I Identify As a Woman Because I’ve Been Marginalized As a Woman
Gender fluidity is the future of feminism. Let’s also hold space for the tensions.
“You’re a nice big brother,” the child at the playground said. I was pushing my younger sister on a swing, doing the “underdog,” while she repeatedly squealed, “Again! Again!”
“I’m a big sister,” I clarified. In my head, I added, And I’m not usually all that nice. I had been caught in a rare moment of generosity — or, more accurately, desperation. My mother was sitting on a bench on the sidelines and I hadn’t yet made any playground friends.
This child looked older than me, perhaps eight years to my six, but still seemed to be promising playmate material — certainly more promising than the tiresome two-year-old on the swing. Yet when I clarified that I was a big sister, not a big brother, she proceeded to flush a deep shade of red. “Oh,” she said, and scurried away.
It wasn’t the first time someone had mistaken me for a boy, and it wouldn’t be the last. My mother kept my mop of curls closely cropped because they were easier to comb through, and though she occasionally stuffed me in frilly frocks on holidays or other special occasions, I was most comfortable in pants and oversized sweatshirts.
In fact, before I could walk or even crawl, my parents jokingly christened me “Little Ricky” because strangers on the street so often stopped to ooh and aah at their adorable baby boy. “That’s our Little Ricky,” they said.
The nickname didn’t stick, but years later, I would be christened with a new one: “Boy with a Vagina.” In college, I liked hanging out with “the guys.” According to them, I was the most “down-to-earth chick” they’d ever met. I preferred beer to sweet girly drinks, and I had a dry sense of humor that was apparently unfeminine.
But growing up, I wasn’t an unabashed “tomboy,” either. Yes, I played handball with the boys during recess. Yes, I was fierce on the basketball court. Yes, I preferred pants and got easily annoyed with “girl drama” and never successfully mastered a cartwheel or a French braid.
I also had tea parties with my dolls. I played “house.” I crushed after boys, filling multiple…