I always felt like I was the son my father never had.
Occasionally I’d play with dolls (the expected activity of a young girl), but only to act out lude and sometimes violent scenarios that a child my age should have been too young to conjure. I’d much prefer playing outside, going fishing, playing catch with dad, and starting fights with the neighboring boys.
“Boys don’t wear bikinis,” I thought to myself, observing my bathing suit collection as the neighborhood kids gathered outside. We had the only pool in the neighborhood, so the local kids congregated in our backyard every summer. I sifted through the frilly two-pieces, the polka dotted swim suits. Variations of feminine swim wear. It all felt like a lie. I pulled out the next drawer down, my basketball shorts collection. I plucked out my favorite pair; simple, black and not girly. I slipped them on and made my way own to the pool. Topless.
My older sister was already out on the pool deck with a hoard of children, skimming the pool for fallen leaves and unfortunate bugs who’d fallen victim to the chlorinated water. Out of all of the neighborhood kids, I was the youngest. This meant the last to be included, and the first to be ridiculed.
I exited the house, unnoticed by my peers. I weaved through the parked cars, temporary shielded by their huge masses of metal and glass. As I turned the corner I felt I slight wave of embarrassment. Would they make fun of me?
“Why are you wearing shorts?” Joey, a neighbor from two doors down asked as he looked me over. “Girls don’t wear shorts in the pool.”
“That’s because I’m not a girl,” I retorted quickly. “I decided I didn’t want to be anymore.” He shrugged, turning his attention to our neighbor, Louie, who also shrugged.
“Did you cut your hair AGAIN?!” My sister accused. “Mom is going to freak out.” A satisfied grin crawled across her face as she contemplated my demise. We had an outspoken feud. She relished in the idea of my getting in trouble. We were foes as soon as I crossed into this world. My crime: being born.
To my mothers’ dismay, I had been hacking my hair off for years. The first incident occurred when I was three years old. My mother was busy painting away in her studio, her crafting gear strewn about the room. I stood staring at myself in the mirror, prodding at the ball of hair my mother had fluffed out on my head.
“I look stupid.” I thought to myself. “Boys don’t have fluffy hair.” I reached for the scissors and grabbed a tuft of hair directly in the front, haphazardly shearing through my locks, dropping the wads of hair on the floor. I gripped another handful of hair to continue when my mother turned around. Horror spread across her face, with a slight glimmer of amusement.
“Jenny! No! Your hair!” She shrieked, disarming me and frantically patting at my hair. As if by some miracle it would reattach. “Why did you do this?”
“Because boys don’t have long hair.” I told her, matter of factly.
“You’re not a boy. See this dress you’re wearing? Grandma made this for you because you’re a girl.”
“No. I’ve decided that I’m a boy. My name is Ivy. All of the other kids know. They know that I’m a boy.”
She clasped her face in her hands, momentarily defeated. “If you say so, Jennybean. It’s your playtime.”
The haircutting went on for years. Whenever it started to get a bit long, I’d hack away at my locks; my way of retaining my identity. I dressed in sporty clothes, I befriended boys much more easily than I did girls. And I was attracted to girls. In my mind, this all measured up to the fact that my parents were wrong about me. I was a boy.
I’d seen it done countless times before by the men and boys in my life. Somehow, they peed standing up. I didn’t understand. When I tried to pee standing up, it went all over the place, all over me. How did they do it? Then I thought about the hose we used to fill up the pool and water the grass. My parents would place their finger over the waters current to make it spray. That must be how they do it. They make it spray like a hose. Applauding myself for my ingenious hypothesis, I tried out my theory. I stripped my pants completely off and straddled the toilet bowl. I bent my arm underneath from behind so that my finger was directly behind my pee hole. I pushed hard when I began to urinate, directing the flow with my finger. It was working! I was peeing standing up! I’d figured it out. This is how boys managed to pee.
Delighted at my discovery, I decided to show Mandy, another youngin’ from around the block. Mandy never claimed to be a boy, but that didn’t stop her from dropping trow and direction her pee flow right alongside me.
This is how my mother found us. She was not happy. As you could imagine, there was a lot of trial and error. Most of the pee ended up on the floor.
“Girls pee sitting down!” She tried to explain, losing her cool as she strained to remain calm. “I’m getting tired of this game! You are not a boy, Jennifer! You. Are. A. Girl!”
Furious, I stormed up to my room. Mandy was sent home. I spent most of the afternoon sulking in my room, consulting my dolls on the fact that no one would ever understand me but them. I knew who I was. Everyone else would eventually get used to it. They’d eventually accept the fact that I was actually a boy.
As I grew older, my tenacity faded. I let my hair grow long. My style began to transition. I realized I was also attracted to boys. I became willing to integrate more “girly” garments into my wardrobe. I no longer answered to the name, Ivy. Jennifer would do. I also began to pee sitting down.
Part of me still wonders if that trans-child was suppressed. Was it a phase? Did I honestly believe that I was a boy? Did I succumb to the conditioning of society and the pressure to abide by gender norms? Or was it all a part of the process of identifying myself- working out how I felt the most comfortable being?
I don’t think that part of me has ever dissipated. I’ll always consider myself a “tom-boy,” nurturing the parts of Ivy that still exist. At this point of my life, I am very comfortable with being a woman. But I have never considered myself to be a girly girl. I know how to do my makeup one way. Contour is a foreign concept to me. My hair has two styles: curly and straight. I’ve been told that I, “act like a guy,” especially in regards to romantic affairs. All of the confusing and not so confusing aspects of gender identity. I can’t put a label on it. So I’m not even going to try.