This is a presentation I created about gender norms, for the G-Day celebration that occurred on Oct 16th, 2016.
It was written for girl identified persons from the age of 10-12.
We get judged a lot by appearances in this world. Sometimes we worry about how we look, we can worry about what others think of us, our teachers, or friends, or parents can make comments about us.
Even now, as I’m, dressed like this. I wonder what you’re all thinking about it? Do I look like I should be more fancy because I’m here talking to you?
When I was 12, I sometimes dressed like this, I got asked if I was trying to hide, or be a boy or something.
Eventually, I started dressing in different ways, and found ways to dress that made me feel happy about the clothing I was wearing. Sometimes I felt like this (hoodies) or wearing all black, or really bright colors.
Even now, somedays I dress more like this (in dress) and other days I still wear these (the hoodie and jeans)
No matter what I’m wearing people seem to have something to comment about it. When I was 12 it was frustrating for me. So what if some days I want to wear hoodies?!
Slowly I figured out what was happening. When I was wearing hoodies and jeans, folks couldn’t tell, was I a girl or a boy? My hair was really short, my mother hated it. People weren’t sure how should they act around me? I was confusing them! Wow. Ooops. I wasn’t meaning to do that. I just wanted to be comfy.
I still just want to be comfy.
So, this whole, clothing thing, why am I bringing it up?
Because for a lot of the world out there, clothing relates to gender.
people look at what we’re wearing and assume stuff because of it.
Which is pretty interesting.
When I was 12, I loved to dance, I still do actually. I perform sometimes, and when I’m wearing a hoodie and jeans people don’t believe me when I say it. Yet, when I’m dressed like this, they believe me. Weird. Psssttt.. It’s actually easier for me to dance in this clothing…. (gesture to hoodie and jeans)
It’s a thing, we are all a gender, being that this is a g day event, that would mean that at least sometimes, you feel like a girl. I say that because sometimes, I feel like a girl, and othertimes I feel like more of a Boy. I’m gender fluid. This means sometimes I dress like this, and other times I dress in a suit and a tie. It took me a while to get to this point, and when I was 12, I felt pretty weird about it.
If someone had come up to me when I was 12, and said I could look like this and have friends who loved me and wanted to be in my life, that I could still dance and sing, that I could be living in a world where I could be all the different styles I wanted to be and it would be accepted. I would’ve never believed it.
But you can.
it’s really neat, and the cool part is, you’re already doing it.
How are you already doing it?
let me explain a bit more about gender, so people like to think of gender like it’s a big solid brick, or like the floor. It’s solid, and you pretty much know what it looks like no matter what and it’s not super easy to change. But, gender is more like an invisible cat. Everyone thinks about how the cat looks in different ways. When I say invisible cat, I’m thinking of a napping cat that is black. But you may be thinking about a cartoon cat, or a family cat, or some other color. We’re all probably thinking something a little different.
That’s what gender is like.
I want to make an example of this with a story.
So, when I was 12, my father and I started to go camping. We’d go hiking every summer, a couple of times a summer at least. Now this wasn’t just drive the car somewhere and sleep in a trailer camping. This was pack a hiking pack that weighed 50lbs and hike for 4 hours off of a road up a mountain camping.
I’ve seen bears, I’ve had to gather firewood and make fires from scratch. I started doing that when I was 12. Let me tell you, most of my friends that were girls did not do that on their summer break. It was sooooo different that I actually had a teacher not believe me!
Let me explain. So eventually I took this class, that was called Envo, or environmental education. Now I come from Alberta, so our connection to the environment is a little different. The point of this class is to get a better understanding of nature. I took it because I wanted to learn more about this area that I was hiking to all the time with my dad.
So I was taking the class, and we would do research projects and such. I barely had to research a thing! I was waaaay to familiar with all of the information from my summer hiking with my dad. The teacher was not impressed. As far as he was concerned I was actually cheating. He was failing me in the course. I wrote papers and he handed them back to me telling me I was lying.
On a parent teacher night my parents met the Envo teacher, Mr. Kadri was his name, and my father was furious. How could I be failing the class, my father knew that I knew what I was doing in this course. Mr. Kadri held his ground and continued to tell my parents and me, that I was cheating in the course and I did not actually know any of what I was talking about.
It was infuriating.
Well, fast forward to the First Envo Trip, I was all prepared, to me this trip was pretty easy, we drove cars in and had massive lean-tos made of tarps, we had water that we brought, it was fine. I was the only one in the five closest campsites among the class that thought and brought an Axe. I was also the only one who knew how to use it. So I was managing the fires for most of the sites. Then, when we went to the main campsite that was the teachers spot, Mr. Kadri was standing up by the fire warming himself up, and all of a sudden… His pants melted off. They actually did. He didn’t know what material they were made out of and they weren’t fire safe. So they actually melted off. I was so frustrated. Here was someone who was supposed to be teaching me, who didn’t even know what to wear when around a fire to be safe!!! Ugh!
Afterwards he was still failing me! Gah!
So, next Envo trip.
During this trip we were all driven to an area of the woods, and advised how to gather firewood and kindling, and had to go into the forest and forage it coming back and building a fire. Well, I did this all the time, but I was still worried that my classmates did this too. So Mr. Kadri set his timer and we all go running into the forest. I’m just panicking, gathering my old mans beard and little twigs and kindling, I’m running as fast as I can go. I get back up to where we are supposed to be building fires, and I am expecting to be the last person there.
