This is going to be a 3 part entry. The first part being my experience, the second part being my daughter’s experience, the third part being my daughter & I’s experience together.
Part 1: Me
I was always a quiet child for the most part. I would rather read & keep to myself than attend social functions or “hang out”. I never really “fit in”. I didn’t like barbies, but favored Legos & Transformers instead. No one told me this was strange. It was what it was. But as I got older & further into school the other students let me know how “wrong” I was.In second grade I was a loner. Most of the girls were into makeup, fairy princesses & dreaming about their wedding day where as I loved to play in the dirt, collect bugs & read books about science. I didn’t wear dresses, or worry about my hair. To this day I’ve never had my hair in a french braid. I was ignored by the other students for the most part, until one day.. I was collecting my things to change classes when I was approached by two boys who told me to “Hurry up, bitch”. They proceeded to berate me with insults about how I looked like a boy, they asked me if I had a “dick” & then one of them shoved me. I stood up & said “You can’t do that”, then one of the boys (we’ll call him “T”) cocked back his fist. This boy, T, just the year before gave me my first kiss on the cheek. Now, he released his fist & punched me in the side of the head. Only a few inches where he kissed me the year before. I don’t recall anything after that. The rest of this was filled in from other students & the teacher. I hit the ground & laid there for a moment as the teacher ran out of the room to get another teacher, who came into the room & left to get another teacher & so on & so on until the principal was finally brought to the room.
I soon stood up just to be kicked down by another boy “S” with a blow to the back of my knee. I hit my face on the floor. Another boy “E”, rolled me over, straddled me & proceeded to slam my head into the floor. The last of this another boy “A” lifted my head up by my hair & tried to cut one of my eyes open with a pair of scissors, luckily he missed my eye, but instead cut me right below it. He let my head fall to the floor with a crack as the principal walked in. My 7 year old body lay bruised & bloodied on the floor, 4 boys standing near, I was finally picked up & brought to the nurses office where I was given ice for my black eye, bruised face, & the back of my head & a bandaid for my eye. I was then sent back to class. When I got home from school my mom freaked out. She immediately brought me to the hospital where I was diagnosed with a concussion. The school sent home a suspension with me, for fighting. My mom sued the boys’ parents for the cost of the medical bills. We had to have a counselling session with the boys who when told that they weren’t allowed to hit girls said “She don’t look like no girl”. As the ridicule & beatings continued through 5th grade I would often try to break my fingers so I wouldn’t have to go to school.
This stopped when I reached 6th grade & began to wear makeup & act like the other girls, in 7th grade I had a perm, my nails were acrylic & pink, my clothes were tight. I was a typical girl. That summer I discovered grunge, metal & rock music. I started wearing guys’ wide leg pants, a chain wallet & black band shirts & the hell started all over again. Girls called me a “lesbo” & shunned me to get dressed in the bathroom of the locker room, the boys called me a “freak” as well as “lesbo” & “fag”. They would repeatedly pullout their penises when they would catch me alone & threatened to turn me straight. Even thought I was not a lesbian, it didn’t matter, I wore the costume of the boys, & therefore an object of ridicule. When I would complain to the administration about the harassment they told me that I “brought it upon myself for dressing likethat“. My mom just told me to ignore it, that the girls were just jealous of me, & the boys secretly liked me. The physical & mental abuse were just too much for me. I was no longer able to go outside my house. The anxiety attacks consumed my life. I spent most of the school year & summer laying in bed, unable to move unless the numbers on the digital clock were divisible by 2 or 5 or ended in :00. I developed an eating disorder & at 14 weighed under 100lbs.
