Wednesday, May 02, 2007

When Did You First Realize You Were A Girl? (or Boy?)

There's an interesting conversation going on at Jed's about gender identity.

He actually asks *how* you know you're a girl/boy, but I'm also quite interested in when?

When did you know?

11 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

the only daughter said...

i was probably 3 or 4--my first recollections go back at least that far. as i am a younger sister to a boy child--he made it very clear that i was a girl, i.e. inferior from very early did most of my male cousins. the inferior/girl message continued when i started school at 4.

i'm fairly certain i was educated as to the biological differences from an even earlier age...certainly by 3..toddling around in dresses and short socks, being told to keep my knees together & being careful about toilet seats, all helped to serve up the message...loud.. you're a girl!

Kameron Hurley said...

And see, it's funny, because I don't remember being particularly gendered in the "wear dresses and play nice!" way until I started kindergarten, when going to/getting ready for class became performance art.

La Gringa said...

I guess I stoppped being in denial about it when I was about nine. I kept waiting for MY penis. I was very jealous of my brother - the whole writing your name in the snow thing is very cool when you are a kid.

I do remember when i was five that my mother made me wear a dress and that it was the first time I was conscious of it being a "dress" - ie, gilry clothes. I was really pissed off about it, and refused to wear one again until I started Catholic School, when I didn't have a choice.

It's REALLY hard to beat up boys on the playground when you're wearing a Gordon plaid skirt and knee socks, that's all I'm gonna say...

PerpetualBeginner said...

I don't remember ever NOT being aware of being a girl. I didn't consider it much of a big deal, though. It's just that being an only girl with two older brothers, when everybody in the family wanted a girl, it was always there in my awareness.

I do remember realizing somewhere around six that if I had been born a boy in that situation, it would have really sucked.

Kameron Hurley said...

Yeah, I remember associating a lot of my first awareness of difference with that whole difference in dress and behavior relating to dress, like Only Daughter and La Gringa mention: once you start getting put into dresses, not only do you realize that guys don't have to wear them, but there's none of that whole "keep your legs closed!" and cries for "Modesty!" (my grandmother was especially fond of admonishing my sister and I with "modesty! modesty!" when we wanted to rough and tumble while wearing clothes that billowed)

Djiril said...

I don't remember not knowing, but I do remember thinking that it was hair length that determined gender until my mom explained about boys and girls having different private parts.

Matthew said...

Hmmm. I can't remember a time before knowing that I was a boy. Not only was I a boy, but I was THE boy, champion of the universe at everything. I spent ages 12-20 learning about my limitations and slowly rejecting most of my cultural values, and since then I've had no idea what my gender means to me, if anything.

David said...

For me it goes back further than I can remember. Maybe because I was born in the early 70s, and my parents let my hair grow to "young Mark Hamill" length, and from time to time my mother had to thank strangers for the compliment but explain that the kid in the stroller was in fact a boy.

Since there was never any countervailing evidence (and, since I was an only child, not a lot of other options presented, at least till preschool) it stuck. (It's an easy life here in the unmarked case.)

Also, from an early age I could crack open walnuts for old ladies with my pectoral muscles!

(Okay, that last part isn't true.)

David said...

(You can tell how long ago it was 'cause I had hair.)

Jackie M. said...

La Gringa: That's hysterical.

David: That's also hysterical.

Kameron: I don't really know. I think I'm another example of "as far back as I can remember": as far back as I can remember I used to follow my Mom around the mall, wanting to be able to try on women's clothes. And once we got back home, I'd often pull out every single piece of clothing I owned, and then try on all of the dresses one after the other. (This apparently did NOT involve putting them back afterward.) I always remember knowing I was the same as my Mom, not my Dad--knowing I somebody's daughter.

It might have helped that I had a little brother to compare with. It might have also helped that almost from the moment I started to manifest non-traditionally girly interests (outer space, dinosaurs, action figures, legos, popping the heads off of barbie dolls), my Dad began telling me about feminism and sexism and the women's rights movement. So from an early age I was not only comfortable with my biologically-assigned gender, but also convinced that I was a ground-breaking, 3 year-old feminist suffragette fighter.


As a counter-point to La Gringa's story: after stumbling in on one of my little brother's early potty-training sessions, I ended up having a nightmare in which I found a flabby piece of extra flesh hangin between my legs. I remember thinking it was horrible and embarrassing, and I was willing to do just about anything to get the damn thing off of my body.

Kameron Hurley said...

I was willing to do just about anything to get the damn thing off of my body.

That is hilarious.