[CW: Body and/or gender identity dysphoria. I’ve never done a content warning before, but this one seemed like an important enough topic to mention.]
I’m a boy. I’m a boy now and I always have been a boy, and I’m both comfortable with and aware of the fact that I am, and was, and will be, a boy. I’m still not entirely au fait with the identity, and the connotations of, “man” – but I am one… or, at the very least, a boy.
This may not be a surprise to you, especially if you’ve read this blog for the past thirteen years and have noticed that it’s called “Innocent Loverboy” and that my abbreviation of ILB makes reference to me also being a boy. But, go back a couple of decades, and it would be a surprise to me.
It was a surprise to my parents. They were expecting a girl, initially, who they were going to name Lucy (a name that ended up unused, as my sister got their second girl name choice instead – it suits her, actually). I was both the first born in their marriage and the first grandchild to my mother’s parents, so I got a fair amount of attention for the first four and a half years of my life until my sister arrived in 1989 and I suddenly became yesterday’s news. I had started school about a year beforehand and, up until then, I just assumed that all the stuff I did was boy stuff, because I was a boy.
One of the taunts I endured throughout primary school concerned the fact that I was, in fact, a girl instead. Other boys in primary school were doing other boy stuff that seemed radically alien to me – they were pretending to fight (and fighting’s wrong!), talking about Teenage Mutant NInja Turtles (which is a violent programme! they shouldn’t be watching it!), making mentions of wrestling (which is an awful practice!) and – worst of all – playing football. I mean, football. I didn’t see the appeal.
I still don’t, and never will. Football – really?
For a while, then, around about year 3 or 4, I rationalised that, because I didn’t do the institutionalised boy stuff, I may not have been a boy after all. With the exception of Robinson, all my friends were girls, and I played ‘girl games’ in the playground with them which involved getting boyfriends and the like. I even got termed a ‘girl’ by one of the teachers who subdivided the playground into boys (football) and girls (everyone else).
As far as I was aware, I was a boy – but feeling like I shouldn’t be. I felt like I should be a girl. I remember telling Robinson that, on my planet, everyone was half boy and half girl, including me. I knew the term ‘tomboy’ and asked my mother if there was such a thing as a ‘tomgirl’ (a term used in year 7 by Lightsinthesky, until Spanner corrected him and added that the term was ‘Sally’. I’ve never heard that used again.).
According to my bullies, I fitted the brief (until year 7, when a whole new set of bullies decided that I was more suited to being gay, and thus came a whole host of new taunts, including an insult that isn’t really an insult).
After about a few months, however, I decided that I was indeed a boy and it didn’t matter if I liked girlish things – in fact, I wasn’t really, at all. I liked ‘me’ things – fantasy and adventure stuff, magpie collectables like Smartians and Orangey-Tangs, Saturday morning television, Super Mario games and playing the violin. I’d watch Knightmare and go to Woodcraft on Friday evenings, and I’d go to church on Sunday. I’d play on my SNES every day and do as well as I could at school.
I was me and I liked me things. At that age, I thought to myself, does it really matter if I’m a boy or a girl? I’m me. I knew, even then, that if I didn’t want to be a boy, I could change. I just needed to ask my mum and she’d arrange it. By year 6, I was fully entrenched in my gender identity, and when I stood up in assembly and said loudly and clearly, “I’m a boy, and I don’t play football”, I got a round of applause.
It’s an identity I carry to this day. I’m a boy, and I don’t play football.
Fast-forward to 2020 and now I’m much more aware of the idea of toxic gender identity assumptions. Gender, a social construct which is bollocks even if you accept the fact that there are more than two identities, is a fluid, shifting idea the size of a universe, and even if I’m confident in what suits me, I’m aware that there are many people who were assigned one that doesn’t suit them. That’s fine too.
But the world still hasn’t moved on, even with this new knowledge. Shops still do ‘for him’ and ‘for her’ sections. Toxic masculinity makes me feel uncomfortable with my chosen gender, and hyperbolic misandry makes me feel attacked. These things that people think – girls like fashion and gossip and Disney Channel movies; boys like sports and fighting and Batman – only go to reinforce these ideas. (Enbys don’t even get stereotypical things, because they don’t exist.)
We all know they’re wrong. We do. So why does it still happen?
Those of you who have read my erotica may have noticed that I have almost always written from a cisgender female point of view. I find it easier to write that way, and the novel(la/ette) that I’m (meant to be (not)) writing is entirely narrated by my female protagonist Melissa – and that’s fine, I’m not pretending to be a girl, I’m just writing fiction from the point of view as one.
I think that’s okay. It doesn’t make me a girl. It’s just fiction…
…is what I would think if it mattered.
But it doesn’t matter, and it shouldn’t matter, and it never should have mattered. If I wanted to be a girl when I was 9, then sure. That’s how I felt at the time. I changed my mind later on, because I’m allowed to do that.
I’m a boy, because I chose to be a boy, and no matter what my genitals are, that was my decision.
IT’S NOT A DIFFICULT CONCEPT!