Tomboy

I just finished reading Tomboy, a graphic novel by Liz Prince.  Definitely worthwhile if you come across it.  She recounts growing up as a tomboy, and continues to self identify that way, even as a 32 year old adult.  She’s kinda a rare breed – someone who is cisgender, heterosexual, and a tomboy (it’s not just a childhood phase she grew out of).  She recounts sibling dynamics, friendships, birthday parties, playing in Little League, bullying (there’s a lot of bullying, some of it physical), crushes, relationships, changing schools, basically her life from age 4 – age 18.  For the most part, growing up, she rejected all things “girl,” including girl friendships and feeling OK as a girl.  A big part of the book is her growing into the fact that she is a girl, and that the way she performs “girl,” is acceptable in the same way the way others choose to perform “girl” is.  It’s just different.  Boys / masculinity is not superior.

liz princeA lot of her journey is relate-able.  Wearing a t-shirt over her swimsuit while swimming.  Finding comfort behind a baseball hat that she wears constantly.  Feeling like an outsider – being rejected by both boys and girls.  I can’t believe (and I can believe) the amount of times she was bullied.

It made me reflect on my own childhood / adolescence.  I haven’t written about this at all… yet.  I kinda feel like I was a tomboy and I was not a tomboy.  I looked like a boy from age 10, (cut my hair short, wore boys clothes) but I didn’t feel comfortable with boy stuff or boy friendships.  I had one friend, and she was a tomboy, and I emulated her.  If she wasn’t around, I reverted back to my painfully shy, nerdy self.  I liked learning about endangered animals.  And the 50 states.  And the US presidents.  And the countries of Africa.  I didn’t play with action figures or video games much.  I mostly remember reading and organizing my collections.  And riding my bike a lot.

I honestly don’t have a lot of strong memories of being a kid.  I didn’t have many strong emotions that I can remember.  I was pretty easy – agreeable, liked all foods (except black licorice, stuff with fennel or anise in it).  My parents allowed me to dress the way I wanted, for the most part.  But I still had a hard time asking for explicitly boy’s clothes.  I did get to wear boys clothes; I just don’t remember how that played out – don’t remember being that vocal about it.  Or about anything really.  I didn’t get bullied.  A part of me believes I was too shy to be on peoples’ radars, thankfully.  And plus, my one friendship was solid; we always just played together.  We sat at the “boys table,” something I never would have done on my own.  I was in girl scouts for a couple of years.  I was on a girl’s softball team.

I don’t remember being all that happy, but I don’t remember anything traumatic happening either.  It was just… a neutral childhood.  I didn’t have a lot of strong preferences.

Adolescence is a different story, for sure – a different blog post for a different time!  I do remember my tomboy friend growing out of her tomboy phase starting in middle school, and me being stuck, left to wonder what is going on with me.  I definitely questioned why I wanted to look the way I did.  I didn’t conform though, I just became more and more isolated in my head.

Anyone else relate to being a tomboy?  Being trans and being a tomboy / gender non-conforming child often go hand in hand, but often the two are mutually separate…

 


10 Comments on “Tomboy”

  1. Lesboi says:

    Definitely! I was called a tomboy by the adults all the time and told that I would grow out of it. I didn’t. I have a lot of good memories of childhood as well as some not so good but I think I was generally happy when I was left alone about the girl thing. I don’t remember ever being bullied for being a tomboy but I definitely was for being fat and not very pretty. Good read.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I definitely looked like a tomboy as a kid – up until probably 8th grade I wore primarily sweat pants and baggy Harley Davidson t-shirts (boys ones, not the pink girly ones). My hair was very long but always unbrushed and super tangled. I loved to read, but also played outside a lot and my father was my best friend in the whole world. I think I emulated him more than I navigated to “tomboy” things. On the other hand, though, I was also in choir and ballet (though I was terrible at ballet and hated the makeup I had to wear for performances) and had mostly female friends. I guess for the most part I was definitely a tomboy, even though I’d never questioned my gender or longed to BE a boy. I mostly just wanted to wear what was comfortable and run around in the woods.

    Fortunately, I wasn’t ever really bullied about it (that I can remember). I grew up in a backwoods kind of town anyway, so “grungy earth child who loves Harleys” wasn’t that uncommon of an image. I don’t remember being very conscious of “boy stuff” and “girl stuff”. I had truck toys and Nerf guns and plastic jewels and Barbies. I’d get just as dirty in the woods pretending to be an elven princess as I would a wolf or a velociraptor. I guess I can thank my parents for that, that they didn’t try to push me toward one extreme or the other.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. […] child often go hand in hand, but often the two are mutually separate…     a question posed by janitorqueer on their […]

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  4. Kris says:

    Yeah. Tomboy then and still am. At almost 60. Tomboys unite!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I had a Popple too! What a nosyalgia trip! Thanks for this post Janitorqueer, I’ve ordered the book 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. PlainT says:

    I was so disappointed when tomboys I knew grew out of their tomboy phase and started dressing like heteronormatively “hot” women; I wanted so bad to stay in my tomboy phase but I didn’t want to be the only one.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. dmcco01 says:

    Yay! it’s so great to read about other cis-gender, straight, genderqueer/tomboy women like me! Inside I’m very clear about my identity, but I hate it sometimes because it’s so hard to find men who want to date a woman like me. Sometimes it makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me. But it’s not enough to make me slut up because THAT makes me feel so uncomfortable!

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  8. yeti says:

    I have a couple of transwomen friends that have or do identify as a tomboy. And I myself identified as a tomboy for a while, but that was when I was living as a boy. I would tell friends that I was a boy trapped in a girls trapped in a boys body.

    This also reminds me of a episode of the L word where there is a guy who I dentifies as a lesbian (something I tried to do when I harrased my partner at the time telling her she was a lesbian) and refuses to have penetrative sex with Alice, which frustrates Alice to no end, since she is in her “boy phase.”

    Liked by 1 person


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