By RIKKI DUBOIS
As a child of the 1960s and 70s, I was given boys’ toys to play with because I was labelled a boy. These consisted mostly of cars and guns. Cowboys and Indians (I know that’s not politically correct, but that was the name of the game at that time) was a favourite. If you didn’t have a gun, you used a branch or a hockey stick.
At that time, toys were separated into boys’ and girls’ toys; it’s not that the toys had little penises or vaginas, but rather, they were designated for boys or girls. If boys were caught playing with girl toys, they were labelled sissies, and girls playing with boy toys were told “it’s not ladylike.” There was a concept of boys are boys and girls are girls, and they should not be playing with the same toys.
Being a girl in a boy’s body is very confusing when one doesn’t realize they’re a girl. I had to play games that I did not find interesting and this added to my depression. I was trying to fit in with the other boys because I was supposed to be a boy and I did not want to be labelled a sissy. I was already a target of bullying by my brother and some neighbourhood boys, so I didn’t want to give them more ammunition.
I liked to play with toy cars, but while the other boys would say their engine was a 454 with four on the floor and dual exhaust, I would smile and say nothing. At the time, I didn’t know what any of this meant and I really didn’t care. I liked the pretty cars in the pretty colours. The boys would have races and smash up their cars. I just wanted to drive them and visit my friends because, to me, it was really like playing house. It was the same when we played cowboys and Indians. When others were playing shoot ’em up, I played dress-up. My favourite games were where we would make cowboy costumes and use chairs as horses.
The best times I had when I was a child were when I played with the neighbourhood girls. We would play school, house or dress-up. I felt comfortable with them and I enjoyed the games.
When I started school, I found it hard because I was in an all boys school. I tried to fit in, but I spent a lot of time alone because I didn’t like the games they played. I didn’t like the play fighting or wrestling, and I wasn’t good at sports. It was a lonely time for me, but the next year things got better. The school amalgamated with a local girls school and both became co-ed. The girls’ school was now kindergarten to Grade 4 and my school was Grade 5 to 8.
I was now going to school with girls and this is where I finally started to make friends. However, it caused other issues. I wanted to play with the girls, and a lot of times I did, but doing so too often would lead to me being labeled a sissy and again becoming a target for bullies. The girls treated me well and we played hopscotch or skip rope. I enjoyed that and felt like I was one of them. But, in order to fit in at school, I would sometimes play sports with the boys. I wasn’t very good at sports, but I did what I could to protect myself.
My family moved around a lot when I was a child. Because of this, I never made any long lasting friends. So, as soon as I made friends with the girls at school, I would have to move to a new school and start over trying to fit in. When I was in Grade 6 or 7, to alleviate the loneliness, I played with my little sister. She is seven years younger than me, so that would make her about five years old at this time. We would play house with her dolls and tea set. I really enjoyed this and making her happy gave me great joy.
Since I spent a lot of time alone, I would pass most of my time by listening to music and drawing and writing. I was not a great artist, but I liked to sketch and my pictures were not too bad. My real passion ended up being writing. I have been writing since I was a child and have evolved to where I now write for The Aquarian, as well as other periodicals and books.
It is now 2017 and I hope that as a society we have done away with labelling toys as belonging to boys or girls. We should let children choose what they want to play with, encourage different styles of play and let them express themselves with whatever toy they want. A boy playing with dolls may turn out to be a childcare provider or, at the very least, a great dad. A girl playing with cars may turn out to be the next Danica Patrick or a car design engineer. And, more importantly, transgender children should have the right to play with the toys that they most identify with.
I am now an adult and have stuffed animals and dolls on top of my bed. These toys make me feel like I am a girl (woman) in every sense of the word.
Rikki Dubois is a transgendered Winnipeg writer. She has two sons in university and is living with her partner, Charlene, and their black Pomeranian named Tux. Her book Muffy was Fluffy helps children understand what it means to be transgendered. Rikki is available to help those who have questions about gender dysphoria and other gender-related issues. Visit her website for contact information or for more examples of her written works.