I Learned How to be a Girl From Tabitha the Tomboy

I have a mutable identity. For lack of a better way to describe it I “imprint” on people or concepts that fascinate or intrigue me, and I become them to the best of my ability. I’ve been a dozen people with a handful of different names and a hundred aesthetics. The oldest always providing the foundations of the identity I evolve into. While you ready your “poser” comments I’ll point out that I deliberately choose my identity based on negotiations with the people and concepts that engage my imagination. I never accept what I’m assigned without question and examination and frankly I’m not interested in any pedestrain off-the-rack looks or the respectability privilege they offer.

These days it is larger concepts than individual role models that shape my identity, but when I was younger my limitations had me learning how to be a girl from a tomboy, which as it turns out, looks a lot like being a boy.

My very first best friend that wasn’t imaginary or my Pink-Panther cowboy plushie “husband” was Tabitha. We lived in a small farm town in the hills. Tabitha was Pentecostal. She had to keep her hair long and she couldn’t run around shirtless and shoeless like the rest of us neighborhood boys did. She also had to wear coulottes while running around in the woods or playing in the dirt or mud puddles with us. I remember all of this because I remember it not making any sense and seeming very inefficient for the kind of play we were always up to.  My queries with my mom about it informed me that; I am a boy because I have a penis and she is a girl because she doesn’t. I didn’t understand what that meant and couldn’t imagine what would be there in place of your pee-pee? How did she pee? Also, why does she have to be a girl if she doesn’t like girl things like her sister does? For that matter why do I have to be a boy? My other boy-friends all enjoyed sports stuff and I didn’t so…

Why does mom laugh at me when I tell her Pink Panther is my husband?

I also remember that she let me be the witch, sorcerer, or spell-caster and storyteller when we played games because she always wanted to be the warrior…. I was happy with that arrangement even when I had to compromise my storytelling because of her logical objections. I made sure she was always victorious against the monsters that lurked in our woods because my magic always leveled the playing field. We lost touch when I moved to Marietta. We wrote letters for a while, and one time years later I got to visit with her. Her hair was shorter, she had pants on, and a black shirt and a small gold cross necklace, but I don’t remember much else about that visit.

As I grew older I always sought out her echo for inspiration. My favorite heroes were always the Ripleys, Sarah Connors, and other Wonder Women of the narrative. My forays into male cultures, even gay ones, always felt a little bit ill-fitting and just a little too-small. However, hard-femme had never appealed to me as something I wanted to be either. I’ve always been drawn to butch women and transmen for inspiration and strength, and other effeminant (usually straight) or intellectual men for their familiarity, comfort, ambiguity, and  the ease of friendship minus masculine fragility.

Identity and how we create, influence, and internalize it is my primary interest now. It is the driving force behind my involvement in our Grey Faction campaigns. I cannot in good faith tell you whether I was trying to learn how to be a girl or a boy from Tabitha or whether our relationship was just the prototype of the partnerships I need internally to imagine myself. I am comfortable being addressed as he/him but also as she/her (which happens less frequently and usually in Queer company), I prefer they/them but as I was explaining to a friend I think I’m something like “soft-trans” in that however people perceive my gender is either sufficient or beneath my concern (which is a privilege I have that many trans people don’t). Usually I think of myself as a man and a woman operating an avatar (my physicality) in partnership with each other (I even imagine their discussions and disagreements). Sometimes I feel human, sometimes I feel like a program being worked on by a team. The easiest way to explain it is that my feminine self is here with the rest of me and she’s got equal say in how the story gets written and which aspect of Ash is the main character.

I am always still the witch and Tabitha is still swinging daggers and staffs alongside me to bring the muscle to my spellwork.

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