WANTING TO BE WHO WE'RE NOT
 

Creative Nonfiction by Queer Writers
Edited by Jim Tushinski and Jim Van Buskirk
Now available from Harrington Park Press

 
 
 

WHEN I WAS A GIRL/1966 (excerpt)

by Deborah La Garbanza

     I always wanted to grow up and be a guy with a white undershirt and large sweat stains under the armpits. To not care how I looked, have greasy hair, a powerful chest with bulging arms. To scratch my crotch absentmindedly. I wasn't meant to be a girl. But a major reassignment sent everything that was outwards inside. Now at fourteen, nothing was spontaneous and I became self-conscious, self-hating. "Hypocrisy" became my favorite vocabulary word as I tried valiantly to fit in, yet deplored the conformist I had become.
     I sat in the last seat in the third row in Mrs. Kuznitz's English class, stewing in my sweat, my mouth cracked, half-formed answers frothing and dying on my lips. I was surrounded by girls, most of whom I had known since the Second Grade. There was Lisa Fishgrund with her little turned-up nose and ironed hair, looking like a princess. She had endless pairs of soft and rounded Cappezio shoes in plum, persimmon, vermillion, puce, teal, and olive to match corresponding colors in her endless plaid kilts. Lisa wasn't pretty but I didn't notice. Her nose had been fixed and all her earrings matched her outfits. She didn't seem to mind being a girl, in fact, she seemed to revel in it.


     I had only recently and reluctantly become one. Due to my mother's renewed efforts to break me of my tomboy ways, I succumbed to the pressures of girlhood. This involved corralling my movement and feelings. I watched in horror as budding breasts grew on my once-flat chest. They became the symbol of my new, restricted landscape. No longer would I be roughhousing with the boys, playing left field, fighting Eddie Urbat for neighborhood domination. I could kiss the undershirt good-bye.