Tomboys and Glitter

By: Lex Jacobson

The Miss America pageant is on in the background as I write. I can’t seem to change the channel. There is something about the whole Miss America franchise that is both fascinating and terrifying to me.

I imagine some girls my age grew up wanting to be a beauty queen. Instead, I spent my childhood fantasizing about being Rambo and the Karate Kid. There are a few pictures of me in my parents’ photo albums in dresses, but they are usually covered in mud from rolling around in the back yard.

With two older brothers and not a lot of money, the only toys I had were hand-me-downs and things we got at garage sales, so I played with GI Joe and transformers. I had a make-believe racecar at the very top of our Japanese maple tree, which I would race for hours. Someone gave me a cabbage patch kid for my sixth birthday. Within a week, I’d cut her hair and put her in pants. That made more sense to me.

Some people have asked me “how did you not know you were gay?” when discussing my tomboyish childhood. And despite the fact that in retrospect, I was completely in love with my second grade teacher, I didn’t question my childhood self.

I was a tomboy, plain and simple. And tomboys don’t have to grow up to be gay. Hell, I didn’t even know I was gay until I was in my early twenties, when I fell in love with my wife (in one relationship with another woman as I was pining for my in-a-relationship future spouse). Despite my boyish childhood, I didn’t turn out butch. I can’t say I’m a lipstick lesbian, but I definitely have some chapstick in my dress pants pocket.

My sister-in-law dresses all three of her girls in pink every single day. They love make-up and curling their hair. My six-year-old niece plays with dolls and is a very “girly girl”. A few days ago, she came up to me and said, “Auntie Lex, I want to be gay.” I dealt with the statement nonchalantly told her she could be whatever felt right to her, but followed up with “you know that you can have lots and lots of girl friends your whole life and still grow up to marry a boy.” She looked right at me and said, “Oh, I know. And I still want to be gay.” I know it’s early to say, but if any of my nieces and nephews end up being gay, I would definitely not be surprised if it was her.

So be it. This world is a weird place to be when you’re trying to figure out your identity. Especially when it comes to gender roles. Especially when it comes to sexuality. There has been a lot of media attention around a Canadian couple raising their child genderless. Though so much of their story doesn’t make sense to me, I appreciate that they’ve got people talking, at the very least.

When we have a child, I’m going to buy clothes that I think are cute – blue, pink, green, yellow or brown. I’ll probably dress it in hand-me-downs from my brothers’ families. If my daughter wants to play with trains, I’ll let her play with trains. If my son wants to play with dolls, I’ll let him play with dolls. We owe our children that freedom.

As for Miss America, we’ve finished the swimsuit round and are on to the evening dresses… I’m not one for the pageant type, but Miss Vermont ain’t bad.


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