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… a question posed by janitorqueer on their blog.
Growing up I constantly fought with my parents over my clothing choices, they wanted me to dress in girl clothes and I wanted boy clothing. From as early as I can remember, probably about 4-5 yrs old, I would always go for the more boyish looking items in my clothing…the little jeans, the coveralls and t’shirts. In the summer it was cut off shorts and as boyish a shirt as I could find. Yes, I was a tomboy for sure. From the very beginning of my conscious existence I wanted nothing to do with girl things, period.
My parents made me keep long hair until I was about 7. The summer of that year we moved to Troy New York to an old farm and Mom took us to get hair cuts, I was allowed to cut my hair to a pixie cut….as one can imagine, this did wonders for my ego, as well as my tomboy status. I was in heaven with that short hair cut.
Was I aware at the time that I was a tomboy? I’m not sure of that. I definitely knew that I felt different from the other girls. I didn’t feel like one of them, like a girl at all. I felt more like a boy, and wanted to be a boy for a long time. Maybe I never out grew it even. I loved hanging out with the boys, doing the boy activities like playing Army or cowboys and Indians, apple wars (our farm was a former orchard) and building tree forts. I could throw a baseball from center field to home plate with no problem, and did I love my sandlot baseball games!!! I was also leader of the pack so to speak, I would step forward to organize games and activities like a boss.
I think as time went on and I advanced through school grades my tomboy image became more apparent to those around me. Kids don’t gender each other negatively as much. But once they begin to form opinions and take on their parents’ prejudices around the age of 10, things change. It was around then that I really began to notice that my dressing attire was more boyish than the other girls. I always knew that I was Gay anyway, even way back when I was small my little fantasies were of me and other girls, never of boys. I would secretly pretend I was going to marry a girl someday. And my little games of house, where I was always the husband, always included kissing the girl who was my pretend wife.
High school was rough for me. I was well liked, don’t let me mislead you on that, but I was different. I was a rough, tough and tumble sort of kid. I never grew past 5’4″ which I hit my Sophomore year of high school. I hated girls clothing; loathed it especially bras. I didn’t like the fact I was developing breasts, and they were a pain in the ass. My father noticed my dressing habit and insisted that I wear dresses to school 4 days a week (this actually happened in 8th grade), and I could wear pants on Friday if they were girly pants. I went ballistic as you might imagine. I even took it so far as to run away from home for 3 days, living in the woods by our information center and having friends bring me food – little bastards also set me up to be captured on the 3rd day! I wanted to wear jeans, I wanted to dress my own way. If I had had my choice back then (late 70’s) I would have shopped exclusively in the boys department.
I started to run with a more seedy crowd about then. I started to smoke cigarettes and pot. I had dabbled with cigarettes that I used to steal from my parents’ supplies before that, but in high school I started buying my own packs. I had my own money because I got my first job at 14, my freshmen year, at a small take-out food place and I worked as much as I could. I also started to notice girls, and had several “girl crushes” along the way.
Having my own money source changed things considerably. It felt good. My parents were not rich, they were struggling, working class people, trying hard to raise 5 kids and keep the house they owned in one piece. My Dad was the epitome of manhood. He worked his ass off at usually 2 jobs, night and day, and was never home. I was personally petrified of the man. He had a temper and his lectures were harsh. Never did he strike us kids, but we were always afraid of his wrath, his restrictions, and his authority. My mother would say “wait til your father gets home.” And we would literally beg and cry at her not to tell him of our infractions. And my mother was the ultimate working mom, somehow always there when we got home from school days after working all morning.
So, anyway, having my own money around then changed things because I could fund my own growing bad habits, pay for gas for friends cars, and buy some of my own clothes — clothes that I wanted! It was around this time that I bought my first pair of boots, shit kickers we called them. They were brown suede hiking boots with red laces. Thus began my boot fetish. I was never again without a good pair of boots. And there were the hip hugger jeans, that my parents hated and I was forbidden to wear to school. Still I could not wear denium to school, that would last through my senior year. I was allowed to wear corduroys, which were styled just like Jeans and made by Levi’s even. I would frequently sneak a pair of jeans to school in my backpack and change before I got to school grounds.
In High School I was in charge of making it to school on my own. I had 3 choices of getting there. I could ride the bus with the little kids and get dropped off at the high school, or I could get a ride from my friend Vernon in his cool brown Chevy pick up truck, or I could ride my 10 speed bicycle. Walking wasn’t an option, as it was several miles to the school and I would never have made it on time. Although there were many days that I walked home from school after detention period. I usually skipped the bus option, because I could ride with Vern and get stoned on the way in. The 10 speed was my second choice, and I used to revel in the ride. It was great first thing in the morning, as the cool sea air made the ride pretty pleasant. The freedom to be myself was slowly coming to me.
