You’re in the wrong locker room

I have always chosen masculine attire, even as a child, because I feel comfortable wearing it. Simple as that. 

I didn’t voluntarily wear dresses as a child, or pink bows in my hair. I would have preferred to wear my dirty converse shoes, and ripped jeans every day of the week if it were up to me. But, that’s not what little girls should look like. Little girls don’t wear cargo pants, or want toy guns for Christmas, and they certainly don’t walk out of the house with unbrushed hair.

I hated having my hair touched. I would cry every time my mom attempted to run a brush through it. I didn’t care what it looked like. I didn’t strive to be pretty. I wanted to build forts in the backyard, and explore the woods next to our house hoping to find a buried treasure, or a dead body like those boys in the movie Stand by Me.

All of this seemed acceptable up until seventh grade. I was entering Junior High. The big leagues. No more ignoring my assigned gender. It was time to acknowledge my femininity so I could be popular and have a boyfriend. So I would be accepted and understood. Respected, even. But that’s not what happened at all. Still transitioning from tomboy status to junior high girl, I found it nearly impossible to fit in.

One day early in the school year after walking into the girls locker room and waiting for gym class to start, a girl approached me and told me I was in the wrong locker room. I was mistaken for a boy too many times to count, and the whispers behind my back bothered me. I was asked on an almost daily basis if I was a girl or a boy. At first I responded politely, so it wouldn’t seem like I was annoyed by the inquisition, but after awhile, my responses grew more hostile and I became defensive and angry. 

The first half of seventh grade was a game of trying to fit in and to look more feminine. I styled my medium length hair as girly as I could. I think I even curled it with a curling iron a few times. I borrowed my mom’s eyeliner and mascara because I had grown so fearful of being mistaken as a boy, I was willing to do anything to avoid that question. It became agonizing to go to school because I knew a confrontation was unavoidable.

I began to feel less and less like myself because I was dressing so differently and pretending to be someone I thought everyone wanted me to be. The makeup wasn’t working, and I was still asked regularly whether I was a girl or a boy.

Then the question escalated to, “are you gay?” 

I was mortified.

Hell no, I’m not gay! I frantically looked for someone of the opposite sex who I might be able to use as a buffer. If I had a boyfriend, the invasive questions would surely end. Everyone would know that I was a girl, and I would be considered normal. This was the perfect plan! I began my search for a boyfriend.

The only problem was, I wasn’t attracted to boys. I liked hanging out with my guy friends, but that’s where it ended. I had no interest in dating boys. Or holding hands with them. Or kissing them. 

Nevertheless, I dropped my masculine demeanor as fast as I could and found a boyfriend. I had no idea how to have a boyfriend. Probably because I was in seventh grade and shouldn’t know such things, but also because “girlfriend” was such an unnatural role for me to play.

My favorite thing to do was to go skateboarding. So, I dated a guy who also liked skateboarding. He sucked. I was better at it than him, and it was uncomfortable to hang out and skate together because I had to downplay my abilities to appear more feminine. You certainly don’t want to be better at skateboarding than your goddamned boyfriend! He didn’t last long, because I loved skateboarding more than having a poorly skilled fake boyfriend with bad acne.

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I soon realized this boyfriend business wasn’t working for me. Not only was it uncomfortable and unnatural feeling, it was just plain boring. I had various crushes on the girls in my class and these faux boyfriends were taking up too much of my time.

I have been attracted to the same sex for as long as I can remember. I’ve had crushes on almost every one of my female teachers, starting with my pre-school teacher when I was five years old. Mrs. Swan was so hot. Probably still is. 

The only reason I stayed in school was because of the girls, honestly. I could hardly contain myself most days. I pined for the girls I had crushes on and would watch in horror as they dated some of the dorky assholes in our grade.

The greatest torment was a school dance. Watching a girl that you have feelings for dance with a guy the way you want to be dancing with her, is heartbreaking. But, there was nothing that I could do but stand by and watch a life I wanted to live pass me by. 

On the weekends, I dressed how I felt most comfortable- a ball cap, jeans, and a t-shirt. I skateboarded with my best friend, and dropped the bogus persona I had to entertain the other five days of the week. I got two full days to be myself before I had to go back to being what I thought everyone else wanted me to be.

As the year wore on, I found it more and more difficult to keep this girly charade going any longer. During the three weeks of Christmas break I got used to just being myself. It was too difficult to come back to school and pretend. I felt like I needed to wipe the slate clean and start over. 

One day after gym class while we were all sitting around in the locker room waiting for the bell to ring, I put my hat on. This was strictly forbidden in the hallways and classrooms, so I knew my time was limited, but I needed to feel normal- even if it was just for a couple of minutes. As I sat there, a few of my friends commented on how “hot” I looked, and how they wished I was a guy so we could date. I couldn’t believe the response I was getting. The bell rang, and I took my hat off so I wouldn’t get in trouble in the hallway.

I felt very different after that. I was no longer interested in looking feminine just to gain everyone else’s acceptance. I realized people wanted authenticity, even if at first my appearance was confusing to them. 

I was focused now on being myself, and earning a few more flirty interactions with some of my girl friends. My confidence was restored after that day, and I never went back to the makeup or hair curling. While the questions about whether I was a girl or a boy didn’t stop, I was now more emotionally equipped to handle them. I felt good about myself for the first time all year, and I wasn’t going to let that go for anything.

I learned that if I was going to dress like a boy, then I would have to be ready to field questions and stand up for myself. I went on to finish seventh grade feeling confident and more sure of myself than ever before.

I could breathe for the first time in a long time. 

6 Replies to “You’re in the wrong locker room”

  1. Wow, Steph. That was intense. I love learning new things about you. You have sure been through a lot. I have so much love & respect for you. Really, one of the strongest people I know.
    I didn’t come till 8th grade, so by that time you were you! We immediately clicked. We all had so much fun together. None of that meant anything negative to me. I just thought you were awesome, funny & genuine.
    Thank you for sharing your eexperiences with us. I know that must take a lot of weight of your back & is helping you heal if you still carry any of hurt that from back then around. Therapeutic! Lol that’s the word I was looking for 😉
    I love you, friend. 🙂

  2. I think the world of you. Thank you for sharing your life. Your authenticity is inspiring and shows even more strength than your awesome physical capabilities. ❤️

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