For Tomboys Everywhere

4 years ago
This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.

Recently, I was talking with my brother. It was obvious something was distracting his attention, but I didn't want to push.

Suddenly he smiled. "You're who Courtney needs to talk to!"

"Okay. What is she going to talk to me about?"

He sighed. "A couple of weeks ago I was tired. She asked me what a transvestite was." He closed his eyes and shook his head. "I told her, but it was more like I blew her off." He sighed again. "She jumped on her computer and began researching it. She was looking for some answers that I didn't give her. She looked up everything from gay to transvestite to pansexual."

"What's pansexual?"

He reached over to a table and handed me a report, rather crude, but very near college level research.

"She took everything she found and put it into a report."

Still looking over the extensive report's contents, I looked to my brother. "I'm the person she needs to talk to about this?"

He laughed. "Not this, I just wanted you to read this, it's impressive. I need you to talk to her about being a tomboy."

I sit blank faced not understanding the connection of the sexual orientations and being a tomboy, and then it hits me, she looked up sexual orientation instead of tomboy.

As a Black woman, the very last person I want to hear from is the person that starts a conversation with I don't have anything against... or I'm not prejudice but... Yet I'm compelled to say that I have absolutely nothing against the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transsexual) community. As a veteran, I was a supporter of overturning don't ask, don't tell and I support gay marriage; but I think other voices need to be heard or at the very least, all possible options should be on the board. Before you get out your cross and nails to crucify me, hear me out.

Unlike a lot of adults, I actually remember what it was like growing up. I remember my friends and even some of the issues we discussed, way back in the early 70s. I remember Brian and his older sister Carletta; they had a really cool English accent. They had just moved to the States and their mother had recently passed away. But none of that is what made them special. They were special because Brain was openly gay. I don't remember if it was Brian or if it was Carletta, but they were able to get everyone to accept him for who he was. There were no fights, no one teased him, no one picked on him and most importantly, everyone liked him. He played with dolls with the rest of the girls. He jumped rope with the rest of the girls. He talked hair, fashion, music, and dancing with the rest of the girls. While I realize how huge it was to be openly gay, back then the big deal was that Brian made it okay for the rest of us to openly be ourselves also.

Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there were people somewhere that gave Brian a hard time because he was gay, but not in our immediate neighborhood, at least not that I knew of. Brian jumping rope with the girls opened the door for a few of the guys that just liked double-dutch and wanted to play. He opened the door for the guys that wanted to bake everyone cookies, to bake everyone cookies. He made it okay for the girls that wanted to play softball, basketball, and football to do just that. Brian's presence created a modern culture, ahead of its time, that allowed everyone to participate in whatever they wanted to more than forty years ago. As a result, I had lots of company growing up as a tomboy.

I remember being eight, nine, ten years old and feeling different than the other girls and sometimes being called names. Many of the girls were interested in boys, I was not. Many of the girls were interested in makeup, I was not. Many of the girls were focused on their looks, I was not. Many of the girls adored the girly doll games, I played with dolls only to have a reason to play with my female friends; given a choice, except for my best friend Michele (a girly girl), I would have preferred playing with the boys. After all, Barbie, Dawn and the Easy Bake oven were fun to play with but there was just something about G.I. Joe, H.O. race cars and softball that appealed to me more.

I also remember some of the other kids questioning my sexuality before Brian was around. At that age there were girls I thought were gorgeous and sweet, but there were boys I thought were gorgeous and sweet also. At that age you could have dropped me on an island with another girl and it would not have been a big deal, we could have made a life there, but if you had dropped a boy there I would have been a lot happier; we could have spent our lives exploring the island and fishing. At eight, nine or ten years old my interest in boys could be categorized as which ones would be on my softball team, not which ones I could date. Just past the age of sixteen, I was more interested in softball and football than boys and dating and as a result, after the age of twelve and on to sixteen, my friends changed and my playmates grew to be several years younger. Despite the fact that my interest in boys seemed to have started late, or later, the other girls my age were very interested in boys or at least they seemed to express the interest.

Thankfully, because of Brian, I wasn't completely alone. I don't know how we knew, whether or not some adult told us or if one of the older kids pointed it out for us, but we were tomboys and it was cool that I wasn't the only one. While my friends seemed to outgrow the sports I was interested in, I was able to maintain my friendships with them all; occasionally sitting on the steps of the school to catch up or hanging out in someone's basement. I think, because of Brian, it was easier to be the person we really were rather than try to fit into preset molds; at least it was for me.

