Considerations of That Which Cannot Be Confined
I can’t remember the first time I realized I was a girl.
I can remember being given mace as a going away present for college because my parents were concerned about my safety. I can remember being told by every guy I knew on the baseball team that I, a softball pitcher of 10 years, couldn’t possibly strike them out because softball was the easy version of baseball. I can remember being touched inappropriately time and time again in my elementary school halls like all the other girls were, as if it were a rite of passage. I can remember seeing my best friend’s genitals when we were in kindergarten and realizing that his didn’t look like mine.
I can remember the many times that I have been defined as a girl and by being a girl, but I can’t remember the first. Throughout my life, I have been outlined and filled in countless times as female, but I’m not sure I’ll ever quite know what my femininity means to me.
The only constant of my femininity in the span of my life is that it itself has never been constant.
As a toddler and young girl, I was never really into Barbies or dolls, though I’d grown my auburn curls to my waist by the time I was five. Then I promptly cut it off to my shoulders and headed into a so-called “tomboy” phase. In middle school, I went a little boy crazy and became obsessive about my size and appearance. This carried over into the first half of high school before the second half resulted in an unmatched intellectual awakening and new urgency to know myself beyond the surface. In my first two years of college, I have realized all over again that I am a girl just as I am becoming a woman – perhaps even, I have realized this all over again because I am becoming a woman and must consider what this means for my existence in the world.
I have never fully considered my femininity, let alone labeled it. However, I often wonder how others might.
Sometimes I’m sort of masculine.
I go to the gym a lot and lift heavy weights – I drink protein shakes too. I curse frequently and am not shy about what I think or how I feel. I’m outgoing, I’m loud, I’m confident, and I have a lot of energy. I give off hard to read vibes and I can be intimidating, I’m told. But once people know me, they usually love me and trust me. I’m laid back. Easy going. I keep it simple and my clothes aren’t super girly. I’d rather wear workout clothes than anything else. I don’t wear makeup often. I don’t know the last time I wore a dress or and definitely don’t know the last time I wore heels.
But I do wear makeup, and fix my hair, and wear dresses, sometimes.
Sometimes I’m sort of feminine.
I’m vulnerable and empathetic and a great listener. I like helping other people solve their problems. I like cuddling and being held and being listened to. I like having opportunities to open up and be heard and express myself creatively. I cry, very infrequently, but still, I cry. I menstruate. I love to dance and go out and party with my girlfriends. I love being surrounded by beautiful and lovely women in my life who make me want to be a better person. I’m a big fan of reading and writing and sitting outdoors in nature. I like making people laugh and smile. I love telling people how much they mean to me. I like quality time.
But I wouldn’t consider any of these features to be masculine or feminine by nature or substance – I’m merely supposing what would be and likely is supposed by others who know me. I wonder if my femininity confuses them as much as it confuses me.
The issue is, these things aren’t gendered – or at least they shouldn’t be. However, society has constructed silos for appearances, expressions, personalities, emotions, and the span of all characteristics which can be attributed to humankind. However, society has made things this or that, male or female, black or white, when we live in a world that for most people, including myself, is undeniably gray.
I cannot understand or define my femininity on a binary, stereotyped, or expectant dichotomy that tells me because I am female, I should be [blank]. Though I am a female-presenting woman, I have never filled in the blanks accordingly and I don’t intend to start now. This may make my shape-shifting femininity impossible to put into words or for me to understand, but I am a complex woman with a complex identity who could never truly be put into words anyways.
If I must say what my femininity means to me, it means possibility. If I must say what my femininity means to me, it means change. If I must say what my femininity means to me and how I would define it, it means I can be whoever I want to be. It means that though I am a female, a girl, a woman, I am also a human who will forever be becoming another version of myself — complicated, complex, and nearly impossible to label.