One night when I was a child, I laid in my top bunk bed, cuddling with one of my toy stuffed animals, and begging God to change me into a boy. I wanted to be a boy so badly.
Boys could conveniently pee at a park, behind a tree, standing up. Boys could belch and fart and it wasn’t perceived as taboo. Boys could go fishing, hiking, hunting, do other rugged outdoor things, and freely run around and play sports. Boys seemed to be allowed to have so much more fun and do so much more than girls could. Stereotypically, girls played with dolls, cooked, cleaned, stayed home and didn’t go to work outside, took care of babies, and wore clothes that revealed their hineys if they didn’t sit properly or if they tumbled and rolled around on the ground or down hills.
When I prayed for God to change me into a boy, I fully believed that when I woke up the next morning, if he didn’t turn me into a boy completely, that I would at least begin to see some changes in my body. When I woke up, of course, I didn’t see any changes. But, I imagined that there must have been something going on, and I just couldn’t see it yet. There wasn’t, obviously, but there was definitely something going on in my mind and soul.
I was confused about and discontent with what God created me to be – I didn’t have those specific thoughts back then. But, that is how, in retrospect, I would describe my feelings. And, it was like this, I think, for several reasons.
First of all, I was heavily influenced by my male cousin. He never did or said anything to influence me, it was just that he was the same age as me and a great playmate. Also, since he was the older boy in his family, he tended to lead and dominate. And I, being the youngest in my family, tended to follow, be clingy, and not have any preferences or interests of my own yet, and so I just took on the same interests and preferences as my cousin.
Another reason I believe I was discontent was because I was athletic, and mechanically and technically inclined, which were all stereotypically boyish traits – and everyone knew it – and so that made me feel like I should be a boy.
And finally, while my parents never discouraged me from participating in sports or technical activities and while they never spoke of those types of activities as boyish, the culture I grew up in did, and my parents just didn’t have the perception, knowledge, or language to talk with me about these things in order to counteract the culture’s stereotypes. They didn’t know how to encourage me to be the kind of girl God created me to be.
Being a girl was not a celebrated role in my environment growing up, and I had no idea that you could be a girl and do a lot of things without it being a stigma.
If I could go back in time and help my parents raise me, one thing I would encourage them to do would be to talk with me and my siblings periodically and randomly about how it was good to be a girl or a boy. Also, I would encourage them to talk with us about how it was okay for girls to play sports, build things, and program computers, and how it was okay for boys to cook, play with dolls, and be emotional and social.
Things my parents did that I wouldn’t change, would be how they weren’t overbearing and overwhelming about gender and gender stereotypes. Also, they didn’t present any other options to us, because they were believers and believed God’s word, and there were no other options. Furthermore, they continually followed Christ by going to and taking us to church, and signing us up for VBS, church summer camp, and church youth group missions and summer trips. They also taught us about following Christ by directly introducing him to us, and also with their integrity and lives, and by giving us consequences for sin.
My parents did a lot of other things that I wouldn’t change. They did the best they could in their time and with the resources that they had – as we all do in raising up our kids – and they left and trusted the rest to God. That’s the big, big, big thing they did that I wouldn’t change, and that I would encourage all parents to do: do the best, and leave and trust the rest to God.
On another night as I was laying in my bed, when I was 16 or 17 (I was on the bottom bunk this time, because my big sister had moved out), I had just finished reading some or all of A.W. Tozer’s book The Pursuit of God. And, for whatever reason, in resolve and sincerity, I prayed to God to make me the woman he created me to be. It was going to be a process, I knew. But I also fully believed that I was going to become the woman he created me to be.
And since that time, because God is real and good (even though I didn’t fully know him like that back then), I haven’t been the same and I’ve always been, as I’ve kept on pursuing God and allowing him to work in my mind and soul, becoming the woman he created me to be. Not the woman that society expects me to be, but the woman whom God uniquely created me to be.