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MY Black History Month: Genda Benda

February 7, 2011

From d'bi young's website

years of socialization

shit like girl wear pink

boy wear blue

boy play sports

girl play house

girl get barbie

boy get firetruck…

gender is a social construct


d’bi.young from “genda benda”
People always told me I was a tomboy, a phrase I learned to label myself with for most of my younger years:  ‘a girl that acts like a boy’. This idea that my actions — my choice in clothing, my preferences to physical sports and alerting to the McDonald’s cashier that I want a Hot Wheels car in my happy meal, not a My Little Pony — where outside of the norm, that I was pretending to be something I wasn’t supposed to, made me feel like there was something wrong with me. I wasn’t pretending, I was being me, liking things I liked, doing things I liked doing.Being a tomboy wasn’t a serious offence since the notion with most parents is that its a phase, that little girls, become young girls and soon become young women. Their interests change and that they will eventually have to conform to female gender social role in order to attract men. There was also an understanding that having a tomboy was less alarming than having a ‘sissy boy,’ a boy who exhibits feminine qualities, because this surely would lead to having a gay child. The link between homosexuality and androgyny, whether real or imagined sparked fear in parents everywhere. And the image girl smashing two trucks or a boy combing a doll’s hair is often frowned upon and these attitudes have can have a lasting effect a child’s self-esteem leaving him/her the choice of either conformity or isolation.d’bi.young‘s words in “genda benda” is a long-awaited celebration for individuals that deviate from gender norms. She screams independence, acceptance, unapologetic self-expression. Playwright, dramatists, actress, dub poet and educator d’bi.young was the first women to teach me that the feminine spirit is something that all women possess. Something that goes beyond physical appearance, likes and dislikes and sexual orientation. The feminine spirit transcends the gender construct of ‘being feminine’ as she has shown me that I am already and always will be feminine. I invite you listen to d’bi.young’s poem: genda benda where she lays it out raw. She changed my history, I am not a tomboy, I am me.

Click here: genda benda

And in the spirit of Gender Bending, I’ve included an excerpt of my short story (based on true events) in progress entitled, “Jockeys.”

I opened my bag and pulled out some girly sweater my mom thought I was wearing. I handed it to Dawn.

“A wha dat yuh a wear?”

“But Ma, it’s comfortable.”

“No gal pickney of mine a wear man pants an’ man brief.”

Mom made me change into girls clothes but I stuffed my dad’s UB40 t-shirt and overalls into my schoolbag. Mom dropped me off at school I switched in the washrooms before first bell.

Dawn took the sweater and sat on it. I was glad I had extra clothes to share.

I was still wearing the Jockeys. They poke out of my pants sometimes. Like today, during in-door recess, they did when I was lying on my belly arm-wrestling Scott Adams. I beat him too and he’s a fat kid. Boys are allowed to be fat but girls aren’t in the fifth grade. It’s weird when one fat kid makes fun of another fat kid for being fat. Boys can get away with that sort of thing.

Boys are also allowed to wear jerseys, baseball caps and boxers. When girls wear these things, when I do, they call me a lesbian. But boxers are comfortable, like elastic shorts. Scott is a pansy and a sore loser. He points at my Jockeys and calls me a lesbian whenever he loses.

It’s strange how they use this word for Dawn. She wears headbands with sparkles and chapstick that smells like candy-cane. She doesn’t live with her daddy, so she can’t steal his boxers. Dawn took the sweater from me and smiled.

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