Growing up, I wasn’t acquainted with the term ‘tomboy’. I mean, I didn’t speak English, so there’s that. But even if I did, nobody would’ve ever called me such. I have two older brothers, so my mum basically bathed me in pink, cute clothes with cats and ponies on them. I hated soccer, loved Barbie and playing dress up and wanted my hair to grow so long that I could walk all the way to China on it. I’ve always been very creative with my dreams.
And then came puberty where I had a pixie cut for 4 years. Beside the fact that I still think most people look better with chin length hair max, I didn’t really have any other way to rebel. I mean, not having a curfew makes it pretty hard to break one and most of the time, I enjoy staying in anyway.
What I didn’t notice until about now that I’ve grown my hair out to chin-length is that with the freedom of short hair, I put a whole set of new rules upon myself. It started with ‘always shave your legs’ and didn’t end at ‘don’t ever under any circumstances wear wide clothes’. What they all had in common was that I didn’t want my short hair to make me look too ‘masculine’. I mean, I don’t consider myself horrible at fashion. I know that you shouldn’t wear socks in sandals and if you give me enough time, I can totally put on winged eyeliner. So all in all, I never really knew where my general unhappiness with the way I dressed over the last years came from.
Well, now I know. My problem was that I love comfy clothes. Flannel shirts, converse, flares, men’s t-shirts, harem pants and huge hoodies are like heaven to me. (Also, dresses. What’s more comfy than not wearing trousers? But dismissing those had more to do with the unwritten rule that nobody wears dresses at our school.)
What I didn’t realize is that with not letting myself wear what I wanted, I made it completely impossible to feel comfortable with myself. Because who cares if I “look like a boy”? Who cares about gender roles? Who cares if I’m too lazy to style my pixie or put on mascara? Who cares if boys like girls with long hair better? Certainly not me. And certainly not anybody whose opinion matters to me.
I never considered that my clothes do not have to determine my gender identity in any way. I love stereotypically girly things and I love being a girl, but I also love to be able to wipe my eyes without fear of smudging and bending over without worrying about flashing everybody with how huge my cleavage is. (If I had one. Tiny boobs are a whole different topic).
Which is not to say that tons of makeup and revealing clothes aren’t really awesome! Sometimes, I love wearing those, too. It’s just that most of the time, I don’t.
Another thing (besides time to think and a new haircut) that helped me with this realization was the internet. There are lots of great people out there who break the gender boundaries and look dashing while doing so: Ruby Rose (who is gender fluid, but uses she/her pronouns), Jaden Smith (who rocks skirts and dresses better than anybody I know) and so many more.
My personal favourite role model in terms of not giving a crap about clothes ‘fitting’ your gender is the American youtuber Hannah “I just like menswear” Hart. Sure, she doesn’t have the most extreme style or anything, but I recall a ‘Q and Yay’ video that took me ages to find again where she gets the question: “Do you wear a chest binder under your shirts and such? It looks like you might.”
Back when I watched that video for the first time, I was absolutely sure that her answer would be something witty along the lines of ‘That’s like the most hidden way somebody has ever called me flat.’ But what she did answer was a simple: “I don’t wear a chest binder under my shirts, but if you do: cool.” Because why would you take something like that as an insult? Why wouldn’t you wear a binder if it looks great with dress shirts or if you just feel more comfortable with it, no matter how much you identify as a woman?
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that when I got called a tomboy by a friend a few months ago, I took it as a confirmation rather than insult. And sure, now that I have my bob I could just get over my old problems and roll around in a pile of hoodies and wide shirts without fearing the judgemental glances of other people. It’s crazy what a difference a few inches of hair make. But knowing myself, it won’t be very long until I cut all of my hair off again, and when that happens, I’ll wear alllllll of the comfy clothes. Or whatever I’ll be into when the time comes. Until then, I’ll take comfort in Hannah’s (drunken) words:
“Be patient and be kind to yourself during that process of discovery. […] Look at yourself in the mirror and say: You got this, dude! Or lady-dude. Or dude-lady! Or lady-lady! Or, y’know, whatever you are.”