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My parents raised me as a boy. I was born in the late 1990s, and there were Boy Scout campouts and the soccer team, and hours watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, plus plenty of time on the Nintendo Game Boy. Yet, deep down, there was a side of me that didn’t align with all of that. I was on a soccer team, but it was with all girls. I was in Boy Scouts, but my heart was with the Girl Scouts. There were Ninja Turtle toys, but also Care Bears. There was a feminine side just waiting to come free, but how could I have known I was a girl?
Now in my mid-20s, I am just starting to see the woman I am, and embrace her. But I think about the years lost, the time I could have gotten if I knew. The sleepovers with the girls I could have had, the magical makeovers I would have done with friends. Now, in honoring and rewarding my inner girl, I also want to help others make their own inner child proud and happy.
Swim trunks and dresses
I was 15 when I first started to realize that something was off; that there was a gap between how I was being raised, and who I am. I wanted to wear dresses. Whether it was sequined or pink, I wanted to try it. I was making up for lost time. As a kid I wore suits, ties, and even swim trunks, feeling woefully uncomfortable. I envied the girls wearing bikinis and one-pieces. I wanted so badly to don the modest yet always-fashionable Girl Scout vests over the gross Boy Scout uniforms.
Once, I was acting in a film my sister was making. In a pivotal scene, I was in a dress because my character was disguising himself as a girl to win a dance contest. It was all silly, but I knew as I put it on that there was no pretending for me. It felt as real and amazing as it could get. But after we finished the film, the dresses and I went back into the closet. I was told, “those are your sisters’ clothes.”
I knew I would look gorgeous in them if I got the chance. I used to go to friends’ houses and just play dress-up with them. It was wonderful and magical. Today, I still feel that magic. But this time, it’s more than a fairy tale. It’s electrifying, and I feel at home at last.
Going to Girl Scouts
As a youngster, whenever I would hang out with girls, the other boys would tell me I was a “player,” just trying to get with the girls. But talking to the girls felt as natural as waking up every day, and I felt one with them. I thought other boys felt that way, but quickly realized that was not the case. That did not stop me.
I attended Girl Scout meetings, much to the anger of my sister. The Girl Scouts were “her” thing, and she did not want her sibling to take that from her. In the last few years, we have gotten kinder to each other, and have forgiven.
Being one of the girls always meant a lot to me. From joining my first soccer team as a kindergartner, right up into 2023, having community always mattered to me. That’s what hanging out with girls was for me: community and, most of all, hope. It was hope that I am not alone in the world.
My own “ring of keys”
I think many queer people repress their sexuality. For many years, I thought I liked boys, even though, deep down, I knew I fell hard for girls. I have used every sexuality label, and have had different relationships. But it was not until I started attending lesbian and queer-focused functions just last year that I finally felt at home.
Last year, I attended Philly’s OutFest. It was a great day with dancing and drinks. But one moment in the afternoon stood out. I remember talking to these cool queers who were just so sure of themselves and proud of who they are. I envied that about them. As drinks were flowing and drag queens roamed the street, I felt a state of catharsis, a feeling I had not felt since college, that I could really be me. It was my own “ring of keys” moment, like in Alison Bechdel’s memoir-turned-musical Fun Home, on a warm and loving afternoon in Philly where the lights were high and spirits free.
After that day, I tried new labels, like “dyke,” and found women who talked like me and looked like me. The women I saw who identified as dykes were strong and confident; they were sure of themselves and had their own eclectic style. I wanted to be like them.
Being a dyke means more to me than being a lesbian. It means being my own superhero. I want to be a hero to little trans girls who are told they are invalid for being themselves. I want to show them they could rise like a phoenix, spread their wings, and fly. I had been searching for that representation my whole life, and I had finally found it.
The woman I am now
I can think about how I wish I transitioned earlier in life, but what is most important is loving myself. It is about loving the woman I am now. It is, to quote Glennon Doyle, focusing on the “what is instead of the what ifs.”
I want to make my own girlhood. I want to have all the late-night pillow fights, nail-painting sessions, sleepovers with friends, and good times. Growing up, I always wished I could go watch ballet with my sister. Now, I take my theater trips with friends. I will make up for all the lost time in my love life by loving as much as I can. I will honor that little girl of my youth by being true to myself, whether that is doing my makeup, growing my hair out, wearing a gorgeous dress, or putting on lipstick. I reach into the world and step out as the powerful, badass woman that I am.
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