In school I was a troubled kid. I made B grades though, and some A’s. I was running with the wild crowd though. I did try playing sports for a while, but I was a gawky kid. I didn’t feel like I fit in with the jock crowd at all. Plus the locker room was a VERY uncomfortable place for me as I was super body conscious. I gave up sports my sophomore year after the season for softball ended. The rest of high school I just concentrated on trying to make it through to 18 so I could flee this small town that I lived in. I tried dating boys, but I hated it because I knew it wasn’t me. I discovered that the store near the ball field was owned by two “lesbians”….first time I heard that word I knew I was one of them.
I had encouraging teachers at school who knew I was prone to trouble and who seemed to care and tried to keep me busy. My art teacher encouraged me to love my art work and my English teacher pushed me to write and helped me develop a passion for writing. My shop teacher loved that I loved wood and metal shop so much that I never skipped his class! Algebra was an epic fail for me, but consumer math I excelled at and got straight A’s…I could work with accounting but not with X=Y crap.
At this point my typical dressing style was corduroys (per parents) or jeans, a button down shirt and a dark brown corduroy jacket, styled like a jean jacket. It’s all I could get away with with my parents. And those glorious hiking boots. I was fairly happy with this, until the day I got called “lezzie” by one of the guys in my gang. That day changed things a bit. He said it because his girlfriend was my best friend and we were both tomboys, hung out together all the time and were inseparable, he got jealous I think, and thus in front of the rest of the gang called us a couple of “Lezzies”…I was mortified and felt so exposed. I had the typical girl crush on my bestie, but never had I pursued that crush. That was basically the end of us hanging out together so much. And the beginning of me realizing that I had to cover my tracks or I would be “found out” that I really was a lesbian.
I graduated from high school at 18 1/2 and was super eager to get out of my parents house. The drinking age was 18 and on my 18th birthday I had one hell of a party at my house, with my parents permission. I had taken to hanging out with my buddy Billy, racing around town in his jalopy cars and smoking pot at Dead Duck Inn, which was a park near the water. I was a hell raiser and bound for trouble. Billy was safe for me, he liked me I know, but I knew he was too shy to ever try anything and I could be my tomboy self with him. Still to this day we are friends. Our parents always thought we would marry, until it became apparent I was lesbian.
After I graduated I went buck wild and moved in with my then boyfriend Christopher. After a couple of months of drug fueled nights and scary days, and him wanting to have sex and me not wanting to have sex with a guy. We had a big fight and it turned violent. I had to flee the house, and I felt that I needed to get out of the small town we lived in quickly. So I joined the US Army and was a soldier 3 days later.
The Uniforms made me happy, dressed like all the guys. The boots made me happy, my boot fetish got bigger. The guns made me happy, and the crawling through the woods and fields, sleeping in foxholes and avoiding sniper fire all made me incredibly happy. I was a tomboy in my total element, and I loved it. Those years of sandbox Army were paying off. I even started playing Army softball, with a bunch of other lesbian identified women. Some were also tomboys, and some were not. But most all of them were secretly lesbian, as the Army at that time frowned on women sleeping with women.
There I met my first real lover. She was a blonde girl from Pennsylvania and was more girly than me, but still not too girly and I liked that. She complimented my tomboy stature quite well I thought. She introduced me to sex, gay bars, and Jack Daniels whiskey. And by this time I had completely discarded any clothing that resembled girly clothing from my wardrobe, except the necessary evil under things. At that time it wasn’t really known that I could get boxers or boxer briefs and be more comfortable, it just wasn’t done then. The early 80’s were not fun times for LGBT people, especially those of us in the US military uniform.
Around that time I heard the word “Butch” for the first time….other than as my Dad’s nickname….used to describe the tomboyish women in my Army unit. And I knew that that word described who I felt that I was…Butch. I didn’t use the word to identify myself for several more decades, as it was a more derogatory term for quite a long time. But I always knew it was my true identity. I didn’t feel female, nor did I feel male. But I was somewhere in that gray area in the middle. I for years refrained from using it to identify myself. I was made to feel that my masculine presentation was somehow wrong, even though I was just being me; just being myself.
Years later, decades later actually, I would understand the Butch-Femme dynamic, know the history of my people and be proud to take “Butch” as my gender marker. Going from easily being called Tomboy to being called Butch was as simple for me as someone going from being called a girl to a woman. It felt right, it felt strong, and it felt like ME. I am Butch.