8 years old: Climbing a lampost after school. A younger kid says: “Mummy, why has that boy got long hair.” The kid’s mum said “Sometimes it’s nice for boys to have long hair.” Fair play to the mum, she was being positive about boys looking different.
10 years old: Girl at school — “You look like Seb (a boy in our class) when your hair’s all wet”
(I’m starting to hit puberty now so, strangely, people call me a boy or a man more and more…)
11 years old: In a queue in the chemist, a woman says to her child: “Let that boy go in front.”
11 years old: Walking back from school: “Do you have a dick under that skirt?” I then had my first proper physical fight. It was two against one. I lost.
11 years old: A group of boys at school chanting “I used to be a man, but now I’m a woman!” over and over again at me.
11 years old: My Religious Studies teacher thought I was a boy for the first few months of secondary school. It all started with “You! Go and sit next to that boy (me) over there.”
11–14 years old: Every day on the walk to and from school a group of boys would shout “MAN-WOMAN!” at me (I don’t know why they couldn’t make up their mind)
11–15 years old: The same massive group of boys shout “DIEGO!” at me…every day…every time they see me…so that means all the time. This is because I apparently looked like this early 00s football player (I even named my Hotmail email address after him to try and lessen the blow)…
14 years old: On the bus on the way to school: *girls whispering in the back* “That boy over there is so fit” (I’ll take it, it was a positive one for once)
19 years old: I was working as a kitchen porter for a restaurant and I was told to go and pick up the pasta order from the local deli. I went to the deli and I had forgotten what the order was. So the old Italian shopkeeper rang up the restaurant and said “I have a lad here with me, he works for you. He can’t remember the order.”
21 years old: At a friend’s 21st birthday party, one of her elderly relatives patted me on the head and said I was a “good lad”
22–25 years old: If anyone called me a boy or a man, I didn’t notice it.
25 years old: I’m walking out of a bar and a man having a cigarette outside says to the bouncer “Eurgh! Is that a man or a woman?” The bouncer laughed. I noticed this one because I thought “Hey, isn’t the bouncer supposed to get rid of idiots like this?”
25 years+ It happens so often that my memory hasn’t bothered to record any of it.
Things I’ve learned from my experiences:
I was very hurt by all of this when I was younger, especially in my formative teenage years. I realise now it’s because I thought I needed to fit into everyone’s stereotypes. Instead of embracing my appearance, I told myself everyone was right and that I was ugly. I thought I was ugly because a girl shouldn’t look like a boy. A girl shouldn’t have a big nose and a big chin. A girl should look delicate and pretty.
Fuck that. I’m a woman just as much as any classical ‘feminine’ looking woman (whatever that means!).
It has taken me almost 30 years to realise it.
The only people who use “man” as a term to insult me now are grown men themselves. This is confusing because if they’re using their own gender as an insult… aren’t they just insulting themselves?
I wrote this article to let women who are called “men” as insult know that they are not alone. To that teenage girl sitting alone in her room wishing she could change her looks all because of some ignorant bullies — you are most certainly not alone. We’re with you.