While physical characteristics may clearly define one’s gender, race, or even social status, it is often one significant moment in one’s life when their gender is truly decided. The first five years of my life consisted of my younger sister and I imitating our mother, playing with dolls, and dressing each other up. As my sister was the main person that I played with, gender never really crossed my mind. Even when I started preschool and kindergarten, boys were not boys to me; they were simply new friends and more people to play with.
At that moment in my life, I was just Jackie Goldsmith, I stood in the “girls’ lines” at school, and wore pink dresses and ribbons in my hair to church on Sunday. Looking back now, I can specifically remember when this so-called reality I had as a young child, changed drastically. It all happened when I was six years old; my little brother was born. I didn’t realize the difference until he was almost a year old, but his birth, my mom having a boy instead of a girl, definitely helped form who I am today. His birth was ultimately the alter of my whole reality as I had previously known it.
There are plenty moments that I can look back on during this time, and realize how each aided in forcing my gender upon me. My parent’s followed many of the social norms when it comes to boys and girls. Even at age six I noticed that they dressed my brother differently than they did when my younger sister and I were his age. I even noticed that they had a different tone of voice when they spoke to him; it was nothing at all like the little baby voice that I remembered them using when my little sister was a few months old. You know, the voice that we as toddlers would normally get in trouble for using because we weren’t babies anymore.
While I could pick out all of these little differences, I wasn’t exactly sure why they were the way they were until a few months later. One evening, around the time in my brothers life when he had finally learned to walk, a few relatives were over visiting and just having a good time. My parents and relatives were talking and admiring my baby brother Mike, and my sister and I played with dolls in the corner. As they were talking, I remember my Uncle saying something like, “He’s getting big, you think he will grow up and be a football player like we use to be?
I specifically remember hearing this, because when I did I jumped up and told them that I wanted to play football too. My family just sort of chuckled and my dad told me, “honey, you can’t play football; you’re a girl. ” I was really confused with this statement. I had no idea what that had to do with me wanting to play a game, so I asked. When I had asked him why can’t girls play football too? He told me that football is a sport played by strong boys, and he wouldn’t want his precious little girl getting hurt. As a little girl, I was crushed.
I had never had anyone tell me that I couldn’t do something. Usually at this age all you hear is, “you can be anything you want to be. ” But now, here was my own dad, telling me that I cannot do something simply because I am a girl. I had never seen a difference in boys and girls until now, and at this point I had never been more aware of what gender I was until that night. I was a girl, and I was definitely not strong enough to play with the boys. And from this moment on, I was conscious of all the differences that would continually divide myself from others for the rest of my life.
Know that I am older and can look back on this situation with a lot more knowledge, it’s easy to understand the feelings that I went through. As a child just learning how the world works, I thought what I had known was right, and as my father showed me differently my whole world was turned upside down. I was confused, confined, and pushed away from something I had wanted to do. Early gender classification often limits many children and their possibilities to achieve certain goals, and while parents don’t mean to do this they often do.
Parents often pre-determine gender in many ways, and most of these ways are involuntary. For example the way that they talk to boys and girls differently and the clothes that they dress their children in. The huge impact that my father had in my life at the moment wasn’t meant to be as life changing as it was. My dad wasn’t purposely trying to restrict me from what I had claimed I wanted to do, he was only trying to look after her little daughter. I mean, in all honesty, what father or parent for that matter, would want his little girl out on a football field getting tackled by boys two, three, or four times their size?
Many parents saw this as a safety issue, not as them restricting their child from the gender equality I deserved.. While my father was only looking out for me, he changed my whole world and that moment in my life greatly influenced the phases I went through and have made me who I have become today. Before this experience I was always comfortable, because I didn’t know any other way. However, once I realized the difference and was forced into a certain category I tried my best to reject it.
I stopped playing with barbies and began to ask for new toys like legos and basketballs. I pretty much tried my best to rebel against my parents. I refused to wear the dresses that my mom had put out for me in the morning and would dress myself in things that I considered to be “non-girly. ” I began to develop an oppositional identity. Once my parents realized what a tremendous effect what had happened was having on my life, they were a lot more careful when it came to gender, starting with the toys they bought me and how they treated me.
They made sure things were equal between my brother and I even though we were six years apart. This was also shown through the way they treated my brother as he grew up. They let him make choices himself and tried to make sure things were as gender equal as possible. I realized after the consequences that the carelessness lead to, they never wanted me, or any other member of our family, to feel restricted and they never held me back again. They placed me in co-ed t-ball and I loved it. Through this experience grew my love for sports and my competitive nature.
When someone tells you that you can’t do something, you feel compelled to prove them wrong. While I gave up my interest in football, I was very into competitive sports such as volleyball, basketball, and softball. I believe the reason I became so athletic throughout my life has to do with this certain incident traced all the way back to the age of six. After I was free to make my own decisions and gender wasn’t a strain on the activities that I chose to do, I slowly began to fall into place, on my own.
I believe that its very important for parents to be open minded when it comes to gender. Looking back at my own situation, my parents followed the norms in the beginning and forced me into a realization that I wasn’t ready for. Therefore, as a young child, I did the only thing I could and rebelled. However, as they began to change and let me make my own decisions I got right back on track. I grew into a woman, and the previous experience helped me become my own person. Because of my father, I was determined to be my own individual, an independent and powerful woman.
That was my number one priority growing up and I contribute a lot of my later success to that previous attitude. Growing up a female has been quite an experience. While in my younger years I felt as if my gender was somewhat pre-determined for me, I soon fell into the natural groove of being a female. I am not only comfortable in my own skin now, but I am proud to be a woman. My family is very supportive of all my decisions regardless of gender and they make me feel that I have the ability and power to do anything.