished to not be one either. I sort of just accepted that I was one, because I had been told as much and it didn’t seem distinctly wrong or whatever. My parents love to tell the story of my second birthday, where I tried to give all of my presents to my little brother, one by one, until I opened up some clothes that were pink, and immediately declared that they were mine. Pink wasn’t my favourite colour at the time (or ever, really: I went with the safe alternative of purple through most of my childhood – mildly non-conformist without being too out there, y’see. Even at that age, I was making that kid of calculation though). I had just clearly noticed that everything pink in the house belonged to me. (My mother, though distinctly feminine, also deliberately avoided being over-the-top girly and is not much into pink herself, so it would have really just been me).
I also never had to deal with much along the lines of gender policing growing up, which may be part of why I didn’t think too much about this stuff at the time. Although my parents (er, my father really, mostly) subscribe to some weirdly outdated gender stuff, and there was one memorable occasion as a teenager when my dad tried to shame my brother because, when we’d accidentally locked ourselves out of the house and I’d climbed in through the bedroom window to let him back in, he hadn’t insisted that he be the one to do the dangerous work of climbing on the roof – despite me being (at the time…) taller and more flexible, and the fact that it was my bedroom window that was open, by the way – white knight bullshit, basically, which both of us pushed back at him for, anyway.
I have only worn make-up on a literal handful of occasions in my life. When I was in junior high school, I kind of wanted to, since it was a rite of passage my peers were going through, but house rules said I wasn’t allowed until I was 16, and I was too rule-abiding back then to even think about hiding make-up from them. And by the time I turned 16, I was a junior in high school with an established identity and friend group and make-up wasn’t a priority any more, so that backfired on them I guess.
More to the point, though, the times I tried make-up (once while on vacation with a friend and her family, another time at a sleepover or whatever, once as an adult for being on tv, etc) it has been a weirdly disconcerting experience. I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize myself. It made me uncomfortable in a really distinct way. I kind of hated it, for no real reason.
Which, it’s weird to include this kind of stuff when talking about gender, because obviously “likes to wear make-up” isn’t just something women feel, or whatever. It’s certainly not part of some magic formula for determining gender (pro tip: the only magic formula for determining gender is to ask a person, even if that person is yourself <3). But for some reason it still feels like a relevant component of my personal gender experience and my sense of myself as a non-binary person.
So, I've lost track of where this post was headed, but I think that's because it was never really headed anywhere. I think I've always had a weird vague, undetermined sense of myself as a gendered human, because the idea of having a gender mostly doesn't make sense for me. Most of the time. And that's actually been pretty consistent throughout my life. So I guess that's a thing?
Catch the rest of my 30-week genderqueer challenge here!