It surprises me how often I come across people who still view gender identity as a choice. Obviously I disagree with that statement but it’s not necessarily the word ‘choice’ that I object to. It’s a semantic distinction, the point is moot, it’s resolution doesn’t affect the outcome of the argument, let’s accept the word and move forward. The word I disagree with is ‘a’, as in singular.
When I was about eight years old I chose to live and act as a boy. That was one choice. When I was in the store and my mother told me to select clothes for myself, the colors and styles I liked were far to girly. I chose boy clothes, typically blue or black. Saturday morning, I chose G.I.Joe over Gem. G.I. Joe is still pretty cool after all. I didn’t like music as a kid, I mean I love music, but it was the wrong music, so I didn’t listen to much of anything.
That’s not to say my life was constant misery, all told I had a pretty great childhood – self harm notwithstanding. Could I have lived my life more fully if I had embraced my true self when I was young? Hard to say, I would have been presented with different challenges and perhaps fewer opportunities. Living as a girl with the body of a boy comes with many hurdles, but I’ve learned that the alternative isn’t any better. A girl trying to live as a boy is pretty awkward, even when everyone else believes and supports the lie.
I love the outdoors. My father was a Cub Scout leader, they called him Bagheera. My relationship with my father is complex. In short he is a good man who taught me how to be strong, as well as the price of weakness. I was in the scouting program effectively since birth, and had a number of absolutely incredible experiences through Beavers and Cubs. When I moved on to Boy Scouts my enthusiasm wained. It was a smaller group, there was less camping, and they were all very much boys.
Around age eleven I enrolled in the Navy League of Canada, a precursor program to the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets. I stayed with the cadets program until I aged out at nineteen and joined the reserves, but that’s getting ahead of myself. Cadets had all kinds of wonderful outings, things like camping, skiing and kayaking. I toured naval bases In Halifax and Victoria, I even had the opportunity to go on an exchange with American Sea Cadets. To me one of the biggest appeals of the program, one that I would never admit to myself, was that there were boys and girls, and no one was treated any differently.
I mean sure I was still a freak and an outcast, but I wasn’t because of my gender identity. Everyone else always seemed to know instinctively how to be. I was always guessing, and many times I guessed wrong. My attempts to emulate male behavior were often cringeworthy. I’ve said and done many embarrassing things because I was trying to be aggressive, or make a lewd joke. Sea Cadets provided a sense of order, there was a structure I could follow. I didn’t excel, but at least I could blend in. So long as I never said anything.
I mentioned in my previous post that the Nintendo game Metroid had inspired me to explore the world in search of strength, Cadets was the vessel that carried me. Cadets is also where I was able to foster many of my strongest friendships. My cousin and de facto brother joined cadets a few years after I did. And then there is my oldest and closest friend, who we will call Ash. He and his two younger brothers are the reason I joined cadets in the first place. The three of them have very different personality quirks but they each have the ability to make unfortunate circumstance work in their favor.
I have heard more criticism directed at Ash than anyone else, to be honest I have often been the one directing said criticism. Yet he succeeds and excels through sheer force of will. It’s almost maddening. When I speak of loosing my temper he has suffered the brunt of it, taken it in stride, forgiven and stood by me. He and his brothers count among my strongest supporters in fact. And this seems as good a place as any to leave off for today. Next post I’ll go into teenage school life and joining the reserves 🙂