Oh, yes, I remember that day vividly; in fact it is my earliest memory from my childhood. I remember it darkly. Sadly for it was that day that I discovered a reality about me that would haunt me until now, 57 years later.
Bright, sunny, end of October 1960. I was five then. I was headed to a kindergarten Halloween party. Mom didn’t drive. There were no buses then, so our neighbor across the way was taking us to school.
I was in my Indian Brave costume. Simulated buckskin pants and tunic top with fringe. I carried a homemade bow and tomahawk that my dad made, sported some “war” paint designs on my face, and had (I suppose) a simulated eagle feather in my head band.
Mom and the neighbor chatted a bit as I reluctantly made my way to the car in my “stupid” costume. Why was it “stupid”? We weren’t rich; mom went out of her way to buy me an authentic costume rather than throw something together from what was around the house. I should have been so very happy, but something wasn’t settled within.
I was dark in spirit. I should like my costume, but I was not excited. Why not? I didn’t know, but I just wasn’t.
I climbed in the back seat of the car to be greeted by the prettiest little girl ballerina I had ever seen in my young five years of experience. In fact, she may have been the only ballerina I had ever seen.
She was perfect. Shoulder length blonde hair in ringlets, a pink leotard, tights, tutu, and dance shoes, and a typical (for that time) mold plastic mask held on her face by an elastic string around head.
And I was confused, so very confused. Who was this girl? Why was she coming with us to school? She wasn’t from our neighbor? I don’t ever remember playing with her.
And where was Fred, our neighbor’s son? Why wasn’t he coming to school with us?
And then she spoke. Only it was Fred’s voice.
“Oh my, this is Fred!” I realized. This perfect little girl sitting next to me wasn’t a girl at all. It was Fred, who was sitting there as if being in a leotard, tights, and tutu, looking as much like a little ballerina as possible for a boy was the most natural thing in the world for him.
And then I felt sick in my stomach. Then I knew why my costume was “stupid.” For a boy it wasn’t a stupid costume. It was a perfect boy costume, only I wasn’t a perfect boy. I was a princess, a ballerina, the girl figure skater I watched on TV, the “mommy” when we played house. I really wasn’t a boy; I was a girl.
The Halloween party at school was horrible. Sally, and Gwen, and Nancy, and Joyce, and Kathy; all of them were there in “girl” costumes. Being little girls they giggled, and squealed, and twirled and skipped; all living realities of what I knew myself to be. But. . . .
I couldn’t join their group that day. And I wasn’t interested in being part of the boys group either.
Since that day until now I have been in costume every day. For a boy and now a man they’ve not been stupid costumes. They have been perfect male costumes, but me, I am not a perfect male.
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