Being In and Out of the Guys’ World

By Rayne Grabowski

 When I was little, I learned many things. I learned to lock the car immediately after my mom went to the gas pump; I learned to scream and what it meant when I said no; I learned to cover myself up as to not make me a target; I learned that all my problems could be solved with a “yes, sir” while ignoring the underlying sexual tension within a sentence.

One thing I never learned, or had even heard of, was the LGBTQ+ community. But even then, I figured I was straight: I had never had a crush before, so there’s no evidence to prove otherwise. Transgender and nonbinary had never been introduced to my vocabulary. But still, I didn’t have many friends. I wasn’t girly enough to be accepted into the girls, and I was too girly to hang out with the boys. So I stayed to myself, reading books as my only comfort.

As I got older, puberty started to show itself. I started to develop more feminine traits. And I hated it. My body felt like a violation to myself; I didn’t want to develop into a stereotypical girl. My only response to this was to hide myself. I wore more baggy clothing, and my shirts only came from the men’s section or had necklines up to my neck.

Honestly, it’s funny that this was glossed over.

 In school, I was pressured to “be like the girls.” Every year, I would come up with a crush to tell others so they’d leave me alone. It was an equation in my head. I would find the guy that would be typically attractive. He’d check off the basic boxes on the checklist. Never once had I thought that my interpretation of the world was odd. I hated when my gym teachers would separate our class by boys and girls; I’d volunteer for the positions in which the teacher needed “a strong boy;” I’d want to play the trombone versus a flute or clarinet (which I was told were female instruments); I never dreamed of a first date; the thought of a first kiss terrified me; I never wanted to be a mother.

The list goes on.

When I was around the age of ten, my parents sat my sister and I down. My aunt, who is trans, had just come out and was transitioning. They expected us to have lots of questions, but I simply nodded and said, “ok.” My sister asked a few questions, but I had none to follow up. It just seemed natural to me. She’s a girl. That’s life.

But still, that thought of being the wrong gender stuck with me. I knew I wasn’t a girl, though I made myself indulge in sparkly pink clothes and Barbies to teach myself otherwise. I was ushered into the kitchen at parties with my sister and older cousin while my oldest cousin (a boy) got to sit around and do nothing. This made me mad.

Now, it makes me mad for a completely different reason.

I lived in fear. My body was expanding in ways that felt unnatural, my voice was cracking in ways I hadn’t thought possible – putting me at a larger difference from my guy friends. Eventually, they left me behind. They wanted to “hang with the guys.” Some figured I was looking for a boyfriend. In reality, it was neither. I just wanted to be their friend, their equal.

But they never saw me as that. One instance sticks out in my mind, from the beginning of middle school. For privacy reasons, I’ll call them Henry and Jake.

My sister and I were at our friends’ house. Henry was my age, and Jake was my sister’s. Jake and my sister would joke around about getting married when they were toddlers, though Henry and I would never partake in anything similar. We’d talk about Legos and video games.

My mom sat upstairs in the kitchen. She was babysitting. Our mothers did this; one babysitting one week and the other the next, and there was never any pay involved since they’d end up babysitting for the other. The basement was in a soft shade of brown, the type from an unfinished basement. A TV sat in front of us; Henry, Jake, and I were playing Minecraft.

The game engulfed me. I was learning the controls – struggling quite a bit – since my family didn’t have a gaming system. We didn’t have the budget for it, and much less for the games themselves. Henry was out fighting the monsters, though that part didn’t interest me. I just wanted to build. When night would fall in the game, I would work on the house while Henry and Jake would fight off the monsters. I wasn’t much good at the game, but I enjoyed it.

We played like that for hours, me building while the others fought. I had a blast, and once I went home, I said I had a good time. But little did I know, that was going to be the last time my mom babysat for their mom again. Also, their mom wouldn’t be back to do so for us.

Consequently, I lost the last of my guy friends.

Looking back, I think my lack of violence threw them off. Maybe they thought, “Why would someone just want to build and not battle?” For years, it’s been a question that I’ve asked myself countless times. To this day, I have not found an answer.

 I didn’t crave violence and play sports like the guys, but I didn’t like Instagram and boy talk like the girls. So what am I?

It wasn’t until high school that I became familiar with the term nonbinary. I knew it existed, like a spot out of the corner of your eye. I had never inspected it, though. Same with asexuality – I knew what it was, but had never really considered it before. Especially not as a term to describe myself.

Another instance stands out, one from my junior year of high school.

My bed was across from me. The pale purple on my walls did nothing to soothe my anger. I hated life. I hated that I was treated differently because I was a girl. I hated that people only assumed the worst of me, calling me lazy and petty. I hated that I was supposed to look and act a certain way. I hated that people around me thought I was faking mental illness for attention, since my symptoms couldn’t line up with a single diagnosis.

Despite the pain in my foot, I kicked the metal bedframe, which made a clang! every time the two collided. The pain felt good, a welcome distraction from the overwhelming questions in my mind. Why is life like this? Why can’t I make friends? Wouldn’t life be easier as a boy? “I hate being a girl!”

I screamed, my foot colliding with the bedframe one last time before I slid down to the floor. No one had come to check on me; my mom was probably busy with my sister. That one line repeated over and over in my head: I hate being a girl.

Cue the gay awakening.

I began presenting more masculine, and eventually started using the name Rayne. It felt right, and natural. When I cut my hair, it felt like I was a new person. I got to say goodbye to the girl who would hide in her bedroom, avoiding the world outside through books and fantasy worlds that provided temporary comfort. I didn’t have to worry while walking down the street about a guy catcalling me, and would instead be included in head nods and greetings.

Slowly but surely, I worked my way back into the world of boys. While I’m not fully a guy - I still don’t like cars, and much prefer the arts to sports – I found out I leaned more on the masculine side of things. I learned about being asexual, and how it interacted with me as a person.

Though going through life as a nonbinary individual was not easy, I’m not sure if I would opt to have been a cis guy. The challenges I faced; being afab (assigned female at birth) with the constant fear of comments and worse, those taught me more than any lecture on sexual assault and harassment ever could. It taught me that to find yourself, you need to get back up. You have to come up, covered in more blood than solid skin, and face the world head on. Over time, you’ll get scars. But the scars remind you of who you are, your values, and what lies beneath your appearance.

Your scars make you… you.

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