When I was a small child, I used to prance around without a shirt on, because I was emulating my brother. I was the quintessential Tomboy. Now, I wear dresses some days, and pants others. I can't be bothered to conform to a societal construct of what a "woman" should be. My dear friend Courtney Keesee identifies as gender fluid. In the following piece, she asserts that she is not a girl.
I Am Not a Girl
By Courtney Keesee
You look at me and see “girl.” Yet, when I look in the mirror, I see no gender. I only see me.
We, as a society, have gotten into this nasty habit of labeling people’s gender and from there, we pre-judge them and hold them to certain standards based on what gender we perceive them to be. In reality, that label might not fit them.
Is it so difficult to look at someone and simply see them as human?
When you look at me, you see a girl. Before ever saying one word to me, before ever getting to know me as a human being, you begin to hold me to artificial societally imposed beauty standards that I could never (and would never want) to reach. In your mind you already have judged the way I should act, how I should talk, and with whom I should talk to. Because I am a female, you have an idea of how I should dress and the way that I should walk down the street. You think you know what books I should read, what my interests should be, and the music I should listen to. You think you know me.
Yet, you don’t know me at all.
Society imposes the same gender restrictions on men. We look at a man and already have a preconceived notion of how he should act; he should be masculine and be able to carry something heavy so he can display his strength outwardly. We too, hold men to these impossible beauty standards; they must have a six pack, their cheek line needs to be to die for. Men’s hair should be clean cut or perhaps resemble one of those models with a man bun. Unless the aforementioned man is a lumberjack, he should be clean-shaven at all times. A man’s voice should be deep and his interests should be automotive in nature. Men should talk about manly things. Oh it’s cold outside? Well they should give their jacket to a girl, because that’s what society expects men to do.
I am not a man. I am also not a girl. What happens when you actually speak to me? When you get to know me, when you see that I do not act, dress, or hold myself to these unattainable beauty standards? What will you say when you realize I am not interested in the things you believe I should be? Or that I have a passion for cars?
Let me answer that for you. You say I am less of a woman or that I need to learn how to act like a woman. This is something I hear almost everyday. I see those looks that you give me and I hear you tell your kids to stay away from me.
The things we say to those boys with a soft touch, the ones who are more in touch with their feminine side, we would be better cutting their balls off completely. What society tells these young men is enough to castrate them. “Learn how to be a man,” and “You’ll never be a man, you are just a boy.” We teach them, drill it into their heads, that they are less of a man because they are in touch with their feminine side. They are inadequate, no good, and will never amount to anything because they aren’t a “real man.”
What kind of world do we live in where we believe it to be ok to say these things to young boys?
Gender is a social construct. “If you are born with these parts you must act this way.” Where is the handbook for being a girl? I think I lost my copy when I was born.
The moment anyone steps outside of what society deems acceptable for men and women, they are thought to be less of a man or women.
God forbid you actually identify as something other than a man or women, as I do, because then you hear things like, “You must not have been able to make it as a woman,” or “Oh honey, you don’t need to make up a gender in order to feel better about yourself. Just lose the men’s clothes and try wearing a little more makeup.” Let’s not forget, “You must have been raised by your father,” and finally “Tomboys are only cute when they are little kids.”
So tell me this, why is it that we constantly pre-judge someone’s gender and hold them to impossible standards? Who decided how men and women should act? Has there ever been someone who met every single one of the standards we hold each other to?
These standards are outrageous and we as a society have grown out of them. We need to start respecting each other and our individuality without holding each other to impossible standards that no human being can meet.
I hope there will be a point in time when we realize that everyone can be masculine and feminine all at once.
I hope one day, I will get to live in a world where I am not told to get out of the bathroom because my hair is short, I’m wearing an oversized flannel shirt, and people think the part between my legs belongs in the men’s’ bathroom.
One day, I hope to live in a world where people are praised for being individuals, and not held to gender standards they can never reach.
You look at me, and you see a girl. But I look in the mirror and see no gender. I see my reflection smiling back at me, because I don’t hold myself to society's ridiculous standards.
Courtney is a gender fluid writer living in southern Virginia. She is a passionate LGBTQ rights activist. She has been featured on Psychology Today. She is a member of the Board of Directors for the mental health non-profit Stigma Fighters. You can read from from here at Courtney's Voice.