Back in December while we were on our Christmas holiday, one of my friends on Facebook linked to "One Teacher's Approach to Preventing Gender Bullying in the Classroom", and I quickly scanned it, liked it, and bookmarked it to get back to later, when I was back home. It took me about six weeks to get back to it. I shouldn't have ignored it for so long, though – it's really thoughtful and the best thing I've read about children and the gender spectrum. I'm not sure that anyone was paying much attention to this stuff when I was the same age as the kids in the article.
I was thinking out the article again, the next day as I was drying our dinner dished, and all of a sudden, I remembered Anita.
Anita's grandfather lived next door to my grandparents (who always called him "The Dutchman", which I never understood and always felt a little uncomfortable about; they were all friendly and had a shared interest in vegetable gardening). Sometimes, when I'd be spending a Saturday afternoon at my grandparents' house, Anita would be doing the same thing, and we'd play together.
Anita and I made mudpies and played on the aluminum swingset in my grandparents' backyard. We raced up the sidewalk in front of the houses, me on an ancient green tricycle and Anita on a Big Wheel (which I secretly coveted). And Anita would always say to me, "I'm actually a boy, you know. Even if I have a girl's name."
Anita wasn't like the girls that I played with at school, at all. I remember Anita showing off some impressive climbing skills by reaching the top of the posts supporting the awning over the concrete patio.
I was six years old and didn't think that girls were supposed to climb that high (or pedal a Big Wheel that fast), but I would still argue with Anita, babbling things like, "Of course you're a girl, Anita. Why do you say that you're not?" I was six years old and confused, so I echoed what the adults in my life told me about my friend. And I remember the calmness about Anita, repeating "I'm actually a boy, you know" with certainty like it was something that had been practiced a lot.
It's thirty years later, and after reading that article, I remembered my old friend, and I wonder if Anita is still saying "I"m actually a boy, you know."