Author: Tsara Shelton
Author Contact: @TsaraShelton on Twitter
Published: 19th Jan 2022 - Updated: 6th Sep 2022
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Additional References: LGBTQ Stories - Mainstream Publications
Summary: A story about asking questions related to gender and getting answers that explained how things are while leaving room for more.
It is of value to listen to our children as they build and share the beliefs they have about the world and themselves. It is of value to the world and our children when we guide them with our knowledge while leaving room for them to discover their own. My mom did this for me well when, as a little girl, I asked her when I would become a boy.
When I was little I assumed in an absolute manner that one day I would go from being a girl to being a boy. It seemed unquestionable and obvious to me. I didn't have a desire to become a boy, I didn't have a feeling of having masculinity inside me at all and, quite the contrary, loved to imagine myself the prettiest little girl in the history of pretty little girls. But I also knew for a fact that one day I would be a boy, and I was absolutely okay with that.
Eventually, at an age I can't quite recall but know as being a little old to still hold this belief so certainly, I approached my mom for some clarification.
"Mom?" I asked, a little shyly.
"Hmmm?" she replied over her steaming coffee mug, smiling at me expectantly and taking a pull on her cigarette.
"When will I be a boy?" I think I was quiet as I asked. I was a shy little thing, but not with mom. However, I did want her to see me as wise, so not knowing was something I sometimes felt nervous about.
"What do you mean?" she asked with interest, placing her cigarette in the ashtray. Not a hint of amusement, in my memory. Simply interest in me and my question.
"When will I become a boy? Right now I'm still a girl, and I like that, but I want to know when I get to be a boy. Will I wake up a boy one day or does it take time, like when you have a baby and they take time in to grow in your tummy?"
"Why do you think you will become a boy, sweetie?" She looked surprised, as if she didn't already know about it. It still didn't occur to me that I could be wrong since the knowledge was so certain in me, I was watching and listening to her from that knowing place. So I explained it for her.
"Well, if you are born a girl, one day you become a boy. And if you are born a boy, one day you become a girl. Because that way we all get a turn to be both." I looked up at her to see if she understood.
However, she simply smiled and told me I had it wrong.
"Oh, no, that's not how it works, Tsara. You are a girl now and will always be a girl. Unless youchoose to change that. It won't just happen to you."
"That doesn't make sense, mom." I was confused. How could she not know? My mom, so brilliant and beautiful and smart. So certain of things. Yet this simple fact had eluded her. "You can't be only a girl or only a boy, you have to have a turn for both."
She began to explain to me that she had been born a girl, and was now a woman. That I was right about change, but the change was different than I had believed. Honestly? I was shaken. It didn't bother me to know I wouldn't be a boy, but it really shook me to learn something I absolutely KNEW to be true, something no one had taught me or told me but seemed clearly at the base of reality and hence not in need of teaching or telling, was wrong.
I was a lucky little girl. My mom was kind. She didn't ignore me or find me silly. She also didn't take my misunderstanding so seriously that she felt compelled to over-explain, push, or worry. She simply listened to me as though my thoughts mattered and told me what she knew to be true, and let me assimilate it all in my own way.
However, I didn't like it at first. It is an uncomfortable position to find yourself, having to reexamine everything you think and believe when discovering it was built around something you hadn't examined and had simply presumed, and now you need to start at the center of your belief building in order to reorganize and look for places you may have made other errors or, painfully, embarrassed yourself.
How many times, I wondered, had I said around friends, "When I'm a boy, I will/won't...."? What had they thought of me? What had they said behind my back? How many times, I also wondered, had I made plans for my future that depended on me being a boy? Or a man? It was quite a lot. And now everything had changed and my world had been rocked.
I would begin imagining a different me for my future.
Back then, though, I was still young. Still used to being wrong and learning the stuff that we build our beliefs around. So it wasn't as painful or challenging as it is now, now that I've built so much and so high and so far and so deep that making a change at the center of it is far reaching and means so much more work and, yes, can be more embarrassing.
If you know me well, you already know this story. Of me thinking people were born one gender and then turned into the other. You know this story because I keep it around, it helps to remember it. Remember how certain I was it was true, how gracefully my mom helped me rethink it, and how many things I felt upon having to make the change. Ultimately, I was happy. Because I did like being a girl. And I especially liked knowing one day I would be a woman; one day I would be a mom.
It's worth remembering that even as we grow older and wiser, we still believe things that are wrong. It's okay, and it's universal. Hopefully, we will rethink gracefully and share our beliefs with both a willingness to change and an understanding that others might be shocked by our revelations and, themselves, choose to change.
Some changes do just happen to us: most of us who are born girls do become women when puberty happens.
Some changes are chosen: some of us who are born girls want to become boys and discover or invent ways to do so.
Whether the change happens or is chosen, we can always be open and able to reevaluating the foundation and beliefs we are growing them out of.
I was born a girl.
Beyond that, I am mostly building the rest.
* * *
Tsara Shelton, author of Spinning in Circles and Learning From Myself, is a contributing editor to SexualDiversity.org Tsara's personal blog can be found at tsarashelton.com Keep up to date with Tsara's latest writings by following @TsaraShelton on Twitter.
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• (APA): Tsara Shelton. (2022, January 19). Personal Essay: Born a Girl. SexualDiversity.org. Retrieved September 23, 2023 from www.sexualdiversity.org/literature/stories/964.php
• Permalink: <a href="https://www.sexualdiversity.org/literature/stories/964.php">Personal Essay: Born a Girl</a>