“Am I girl enough?”
Cisgender women and girls struggle with this question at some point. For some it’s a life long internal battle that is never resolved. For transgender women and girls it’s even harder. The female identity is oppressed, critiqued, ridiculed, commercialized, sexualized, and violated. Whether in media, marketing, school dress codes, career opportunities, academics, or full, legal control over our own bodies. Or how we shame and ostracize one another for lacking “enough-ness.”
Recently my daughter, Stella, has been questioning her own qualifications and measurements of femininity. She feels alienated because she doesn’t wear dresses often, likes taking things apart, loves science, and super heroes. Before transitioning she wasn’t “boy” enough, either. Her activities, talents, interests, and gender expression wasn’t girl or boy enough for her peers. It was torturous. To see her go through the same struggle now is frustrating.
The pressure to conform to superficial stereotypes of femininity does not only hurt girls. Boys are equally as harmed. Feminine characteristics vacillate between spaces of acceptance and weakness, often simultaneously. Art, cooking, dance, fashion are reserved for girls. When a young boy shows interest in these areas they are shut down for not being “boy” enough or too girly. How is a child suppose to be able to form their own sense of self with a constant barrage of being too much or not enough?
The majority of the elementary students I work with, who identify as male, have repeatedly been called “gay.” Not to celebrate a person’s sexual identity. Rather because they cried when hurt, frustrated, lonely, confused, or weak. To be weak generally translates to being less than, incapable. As if we are meant to live a life barred from every experiencing or showing weakness. Binary gender roles predetermine that males are strong and females are weak by an archaic, religious dogma. Being weak is conflated with vulnerability.
Being authentic takes courage, determination, honesty. A level of honesty that requires vulnerability. Our weaknesses and insecurities become exposed, which is scary. Most of us go to great lengths to hide or disguise our full glory. We don’t talk about our own body dysphoria openly without assigning shame. Which isolates us from each other and honest human connection. It stops us from asking for help. We want to be seen a certain way in public verses private life. The practice of hiding our “enough-ness” robs us of joy, intimacy, love with ourselves and others
This debate inspired me to ask my Facebook Tribe their thoughts on being girl enough. Adults have the benefit of time to reflect. The list of what we would tell our younger selves is endless. The comments are extraordinary. The honest vulnerability represents authentic, unfiltered feminine power. Cisgender and transgender women shared identical struggles, whether lesbian, straight or queer. When we start talking with one another we break the false stereotypes and narratives of femininity The conversation has just started.
What is female to you?
How do you determine if you are “female” enough? .
Who’s measurement are you using?
Or share a time or situation where you didn’t feel “girl enough.”
Lex, ” When I was 23 I wanted to hike the Pacific Crest Trail and spend 4 months in the mountains doing it (only ended up doing half of it- 1,300 miles). My parents both had their reservations about it but BOTH my grandmother’s didn’t bat an eye. My full-blooded Yakama Indian grandma (Cuthla) simple said, ‘It’s in her blood’ while my other Grandma just said that I knew what I wanted and what I was capable of. They taught me so much and most importantly, BELIEVED IN ME. Their words gave me strength I didn’t know I had.”
Tina, ” I can carry my end of a couch. I have superior upper body strength compared to most women. I also have, and can use a wide variety of power tools. My tool kit is a daily appliance. My manual dexterity is excellent. These are ‘male’ things that I’ve always been proud of. You do you girl!.”
Cheryl, ” For myself, an older than dirt trans woman, being a woman means that I live MY truth openly, honestly every single day. I don’t have to wear any particular “uniform”. Most days I wear no makeup but if I choose to “glam it up”, as much as an old woman can I get to like on our every Friday date night. In the end, I am just me.”
Sara, ” I am a horrible example…but masculine or feminine “boxes” are the worse. They cause self doubt, hate, and discrimination. But as ‘Boi’ as I am, I loved being pregnant. And it didn’t make me feel feminine…breast feeding…still not feminine. The only time I have ever truly felt, what people define as feminine, is on my wedding day. It’s also the only day I have every wanted to feel that way.”
Marcela, ” I honestly love that gender fluidity is in the common conversation now because I sometimes love to play with “girly” and wear dresses and lipstick and feel pretty. But I always felt not “feminine” enough growing up. I was raised the PNW where fashion is sorta non-existent (think REI clothes and Birks for everyone), my shoulders are so broad, I’m hairy in places I “shouldn’t” be so when I came out as queer it was such a relief to be able to express myself as any which way. I can be androgynous and that’s attractive. I can be “masculine” and that’s attractive. I can be “femme-y” and that’s attractive. Now I sorta delight in being any way I feel that day. I now love my strong body, broad shoulders, big butt, large feet. All the things I used to not claim. And I love that I can dress like “a boy” and mostly wear pants. Can you imagine there was a time when a woman couldn’t wear pants!? Or I can rock a dress and play with being femme and with what feels lovely to me. I love this thread it’s interesting. I went through a period of shaved head (inspired by Sinead and Ani) and I loved it.”
Emily, ” I look on my phone almost hourly to see how my sports teams are doing, I love the Mariners. I look at almost every website for shoes. Jimmy Choo is my favorite. But I wear Adidas running shoes.
I corrected the commentator when they pronounced Vera Wang’s name wrong.
I LOVE and I do mean LOVE a good manicure.
I LOVE going backpacking and having nothing but what we can carry.
I LOVE my wife, I understand women. But I LOVE men, and I understand my son and brothers.
You are who you are. You love who you love. You understand who you understand.”
Jessie, ” Growing up, I was fascinated watching my mom put on her makeup. It was like a ritual: everything in exactly the right place. I’ve tried and I always feel like I look funny. A part of me always feels awkward when I need to dress up. I’m uncomfortable in my own skin, I suppose. I look at other women with perfect hair and makeup, and their nails all pretty, and I feel like I’m never going to be pretty or beautiful enough. I’ll never be one of the women I see on TV with a fancy business suit and heels. I’m much more at home in a skirt and leggings, or jeans and a t-shirt. I’m more ok with it now, but it’s taken a lot of time to get there.”
Jamie, ” To me being a female, there is no exact way to be female. I rarely wear make up and dresses. I was a tom boy growing up. I know there is a lot of pressure to be uber feminine, aka make up, hair styled daily and heels. But I am a caring, nurturing and loving person. I don’t need to be a girly girl if I chose not to. Stella, you are a wonderful female as is. You will one day find how you will define your own femininity.”
I invite you to explore what it mean to be female to you? Leave a comment. Let’s keep this conversation going. Our cisgender and transgender girls are looking to us for the answers.