So, long time no post. It’s been a while. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’ve been neglecting my share of the blogging duties, and in my defence, I have been writing lots. I just don’t think you’d be all that interested in parliamentary sovereignty and my obligations module … (If you are though, I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on those topics!)
You probably know that I am studying for my LLB part-time; this involves getting on a bus straight after work and then trying to stay focused for three hours in the hope that I’ll learn something. I usually spend the bus journey switched off, my headphones on, no doubt annoying the person sat next to me with my music that’s just that bit too loud. On occasion, however, I often end up in thought and have a bit of a “deep and meaningful” with myself. This evening’s (Thursday’s) journey home was one of those occasions, and I would like to share my thoughts with you.
I’ll be perfectly honest, I have no idea what caused me to start thinking about this, but tonight I was considering gender identity, specifically my own. My identity is not something I struggle with specifically: I comfortably identify as female. If you wanted to get a little more “on the button”, I would say I err on the side of “boyish”. That has changed in recent months, but I’ll expand on that slightly later.
This story starts when I was about 10 or 11 years old. I was at that awkward age where I wanted my mum to stop telling the hairdresser how to cut my hair, yet didn’t actually know what I wanted done to it. Having had a long-ish bob for years, I eventually drew my mum a picture and told her that I wanted it a bit shorter. So, off we go to get my hair cut, and I come away with a nice cut that’s about jaw-length. It was great; it didn’t get in the way nearly as often when I was playing football, and I no longer had the same haircut as my mum. Things did not stay so wonderful though.
It was horrible. I still have nightmares about what happened. OK, so I’m exaggerating slightly, but it’s put me off cutting my hair short ever again. We went to get my hair tidied up, and as she always did, Mum told the ‘dresser, “She just needs a tidy; it follows the length of her jaw.” Simple, right? WRONG. The idiot (who I have since learned was a trainee) apparently took it upon herself to decide that jaw-length is actually the top of my ear. I had a bloody bowl cut. I looked like a choir boy. HORRIBLE. (See below)
You’re probably wondering why I’ve spent two paragraphs telling you about the singular most horrific thing that has happened to my appearance. I’m getting there, I’m getting there. I was in Primary 7 when this happened: my last year of junior school before I started high school, if that helps. I went to high school with a horrible bowl cut. (Did I mention it was horrible?) I’m quite a stoic individual, but even I struggled to deal with a lot of the shite that was to follow.
“Are you a boy?” “Tranny.” “Dyke.” “I heard she wants a sex change.”
I didn’t even know what these insults meant at the time. A lot of it came from older kids, mostly boys, but of course, there was no way I was going to escape the scornful eye of the “popular” girls in my own year. You also have to remember that I was largely unaware of my sexuality at this point. I had the piss taken out of me to the point where I’d almost run between classes and would spent my lunchtimes holed up in the library or the classroom of a friendly teacher where I had some sort of protection. It was really difficult, particularly at a time where everyone just wants to get by and not make yourself a target. It didn’t help that I played football, that all my friends were boys, and that I didn’t do things girls were “expected” to. A lot of people thought I was a bit weird or different, and I could cope with that. But having people older than me ridicule to the point where even I started to think I was a freak was hard.
Eventually, my hair grew back, I got a bit older and started to give less of a fuck about what idiot boys thought of me. It wasn’t the end of the world, by any means, but this is obviously something that has stayed with me, and I’ll be honest, sometimes it does still make me feel a bit crap.
Throughout my teenage years, I certainly wasn’t a typical girl: I didn’t wear make-up, I didn’t dress like the other girls did, and as much as I wanted to be, I wasn’t into boys or having a boyfriend. It didn’t bother me – I wasn’t interested in being like all the other girls, not really. I got to about 15 years old, though, and I went through a bit of an identity crisis. I tried desperately to hang out with those aforementioned popular girls and do all the fun things they were doing. I didn’t have the branded clothes or the GHD’d hair, and my plan fell a bit flat on its head. I ended up re-evaluating myself not long after that, though. Something a “friend” said to me really made me stop and think about what I actually wanted.
“Face it, Stacey. Unless you suddenly get really hot or something, boys aren’t going to pay attention to you. You’re too like them.”
Despite the fact that this is a really horrible thing to hear, it kind of helped, in a weird way. I thought about it, and I didn’t care. I didn’t actually want a boyfriend. Sure, I dated this weird boy from my physics class for a bit, but when he broke up with me because I was “too frigid”, I was certainly anything but heartbroken. Christ, I wouldn’t do anything more than kiss him, and even then, I didn’t particularly want to do that at the best of times.
It was at this point that I really started to think about my sexuality. I’d always been “attached” to my female friends. To with hindsight say that I was attracted to them is maybe a bit too much, but there was something there. Something that – at 10 years old – you just don’t know how to identify. I think that’s how old I was – 10 – when I first started having feelings like that. Of course, I didn’t know what they meant, and I never talked to any one about them – I didn’t think there was anything to talk about.
Keeping this brief as possible (I’ll maybe talk about how I came out at another point), after some self discovery, I told my best friend I might be bisexual, and eventually realised that I was actually very, very gay. That made school quite difficult, because as I started to accept this more, I became gradually more boyish in my appearance. I wanted to wear men’s clothes, so I did. No one really understood it. There was a lot of “Do you just want to be a boy?” and “So, are you the butch one?” from people at school.
In public, it was worse though. When at work, people would just ask me if I was a boy or a girl, and I just wouldn’t know what to say. I thought it was really fucking rude to be honest. But at 17, working in supermarket, I was too polite to make a scene in my workplace. It made me feel shit though, and I didn’t understand why; sure I was pretty flat-chested and had quite a boyish frame, but since “The Great Hair Disaster”, I’ve always had quite long hair. I didn’t think I could be particularly confused for a boy.
I left for St. Andrews not long after that; despite my tempestuous relationship with that town, it was refreshing for me to just dress and be how I really wanted, without giving a toss about what any body though. I went through a bit of a “boyish charm” phase and was really verging on the edge of androgyny for a while. I wouldn’t say, however, that I didn’t look female: I was still obviously a girl, despite not being girly. (I have just clarified this with Carley – she says that despite not being “conventionally pretty”, I was still attractive and definitely looked female; and still made the whole “boyish charm, laid back, outwardly gay” thing work for me.)
Since starting my job though, I’ve gone through a bit of a transformation. I’m very conscious of the fact that at the end of this, I’m going to be a lawyer. Think about that for a minute: what do lawyers look like? Suits, heels, immaculate hair. In other words, the opposite of me. As the office junior, I can make the slightly scruffy office chic work, but I feel like I’m going to have to “grow out” of the casual, boyish look I usually sport. My wardrobe is a lot smarter than it has been previously; I’ve got more girly clothes, and I’m making it work for me. I know that I don’t have to go from one extreme to the other. There will be a way that I can look smart without sticking on a skirt and a pair of heels: I’m getting there, slowly. I like tailored shirts, and always wear trousers, and have shoes that you could possibly see on a man.
And I’m really OK with that. It is hard sometimes: I’m sure we’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve had a bit of a breakdown because I hate my clothes and my haircut and how I look generally. But it’s getting easier, and in the grand scheme of things, I think I’m happier with how I look than I have ever been.
I still wear my boxer shorts at the weekends, though. ;)
I hope you enjoyed this part of my life story. I don’t really know where this post came from, but I just had an urge to talk about this. Later. S x
I would just like to add a disclaimer to this post, in that the intention is not to offend anyone in any way. This is just a tale of a few experiences I’ve had, and I thought it might interest people.