I want to be able to say, “when I was a little girl.” I want to be able to say, “when I was a little girl” without people assuming that I identify as a girl now. Because I want to be able to talk about my childhood and take ownership of my childhood in the names and identities I grew up in without betraying who I am now.
I don’t want to give up the home of my childhood or be shoved into one that is far too tight and uncomfortable for me now.
I want the comfort but not the dysphoria. Here are the things I bite my tongue to stop myself from saying:
When I was a little girl, my best friend was a cat named Charlie. I was by her side when she gave birth to her first litter. I was 5 and I knew from the wind in her eyes what was coming. When I was a little girl, all the cats in my neighborhood approached the sidewalk as I walked by. They don’t any longer because I am no longer that little girl radiating special energy.
When I was a little girl, I was a rebel. The kind who sat up straight and followed instructions but was just as antsy for recess and OUTSIDE as anybody else. I bit the buttons off my red sweater on the top of the playground’s volcano to prove I wasn’t tame.
When I was a little girl, I folded a lot of origami. When I was a little girl, I brought my paper shopping bag full of snowflakes with me to the neighborhood Vietnamese restaurant because I didn’t want to be apart from them. I forgot them beneath the table when we left. I still feel sad.
I wore puffy purple jackets as a young girl. A perfect parade of puffy purple jackets. I loved my coats very much.
I refer to myself as a kid frequently. Refer to myself as a present-day kid, a never-gonna-grow-up kid, but instead take-charge-throw-it-down kind of get-stuff-done-when-I’m in-my-element person. Don’t mistake my scrubbiness for flubbing it.
Because I don’t see myself as a woman. I am not a woman. I will not grow up to be a woman.
And I am not sophisticated enough to call myself adult.
But I don’t want to recollect my childhood as a “kid” when that word wasn’t always my main home.
Give me “girl” for these select memories. But please don’t mistake it for more.