birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Multitudes

Like anyone else, my ideas about gender were formed, and continue to be formed, by a multitude of sources--society at large, my family and upbringing, my friends, my experiences, my learning, my activism.

At home I was the oldest and the only girl to a single mother of three. Perhaps because I was the oldest, but probably also because I was a girl, I was in charge of many household chores and for sharing the rearing responsibilities for my two brothers when my mom worked night shift. My mom was raised to launder all of her uncles' clothes while they philandered and did whatever gang members tend to do. Because of that she hoped not to raise her boys to do more around the house and really tried to be intentional about it. My mom is not the best at consistent follow thru, though, so the result was the dutiful daughter and the boys who knew that mom or sister would take care of it if they halfassed or just neglected a task.

One of the most visible, immediate ways we tend to express gender is through our clothing, accessory, and hairstyle choices. When I was a little girl, I remember frilly skirts and dresses and ruffly blouses and socks, but I also remember combat boots and long shorts, sporty tanks, and baseball caps. I don't remember much pink. My mom never liked the color, so I wasn't a bubblegum baby. Even today I'm pretty eclectic in my dress. I can wear a wiggle dress and heels one day and feel more like cargo shorts or suspenders the next day. I dressed like Mr. Rogers throughout much of my first two years of college. I loved the combination of sneakers, straight-legged pants, and a cardigan. Sometimes I added a blazer on top in warm weather.

I was called a tomboy when I was younger, but I confused folks, too, because I liked playing dress up and tea parties and sunbathing, but also liked roughhousing and water gun fights and white water rafting.

I've never thought that any of these choices meant I wasn't embracing my womanhood. My womanhood is a big part of who I am, and though sometimes my body annoys me, I'm also in awe of what it can do and wouldn't change it. I can't really separate many of my experiences, either good or bad, from my identities, gender being one. My being a woman has impacted how I've been treated by others, what has been expected of me, my sexuality, and my relationship with my body.

I don't see my womanhood as defined by others though, in that I don't subscribe to there being one way to experience womanhood or any defining characteristics of a woman. With my husband, and I hope later with my children, we have an understanding that every human being contains multitudes. My having a vagina doesn't mean that I cannot also embody characteristics traditionally thought to be "masculine," and the same is true for my husband. I think whole humans embrace all of these aspects of ourselves that we either define as or express as gender.

Disfeature

Child, Girl/Boy, Woman