Monday, October 24, 2016

What matters to us?

I still remember the first time I heard a person speak about me--he was on a phone call--and refer to me as "a girl" from young life.

A what? What did he call me?

Now, let me take a step back and note that I knew I was female. I'd noticed. I'd done everything I could to prevent the onset of puberty, and I had hated puberty every step of the way. I had checked out a Star Wars comic and resolutely read it all through every health class at school. I answered every health class test question as vaguely as I could, and whenever my mother forced me to accompany her into the bra and underwear section of a department store I did everything I could to simultaneously disappear and avoid eye contact with anything that was on display.  Once when I was very young, one of my uncles told me that if I licked my elbow I would turn into a boy. I was smart enough to know that one cannot lick one's own elbow, but still, in secret, I tried. I told members of my family that when I grew up I was going to have myself "fixed," like a dog or cat, so I wouldn't have to menstruate. I was devastated when all of that bloody mess started. I lasted as long as I could without resorting to a bra. (Sweatshirts work wonders.) I heard that sleeping in a bra could stunt your breast growth, so I always slept in one. Maybe it was different when I was a toddler, but as far back as I can remember I hated skirts, I hated tights, I hated frilly frou frou anything. I never understood why or how all the other girls were so excited to grow up and be women--the idea of doing so disgusted me.

I'm not transgender. I'm not a lesbian. (Bicurious at best.) I don't self-identify as a man. But did I ever really feel comfortable as a girl? Do I feel like a woman now?

No. In fact, as an adult I still avoid referring to myself by any kind of gendered label. When I do inadvertently put myself in a corner where I must, I still always stumble over the word "woman."

In fact, as a young child, I declared war on girlhood. I took everything I could find that a person might associate with girls and I shoved it all in a box labeled "fuck that shit" and locked it, and I left it there for years. I spent somewhere between five and ten of my most formative childhood and adolescent years engaging in the highly damaging practice of defining myself only as NOT THAT. Goddamn it, you motherfuckers, I AM NOT THAT. I first started wanting to kill myself soon after I hit puberty--or rather, soon after puberty hit me. I used to have fistfights with my best friend from school, because it didn't make me feel girly. In the gym locker rooms, I always changed under my shirt. I remember the day my dad sat me down and told me that it was time I started wearing more skirts to school, and if looks could kill, I'd have become an orphan that day. Seventh grade was, I think, the year I developed my rage.

So I guess this is me telling you, whomever, that all this mess I thought I'd left in my childhood is still here inside me.

I can tell, because I've been shaking uncontrollably since the third sentence. And it's not cold in here.

What do you even call a person who just didn't want to be anything?

It doesn't matter. I don't want a label. I guess that's the whole point. I just want to be a human person.

This all started out, I started writing tonight with the intent of explaining that even though I'm...whatever I am, it doesn't matter. It isn't the most important thing about me.

And that's true, I think. But maybe it's more important than I've been telling myself.