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 […]


  4. Kris says:

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

    Liked by 2 people

  5. ayellowcrayon says:

    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!


  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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