Part 2: Acadia
Acadia is an amazing child. She is smart, funny & easy to get along with. She cares deeply for others & will stand up for people. Once we were shopping for a present for my cousins daughter who likes princesses. This little boy, about 5 or 6, came by, picked up a princess wand & started to play with it. His mom saw this & begin to taunt him “What? You a little girl now, huh? You a princess, boy?” & laughed at him. Acadia became enraged. She yelled at his mom “Who cares what he likes? It’s just toys! It’s not that big of a deal!”. The mom looked at her, then at me, then shot me a look that said “shut that child up”. I was so proud. My daughter understood more about life than most adults. We picked out something & left the store. Acadia loves dinosaurs, birds, bugs, Marvel superheroes, video games, comic books & reading. She watches documentaries about undersea life, outer space, time travel, & paleontology. She isn’t ashamed for who she is. To her, there isn’t a division between boys & girls except that girls can have babies & breast feed, but we are all basically the same.
This school year, Acadia entered 1st grade. At 7, she is the oldest since her birthday falls after the cutoff date. Everything is school was going fine, until January when she started acting up in class. She got F’s almost everyday in a month for her behavior & would tell us she hated school & never wanted to go back. This February the truth finally came out, three boys in her class were punching her & teasing her. She was too smart, she liked “boy” things” & “didn’t look like a girl”. Every other Friday they have a “Dress down” day where they can wear regular clothes instead of their uniform. The night before Acadia picked a plain brown shirt over her new Marvel Heroes shirt. Her reason for the choice was that she knew they would make fun of her. Come the next morning she decided that she would wear her Marvel shirt because she loved it so much. They told her she was wearing a “boys’ shirt”, asked her if she was a boy, & teased her relentlessly about it. I remembered the terror, the pain, the sadness that I experienced at her age. I told her to stay strong, use her words & when they hit her, defend herself. I constantly told her that what they were doing was wrong & we would stop it. Before we could even have a conference with her teacher she was ganged up by 2 of the boys, one pushed her into the other who then pushed her to the floor so the other boy could kick her in the back of the head. One boy was suspended, but the other boys continued to harass her. We called the cops who said they couldn’t do anything about it because they were too young. As soon as that boy came back to school he started hitting her again. One of the other boys pushed a desk into her face, & she was suspended for “throwing a fit” afterwards. She was recently suspended last week because the principal witnessed her slapping another student, what they didn’t see was this boy hit her first. She has begun to question her likes & her style because she feels like she needs to fit herself into this “girl” mold. We have decided to home school her so she can be whoever she wants to be without being ridiculed or hurt. She is very excited for next school year, but even more excited for the upcoming Avengers movie.
Part 3: Fighting the good fight, together.
Raising 2 girls without the guidelines of gender is both rewarding, & very taxing. Our friends think that it’s great that we focus on education, wise decision making, & being curious over beauty tips & what the girls “should” like. My family on the other hand have given us more than enough grief. I have been accused of raising Acadia to be a heathen & a lesbian on more than one occasion, & told that I should force her to like princesses & everything pink so she won’t be an outcast. They purposely buy her dresses, barbie dolls, Disney princess things & various little girl makeup items like nail polishes & lip glosses. Most of these end up in the donation bin for the local Goodwill because no one in this house in interested. They harass me to harass my child to conform so she won’t be harassed. If she was dressed like a “girl” all the time & talked only of “girl” topics we would never have an opposing opinion. We would have accolades & encouragement to put her in beauty pageants & to keep up the good work.
Outsiders vary in their opinions. I have been asked if Acadia is a girl or a boy with long hair, when I say “girl” they look at her like she is from space & look at me like they are mentally recalling the number for Child Protection Services, when they say she is a “pretty girl” she says “And I’m smart too” as if she knows that could get lost in the shuffle if people only focused on her looks. She was born pretty, she grew to be smart. Some people hear her talk about comic books & dinosaurs & tell me that I am doing a great job. We frequent our local comic book shop where Acadia spends hours digging through comics, toys & Magic: The Gathering cards (she wants my husband & I to teach her to play this week while she is out on spring break). The guys who work there say that all those boys who teased her are going to get older & wish to god they had a girl as cool as she is now.
❤ – Alicia