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.
A 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…