I was the first, I couldn’t even see my classmates.
Mr.Kadri was just staring at me.
He was completely surprised and still didn’t believe me. So I build my fire, got it going. Mr. Kadri walked over and just had a look of shock on his face. “you actually know what you’re doing” he said.
“yeah…” I said, feeling confused. “this is what I’ve been trying to tell you”
He still didn’t quite believe me, and though it was just beginners luck. There was another fire spot, that was supposed be lit by the person who was the fastest and the best at it. So he told me to go into the woods and get supplies for that fire.
So I booked it down again, and gather supplies and get back to the fire building spot.
Still no classmates.
So I build the second fire. This time Mr. Kadri is hovering over me like a hawk. I get the fire going. He was just in shock.
Slowly my classmates make it back and I watch them try to make fires, I go through and help the ones who are struggling because Mr. Kadri isn’t doing anything.
It was then that I realized that sometimes, I could be fully capable and qualified and doing what is expected and people could simply not see it at all because of their own ideas of what I was capable of.
Mr. Kadri did not believe I could build a fire and find firewood that quickly until he saw it with his own eyes.
After that trip, Mr. Kadri didn’t talk to me much.. But I was finally passing the class.
Once I started to get older I felt weird about wanting to wear hoodies all the time, I felt like I had to be “more girly” and so I tried and I tried, skirts and dresses all the time and makeup and all the things. Sure, I looked more like a traditional girl, my mom was happy, but inside I just felt weird, and not like me really. Besides that dresses made me feel like they never fit right, or that the makeup kept needing to be adjusted, or that dancing in dresses and skirts with the makeup on was uncomfortable and felt gross on my face. I kept believing what others said I should look like or act like, and it was making me feel really odd. I got pretty sad and really mad at times.
Eventually, I learned that when people said I should do or act a certain way I’d think about how I felt about that, and if possible I’d ask them why they wanted me to do that. I learned to check in with myself and see how I felt about things.
The things my mom kept asking me about were all traditional gender roles that she was used to. Girls wear dresses and put on makeup and want to be with boys. All of which are totally not true. SOME girls want to wear dresses, SOME girls like makeup, Some girls like boys. But there are SO many more options than that! Just like Some girls like Dance, Other girls like Sports, Some girls throw really well, and Other girls run super fast, and some girls get good grades. We’re all different. There isn’t one way to be a girl, we’re all going to be our own version of a girl. My version Of a girl looks like this. What does your version of a girl look like?
It’s pretty neat how being a girl can be different for every girl, for me it meant playing video games and running and dancing, much of which, when I was 12 wasn’t really the norm. Then again, thinking back, there were lots of ways that the other girls wouldn’t be the norm. I had one friend who was sooo good at any sport she tried and yet I’d still hear boys say things like throwing like a girl means you throw badly, yet here was this girl who could out throw most of them! Or my friend who usually ended up tutoring others at math, even though my dad would always talk about how bad a math girls are. Here was my friend, who is a girl being super amazing at math.
When I was talking to other girls about doing this presentation, I asked them what they wished they knew about gender at 12. The answer was always the same.
They wished they knew that it didn’t exist. That gender doesn’t actually hold you back the way people can say it will.
We all have abilities that are different, that’s totally normal, but they’re not because of gender. It’s just because we’re all a little different.
Like, think about it, how the heck could this (point at crotch) affect this? (point at brain)
It doesn’t really. But what we believe about it does affect it.
lets take something else that I loved to do. That I still love to do. Danceing!
So a lot of dancing is about posture and awareness of how your body is moving in each moment of dancing. This means that in any given moment of dance I know what my shoulders are doing, what my feet are doing, pretty much keeping track of it all.
Well, wandering around school being really strong in my motions and posture was kinda weird for other girls. As well as some of the boys, because here was this 12 year old girl, in hoodies and jeans standing up very strong and tall, moving with strong confidence, because that is what I would spend hours practicing while I danced at home after school.
Meanwhile my friends would be really meek and quiet and their posture would almost look like they were shrinking. Or I’d sit with my legs open in chairs wearing pants, not wanting to cross them because my legs were sore from dancing, or that it was just not as comfortable. Meanwhile I’d feel weird because no other girls in the class were sitting like I was. Let alone walking or moving like I was.
But just because I was sitting differently or choosing to do things with my time that other girls weren’t doing with their time didn’t make me any less of a girl. I just had different interests. Later on in life, people would ask my how I knew how to walk so well, or walk with confidence. Meanwhile at 12 I was told I walked too fast, or walked like a boy and needed to slow down or walk differently.
There is no one way to walk or move as a girl, we all have different way we move, depending on how much energy we have, or what’s going on with us that day. Even if I’m wearing different clothing I’ll walk differently because of the way the clothing fits!
So what I’m really trying to say with all of this is that there is no one way you should Act, or feel, or things you should do just because you’re a girl. Each one of us is different in our own ways, we all have unique ways of being a girl, be it in what we wear, what we want to do with our time, or how we want to move through the world. There is no one “right way” to be a girl, it’s more about what makes you feel comfortable, capable and happy inside, while still respecting yourself and those around you. <3