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Part II

It Keeps Me Up At Night

By KPPublished 6 months ago 3 min read
Part II
Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

My childhood was a performance, a parade of behaviors within the confines of a gender binary. I can easily say I played like a boy. I imagined myself as male in many of my fantasies. I never minded playing females so long as they were like Lara Croft or Alex Munday, but this may have stemmed as much from a sexual attraction to Angelina Jolie and Lucy Liu as it did a desire to be like them. For the most part, I imagined myself as some hybrid force, a superhuman possessing the qualities I found most appealing to the feminine and masculine. I stormed trees teeming with spies, besting them with my wits and their weapons, a cross between Croft and Chan.

I was a fighter, but I imagined as much love for myself as I did conflict. I have been a doting husband in many iterations of a daydream—one where I am a far more stable and equipped partner than my current reality often supplies. My wife, a large stuffed Sarabi with our fussy son, Simba, stitched to her front two paws, so he was always coming between us. Eventually, I detached mother and son so I could tuck him in and cuddle with her. I may have been a lonely child.

I played by the rules of a society governed by heteronormativity; therefore, I played like a boy. Family members frequently gifted dolls to me, and I stuffed them all in a large Tupperware container I hid under my wardrobe. I dreamed the dolls built a colony there, a small democratic society of Barbies preparing for war against the giant that lived just beyond their plastic walls. I dreamed they stormed my ankles and stabbed my toes as I swung my legs over the bed in the morning. These Lilliputians scaled my calves with spiked shoes and tiny hooks, overwhelming me and tying me down. Once restrained, they declared my room part of their sovereign territory, and I became a mountain range they had to summit to feed three times a day.

This could be expressed as a latent fear of femininity more so than a fear of dolls, although I always thought it was the doll that scared me, not what it represented. I played like a boy because of what it meant to play like a girl. I wouldn’t say I liked pink. I wouldn’t say I liked fashion. I wouldn’t say I liked painting my nails. I wouldn’t say I liked doing my hair, so my parents cut it off. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed playing house unless I was the dad or the son. I didn’t host tea parties. I didn’t do the things that were “girly” because even at that young age, I had already come to understand that “girly” meant “weak” or “inferior” to other people. I didn’t feel weak or inferior, so I chose what I thought was the opposite; what my environment told me was the opposite. The male. The boyish. The masculine.

This is the performance—the choice to reject my prescribed gender and embrace something else. I didn’t understand that my performance was still very much within the confines of the gender binary. I wasn’t being radical or revolutionary. I wasn’t changing the world. I was new to many people in my small hometown, but it wasn’t new. As I aged, I became an iteration of masculinity that had been seen repeatedly: entitled, cruel, and toxic. It wasn’t explicitly stated that this was the performance necessary to remove me from the feminine, but it was the inferred requirement. All I needed to do was observe the men around me, and I had all the information I needed to know how to act. Or so I thought.


About the Creator


I am a non-binary, trans-masc writer. I work to dismantle internalized structures of oppression, such as the gender binary, class, and race. My writing is personal but anecdotally points to a larger political picture of systemic injustice.

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