If I didn’t grow out of being a tomboy, I won’t grow out of being bi

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If I didn’t grow out of being a tomboy, I won’t grow out of being bi

‘I am both of these things, and so much more’

I was taught at a young age that being bisexual was a phase, just like I was taught being a tomboy was a phase, and so I spent the first 18 years of my life fronting a personality that wasn’t mine. It was my mom’s, it was my sister’s, it was my friends’ – it was so many of the women I knew and loved, but it was anything but me. And a lot of the women I knew and loved were also mirroring personalities that had been taught to them. When you idolize someone and they tell you something is wrong, you learn to stop doing it.

When you are told you are embarrassing a loved one, you shy away from those behaviors. And slowly, but surely, your priorities change. You learn to stop focusing on bugs and start focusing on boys. You spend less time playing soccer with your brother’s friends, and more time painting your nails with the girls. (Many of whom I’m sure would also have preferred soccer to watching paint dry.)

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Being a tomboy is cute until it’s not – until a loved one begins to worry that you are repelling boys and attracting the “wrong attention.”  When you are seven and they ask you “What color do you want to paint your room?” and you say “green,” they bring you to the store in an attempt to persuade you pink is better, and you settle on purple.

And the settling gets worse, until you get used to it. What used to be a fight to get you to wear a dress, turns into a dress with pants, so that you can still play with the boys in the yard.  But even that must come to an end – it’s so unseemly. And so the boys get used to playing without you, and soon you aren’t invited at all. But you’ll get used to that too.

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Fast forward two years and you still prefer wearing your hair in a ponytail. You might not have the boys anymore, but you still have this – you still have control over how you look. Until you don’t. Middle school isn’t catered to tomboys, and so you must cater yourself to it.

You are encouraged this is a phase all young girls go through, and that it is a phase all young girls grow out of. And suddenly the vocabulary of “phases” is introduced into your life. The horror on my face the day my brother walked into limited 2 and saw my mother and I picking out a training bra I didn’t need at age 10; he and I both knew it: I couldn’t be one of them anymore – I wasn’t one of them anymore.

It had just been a phase.

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And so I started settling into my new life – obsessing over push-up bras and aim-instant message. Instead of playing outside, I spent my days inside crafting the perfect message for that boy I could maybe see myself with, and soon I became convinced I could see myself with no one else, so when I met a girl in college I was confused.

I took up dance and musical theater in an attempt to push my boyish self out. Grew out my hair, and still I couldn’t shake this sense that I had left a part of who I was behind.

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Photos like this remind me of the years I spent afraid to exist somewhere in the in-between. I beg you, if you are reading this, do not be afraid of the in-between – it is where humans thrive. We are multifaceted beings, and after years of conditioning, we forget this.

You do not always need to act in the same way to prove to someone that you are something. I like dresses, and I like men’s clothing, and I like girls, and I like boys, and the person I am today is the person I will be tomorrow, is the person I will be the day after that.

When people say “How are you both of these things? Both boyish and girlish at the same time,” tell them “I am both of these things, and so much more.”

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@carolinephinney

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