Conscious Aging: Tomboy

I was most decidedly a tomboy growing up. When not in school — where little girls had to wear dresses — I wore sturdy clothes and sneakers that allowed for active, outdoor play. As a small child my best friends were boys, because they played kickball. I had no interest in whatever girls might be doing. I had a full-on Davy Crockett outfit, and a rifle, and I often went around wearing a matching pair of six-guns in holsters. In the summer I went without a shirt as long as I could get away with it, and when a bra and shirt became necessary I was forlorn and felt constrained. I wore my straight hair cut short, and was never attracted to makeup, bangles, or twirly toys.

But I was never confused about gender, or felt wrong in my body, and if I wished at times that I was a boy, it was because boys had more fun and more freedom.

Being a tomboy has actually stood me in good stead as I age, because my consistent activity level has given me muscle tone and energy and joy in using my body.

Writing for the New York Times, Lisa Selin Davis has an article entitled “My Daughter is Not Transgender. She’s a Tomboy”. Writing in defense of her active, boyish-looking girl, Davis speaks out against the over-correction that has prompted the repeat question — from teachers, her pediatrician, and adult friends — whether the child wants to be a boy or be called by a boy’s name. The answer is “no”; the child is an active, casually dressed short haired girl.

In my 1950’s childhood, we didn’t recognized the existence of transgender persons, and the question never came up in my life. Nor did it need to. Like Davis, I’m glad we are more open and supportive of transgender children. But we also need to be at ease and supportive of girls with scraped knees and boys who like dress-up, but are perfectly OK with the body in which they were born.

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