I looked over the research my niece had done, and academically, I was very proud of her efforts. For a ten year old she had put together a very complex report on sexual orientation that, based on information content, could support a college thesis. She found gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, transsexual, transvestite, pansexual, poly sexual, polyamory, omni-sexual, tri-sexual, metro sexual, androgyny, gender queer, gender fluid, drag king, drag queen, and alternative lifestyles. I also have to admit that at least seven of them, I had never heard of and it made very interesting and educational reading. On the other hand, it saddened me to think that this beautiful ten year old girl lived in a world that pressed her, at the age of ten, to go looking for her sexual identity.

Together we sat down to research tomboy. As we began researching tomboy, we found Tomboy fishnet stockings, Tomboy soap, a 1985 movie of the same title, Tomboy UNIX and LINUX software and pictures of scantily clad, bare breasts animi-girls. There were a few pictures of tomboys -- pictures that looked a lot like boys. After wading through all of the poor descriptions of tomboy that were found, we continued and learned that in some Asian countries, a tomboy is a lesbian.

As we searched for information on tomboys there was nearly none and what was available was wholly inadequate; which is why I was asked to speak to my niece to help her understand that while it was okay to think of herself as pansexual (a person that can love male and female genders, transgendered, androgynous, and gender fluid people) she actually was just like her aunt, a tomboy. I had to wing it and we spent the afternoon talking sports, video games and how we hated shopping. We discussed the comfort of jeans and the problems of trying to keep our hair neat while avoiding "hard to keep, girly" styles. We were in agreement that bras were totally uncomfortable, still. I could see her tension melt away as we talked. A few days later my brother called me and told me his basketball watching buddy was back to smiles and giggles.

Growing up has always been hard, but growing up in a world with so much information, has got to be totally insane. Don't get me wrong, I think it is amazing that GLBT kids can Google or Bing the information they need to help them get an understanding of who they are and where they may fit in our society. Within minutes they can get a ton of information on various lifestyles. That doesn't even count the number or variety of Kinsey quizzes that are available to assist them in determining where they are in their sexual orientation. This has got to make growing up for them easier, understanding where they fit in the world, knowing that they are not alone.

If I had had all of the information currently available when I was that age, it may have been very good for Brian (who was openly gay at eleven), but I think it may have been very confusing for the rest of us. The reality of it is that of the girls I grew up with, only one is lesbian and one is bi-sexual, the rest of our group is heterosexual. We talked to try to figure out where we fit in the world and if we had had all of the information that is currently available, at that age, I would have decided that I was pansexual, just as my niece did. I fully believe that the majority of the girls I grew up with would have made the same decision, but some would not have and may have been led to a path they probably should not have been on.

Once again, I am sympathetic to the GLBT cause, but you guys scream so loudly, no other voice can be heard, even when there is a genuine need to be heard. What happens to the little girl that doesn't have an aunt that was a tomboy? Should she possibly move into a bi-sexual or lesbian relationship or try to create a pansexual identity as she gets older after coming to the same conclusion as my niece? While I honestly believe that there is nothing wrong with being in bi-sexual, lesbian or any of the other relationships, I also believe, if the person isn't really bi-sexual or lesbian, just as a gay or lesbian person should not be in a heterosexual relationship, a heterosexual person should not be in a gay or lesbian relationship. Some may think that if the person isn't GLBT then the odds are that they wouldn't find themselves in a bi-sexual or lesbian relationship. I disagree. I understand that in addition to being a tomboy, that I and several other female friends have had girl crushes or found females attractive. I understand that once we accept a specific label, without solid evidence to disprove it, we try to live up to the labels we give ourselves. I understand that if I had found myself with the information available today, I could see myself having had a relationship with a female, (especially my best friend whom I adored and who adored me) before I became sexually active; yet the only thing a female can do for me sexually is tell me where the men are.

It seems to me, that one of the reasons that so much information is available is to assist the GLBT kids in learning who they are, so they don't have to go through the process of getting involved with people they would not be interested in and prevent the hurt of both parties. Shouldn't the tomboy be given the same opportunity? Shouldn't the girl that is a tomboy be allowed to be a little butch without really having to actually be "butch"? Can't the girl that isn't the girly girl have a way of identifying who she is without being made to feel she should be thinking of one day marrying Mary? Metrosexual was created to distinguish between gay men and men interested in previously feminine tasks, such as shopping, manicures, pedicures and facials. With so many options available to the GLBT community, maybe, just maybe they should think about including one more to help exclude those that don't belong, tomboy.

I'm interested on your thoughts on tomboys.

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