Today I came across the article “My Daughter Is Not Transgender. She’s a Tomboy” by Lisa Selin Davis. In it, she details the struggle of having a tomboy daughter and the need people feel to label her as a boy and transgender. Since her daughter is sporty, prefers boyish clothes, and appears like a boy because of these decisions, people assume that she must identify as a boy. Why can’t she just be a tomboy? Davis states, “She is not gender nonconforming. She is gender role nonconforming.” However, teachers and others act confused, almost annoyed— as if they are annoyed that Davis’s daughter did not take the easy way out. Being transgender, or labeling others as such, is becoming the new socially acceptable way to be a non-feminine female—by not being female at all.
This situation with Davis’s daughter presents the turning of transgender identification into an anti-women’s rights, anti-feminist tool. It is playing into to the anti-feminist idea that if you are not a feminine female, then you are not doing it right, you must forfeit membership. It strips the meaning from transgender identity and is not fair to those who identify as such. Bottom line: trans children should feel that they can identify as such, but those who identify with their biologically-endowed-gender but not their gender-role should not be pushed into transgender identity.
I wonder what would have happened to me when I was a young girl who wore boy clothes and hung out almost exclusively with boys, whom I wrestled at every available opportunity (and won). I remember feeling as though I had to identify as a boy, whenever adults, and often boys, found out that I was not a boy
they would get a look of disappointment on their face. Something had gone wrong, they seemed to think. This poor girl is confused. Then they would look at my mother as if to say: Im so sorry. The only way I could be a tomboy, comfortable in my own skin, and not socially outcasted was to lie and say I was a boy. I can tell you from personal experience: people should not use toys, clothes, and preference to force a child to assume a certain gender or sexual identity. This is not freedom or equality, this is the reaction of those who are uncomfortable with non-feminine behavior from girls
When I got older, the question of whether or not I was a lesbian started circulating, because it was obvious to them all women who like women must be secretly masculine; their femininity is already ruined; they are already doing it wrong.
Moreover, this use of the transgendered identity reveals the tradition of patriarchal cultures obsession with gender appearance: if you look like a girl more than a boy, then you must be a girl if you appear as a boy more than a girl then you must be a boy. Such was the case of the hermaphrodite and sexing of children in the 1950s and such is the case today. People are still more afraid of the non-feminine female than they are of people claiming a non-biological gender.
We cannot put pressure on girls who are less than girly to identify as boys if it is not their actual identity. Or, as Davis says:
While celebrating the diversity of sexual and gender identities, we also need to celebrate tomboys and other girls who fall outside the narrow confines of gender roles. Don’t tell them that they’re not girls.
Let’s not slide backwards.