I Don't Fit the Mold

I really, really wanted to be a boy. Maybe it was because three of my brothers and their friends surrounded me as a young child. Maybe it was because I had such a cool dad... I don't know.

But for whatever reason, as a child, I tried my hardest to look like a boy, dress like a boy, and act like a boy.

My dad cut our hair when we were kids, and so I would ask him to cut mine as short as possible, like my brothers. He never agreed to a buzz cut, but he did let me wear it very short. And he and my mother let me wear shorts and pants instead of skirts and dresses. Whenever they talked about my "tomboyish" ways, my mom would simply say, "Don't worry about it. She will slowly grow into her identity."

I was different from most girls. I was weird.

I was so lucky to have such easy-going parents, because during my childhood, I was left free to roam about in the brush that surrounded our home, to go biking for whole days, to climb trees, to build forts, to collect rock samples, and to study all kinds of science. My parents let me go skiing on my own, build and use ski jumps with my brothers, and play hockey, soccer, baseball, and basketball with the guys. They didn’t mind me playing with toy trucks and cars, building all kinds of stuff with wooden blocks, Mecano, and Lego — and having tons of fun doing it all.

Like all my brothers and sisters (there were seven of us kids), I did the dishes, dusted the furniture, washed windows, and cleaned rooms. But what I loved doing the most were the "Dad" things, like helping fix cars, mix cement, build and paint walls, and shovel snow.

If my world had been limited to my family, I might never have discovered that I was not like most girls. But, I went to school and started trying to make friends with other girls.

That is when I found out that my make-believe world was different from theirs. They wanted to play “Mommy” with dolls, whereas I wanted to play “Arctic Explorers,” “First Nations Hunters,” or “Lost in the Wilderness.” They liked wearing bows, ribbons, dresses, and dress shoes, whereas I found such apparel very impractical for jumping, skipping, sliding, running, skiing, and hanging upside down from monkey bars.

My interests were different. My tastes and priorities were different. I was different from most girls. I was weird.

The solution was easy — ignore the stereotypes, and simply be who I was.

Of course, eventually (later for me than for most girls), puberty hit, and I could no longer deny that I was a girl. And although I never grew to appreciate the menstrual cycle my body imposed on me, I did grow to like what I looked like in a bathing suit. And when I developed my first crush on a boy, I definitely knew I was a girl, even if I was kind of a weird girl.

As a teen, I realized that the problem I had struggled with as a child had nothing to do with my gender. What I struggled against were the sexual stereotypes of my day, that said I should enjoy doing things I never did enjoy doing, that I should not enjoy doing things I greatly enjoyed, and that I should not want to study or work in the areas I really wanted to study and work in.

When I realized the true problem was harmful, limiting stereotypes, the solution was easy — ignore the stereotypes, and simply be who I was.

As my mother predicted, I did grow into my very own, unique identity.

Today, I hear a lot of people talk about gender issues, and it makes me very thankful for parents who simply told one another, "Don't worry, she will grow into her identity," and then left me utterly free to pursue my interests and dreams, no matter how unique they were, without ever telling me something silly like, "Girls shouldn't do such things."

If people are criticizing you simply because you do not fit their stereotypes, don't go through it alone. Fill out the form below, and one of our mentors will be happy to encourage you to discover the unique and wonderful person you are.

Photo Credit: Kirstyn Paynter