As a girl in elementary school, I was naturally an energetic child. I liked to play soccer with boys, play with my dinosaur toys, and build forts in the woods. I was living my best childhood, until the fourth grade. This is when people, adults and friends, began calling me a “tomboy.” Even when I was this young, I remember thinking, “What is a tomboy?”
I soon pieced together that a tomboy is a girl who likes doing things that boys did. Pondering over this more and more, I still couldn’t figure it out. My brother and I liked playing together and we did the same things, so what makes me a boy? I never thought of anything I did as belonging to a specific gender. This was even more true because I also liked to play with dolls, I liked the color pink, and I liked to paint my nails.
In middle school, I started to reject the color pink, avoided shopping, and refused to wear dresses, since this was perceived as being “girly” and I was only a “tomboy.” This caused an identity crisis for twelve-year-old me. Somehow, I felt like I was supposed to be an “ideal” girl, but I was falling short. One example is how I could never accept that I was pretty, because I was a tomboy.
I grew up and discovered that we are all people, with interests and qualities that contribute to who we are. Although tradition might tell us that our traits and behaviors are specifically masculine or specifically feminine, this is untrue. Identifying males can be “feminine” and identifying females can be “masculine.” Gender is a construct and does not determine your qualities, traits, interests, or beliefs.
The danger in imposing a specific set of characteristics on a person is that they never become who they are, instead, they become who they are told to be and act how they are told to act. In this way, there is no development of individuality. There would be no opinions, no thoughts if everyone was a no one. This danger is also complemented by a fear of difference and the inability to accept. There should be no fear of what is different, because everyone is different. We may have some similarities, but at the end of the day you will never know how I’ve perceived my experiences, and vice versa. There is no reason to condemn those who live a different life. If you are allowed to be yourself, why can’t others?
At the end of the day, it is your life; you should do what you want because you are the one who has to look in the mirror. Love yourself for who you are and love others for who they are. You are the only one who experiences your life, so live the best one.
Image by Jooyoung Park