Wednesday, 16 December 2015

What It Feels Like For A Girl

My big sister has always been my best friend. Since finally getting over her jealousy about my being born three years later and stealing the limelight, we have been soulmates. We were born on the same day and I don't know if that means anything, but we seemed to sense what each other was feeling and knew when we looked at each other exactly what was going on. I think we still do.

We played for hours as children - she made a great teacher and all the girls in the street would follow her instructions about getting into teams or just doing what she said. She was cool. And all my girl friends were cool. They always wore cool outfits and made their hair cool, and boys were yuck. Like learning the piano or the trumpet, I had daily lessons on how to be a girl.

The years never really changed my love of all things the girls did. I always borrowed my sister's lilac Raleigh bicycle and rode up and down the street, endlessly, loving the wind in my hair. I felt so free. When it was very windy, I would take an umbrella and run in the gusts, trying to see if I could fly.

Inside the house, when my sister would play with her My Little Pony dolls and plait their tails or Barbie's hair, I loved to join in. I knew when my mum walked in the room that I should pretend that I wasn't doing it and I would start playing with my Action Man. When she left, I would take off his trousers and just wonder what was going on at the top of his legs.

My mum was a hairdresser and when she had clients around, I would sometimes get to comb their hair. I loved watching the scissors snip through the flat bunches of hair, and watch it float to the floor. We'd put the hair outside and my mum told me how the birds would use it to help them make nests. I was so excited by this strange idea that small birds might be keeping warm in our neighbour's hair. I liked spending hours styling my own hair and begged and begged for it to be permed or coloured. The answer was usually no, until I finally got my way around 13 and was told by my school to cut it off. None of the other boys at school seemed bothered about their hair. Boys were yuck.

In Latin class, we learnt about the Romans and Pompeii and Vesuvius. I was as fascinated by language as I was by the illustrations of Romans bathing. I didn't know why, but I loved looking at the images. In P.E., I always felt like I should have been in a different changing room. I felt so exposed in front of these alien beings. Our P.E, teacher made us strip completely so he could ensure we were clean.

On good days, when my closest friends were around, we laughed our worries away, about nothing in particular - we made silly voices, silly dances and when the other boys called us gay, we went under the tables and made them shake as we squealed. We wanted to shock them but didn't know what it all meant. I missed hanging with my sister and my other girl friends. I guess this was growing up. I spent some weekends with Sammie from Abu Dhabi, watching aeroplanes. His mum sold vending machines for tights and I remembered thinking how glamorous it sounded.
Our aeroplane-watching treat                         bramble,net
Visting nana at the weekends was great. My nana has big glasses and even bigger hair. A picture of her on the wall showed her smiling wrapped in a fur coat. I remember thinking that I wanted to be like that when I was older. I loved trying on my grand-dad's leather moccasins and trilbies, polishing his sports car. We ate pear trees from the front garden.

Back at home, in the evenings, we would all watch Coronation Street together. I adored Bet Lynch's leopard print dresses and peroxide hair stacked on top of her head. I loved her delivery of lines as she lazily smoked a cigarette from its oversized holder, her red lacquered nails propping it to her mouth. What a woman! I thought.

Boys are yuck!                   
It wasn't until I started college that the realisation hit me. I had nothing to say to the guys. They said cruel things to me. They threw food at me as I walked through the canteen at lunch; in some weird way, I liked the attention so occasionally to taunt them, I would walk through a few times a day. Boys are yuck! I resolved to spending a lot of free time on computer's inventing new fashion brands - Figotelli Cereno was gonna be the next Dolce & Gabbana, I decided.

In my media studies class as I studied Father Ted, I remember feeling peculiar and sick when looking at a half Sicilian student across from me. I would look away and my heart would race if I suspected he was looking at me. We, very awkwardly, began hanging out and I felt like I was one of those pop-up 3D cards that someone had just opened.One night, we found ourselves in my parent's freezing cold garage and I shook so hard with nerves I thought I would pass out. A kiss didn't happen, it couldn't possibly. One night, he took me into Manchester's Gay Village and the initial intro was like I'd entered DisneyWorld - I thought this is where my community, my acceptance, my kindred spirits would be, waiting to welcome me. But I wanted my girls - I didn't look like them and I didn't relate to these strange creatures either.. They were often cruel to each other and often hostile to me. But I pushed through so I could hang out there - despite the other stuff, it seemed safer.

On way my to uni, sometimes I would pass through the city centre to get to university and people would insult me and builders would lob things at me - once, a glass bottle flew past my right ear. Another time, as I crossed Albert Square in the centre of town, a car passed with blacked-out windows, rolled them down, pointed a gun at me...then squirted water. They laughed and sped off.

The bonkers outfits I wore, mostly hand-made out of anything I found inspiring, couldn't help but warrant all the attention, a similar type to girls in short skirts and low-cut tops. Boys are yuck! The kinds of magazine I was reading like i-D and The Face were full of images and people I admired. So I naively wished for an appreciation of the boldness, the creativity rather than be a catalyst for men's imagination on what I did in my bedroom.

I see people all the time whose appearance I don't understand. I'm fascinated with the trans community, and I also wonder what it's like to be small or very old or from an indigenous group, or blind. I'm shocked when I see someone with a piercing that looks painful. I can't believe the rawness of images and video in some gay clubs I've visited. But throughout all these different thoughts and experiences, I've not once felt moved to hurl objects at these people or humiliate them. That's their business and I don't want my ignorant opinion to hurt anybody. I know the deep shame that festers after a cruel remark. I'm still coming to terms with it. So when passers-by see me with blow-dried or coloured hair or wearing eyeliner, or sporting an oversized bowtie or neon glasses, or holding hands with the person I love, I'm still not sure how it became their business. They have the option to look away. I'm pretty sure that none of my actions are hurting or affecting their life, although they may never have seen such strange sense of fashion before, or 2 men holding hands. That's OK because neither have I. This is the first time I have lived on earth, as far as I know: I'm just making the most of it, being honest and bold and reaching for my own peculiar happiness. Maybe they should, too.

When we see a small animal or a baby, or someone elderly and immediately are moved to help them and protect their vulnerability, it's an instinct without prejudice. Appearances and age differ but, underneath it all, we are all as vulnerable and delicate as we were when we were much smaller and less educated than we are now. Don't let appearances deceive you - it's only the outer shell that's fully grown while our hearts, our spirits, our sense of self remains a child. It still plays easily, but it wounds just as easily. I've come here, to this planet, in this lifetime, to offer my version of love and to be loved - if you can't give me that, that's OK...just move on and allow room for the next person. Reflect on your day, on your emotions and own your life - reserve judgment on other people's because your eyes only tell you a tiny part of their story. If your interest is sparked by someone, open the conversation - ask them who they are and they may be happy to share their story.

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