1989- My father wants a son, but I pop out of the womb, the doctor holds me up, and announces, “Congratulations, it’s a girl!” and I’m designated female on my birth certificate. My dad gets over his disappointment pretty quickly, but lingering signs of his wanting a boy remain, like his penchant for dressing me in the baby clothes version of the Kansas University Jayhawks basketball uniform.
1992- I attend pre-school. The school complains about my behaviour, since I’m erratic and tend to do my own thing, rather than partake in group activities. I discover the words “wild little Indian” (sic) were used to describe me on my evaluation report.
1994- I attend Kindergarten at King Kamehameha Elementary School. Boys make loud claims about girls having cooties, make a game out of touching girls without getting cooties. I lift my skirt and flash my underwear to get them to stop trying to touch me, to great success.
1995- I read my copies of The Paper Bag Princess and Outside Over There until the pages droop and dog-ear beyond repair.
1996- I get enrolled in little kids’ basketball, and the coaches try to get me to tie my hair back or cut my hair so that it won’t get in my face while I play. I respond by being the best damn player possible even with my hair in my face, refusing to compromise my lovely feminine locks or my love of basketball. Mom finally finds a compromise by giving me a French braid “Like a ballerina”.
1997- I’m switched from partial special-needs to “gifted and talented” in elementary school after scoring a 158 on my I.Q test* administered by the school. Annoyed to discover that there are only three other girls in the course. Pocahontas and Star Wars become my favourite movies, and my mom buys me all of the dolls associated with the Pocahontas film, along with any Native American barbies and dolls she can find. I spend a lot of time combining my two favourite movies my tying my dolls’ hair into Leia-style buns and having Pocahontas and her Powwow crew use lightsabers to defeat Ratcliffe, Darth Vader, the Empire, and the settlers.
1998- I discover the Anastasia Krupnik book series, my life is changed by having books in my life that involve a girl character who is not a princess. Anastasia becomes my role model. I start wearing a pair of my dad’s glasses with the lenses taken out so I can look more like Anastasia. I also begin keeping a journal like Anastasia’s, which is mostly a list of my favourite things, and complaints about school.
1999- While watching Jeopardy with my father, there’s a category about sports on the program, and my father makes a disparaging comment about how that will never get any right answers today, because two of the three contestants are women. I angrily declare that women can know just as much about sports as men, and get pleased when one of the female contestants kicks butt in that category and wins.
2000- I discover the Royal Diaries book series, and my love of princesses returns, but in a new way. I don’t want to just wear my hair in buns, put on pretty dresses, and shoot blasters at villains, I want to learn Latin like Cleopatra visiting Rome, learn Astronomy like Son Dok, learn Classical Chinese poetry like Princess Redbird, and ride horses with Elisabeth.
2001- I am enrolled in a Catholic school. I’m too large and tall to wear the ordinary uniform, so I have to (briefly) wear the “boy” uniform. I come face-to-face with a heaping helping of teasing because of that, because of my size, and because of my plain t-shirts and board shorts worn on “casual dress” days. I’m asked if I am actually a girl on multiple occasions, and at one point, students in the girls’ washroom pull up my shirt to see if I have breasts. I don’t yet, so the accusations of being a boy go on.
2002- Patsy Mink, a hero of Hawaii women, dies. I learn about her life story in school, and make her one of my real-life role models. I become very grateful for Title IX, which was named for her.
2003- I discover, through my reading course, the works of authors like Gish Jen, Nereida Roman, Emily Dickinson, Leslie Marmon Silko, Barbara Kingsolver, and other great woman writers. Their words are an endless comfort during my dad’s illness and eventual death.
2004- I struggle with my weight increasing drastically, related to depression over my father’s death and a string of sexual molestation episodes perpetrated by a friend of my mother’s. My mother mocks me for this, calling me “fat as a pig”, making mocking “suck suck” noises every time I eat or drink something she doesn’t approve of (especially milk), and buys me clothes that are several sizes too small in order to “encourage” me to lose weight. She also refuses to believe me when I tell her about the molestation, calling me a “drama queen” who is deliberately “stirring up trouble” for attention. I am also bullied about my weight by others, especially other students. As a result of this, I develop an eating disorder, drinking excessive amounts of mineral oil in order to facilitate a laxative effect, and drinking enough water that I end up feeling too sick and weak to do anything. I am never hospitalized, and my mother never notices how unhealthy this pattern is, instead praising me for rapid weight loss. What saves me from this dangerous and unhealthy pattern before it hospitalizes or kills me is music. Melodic, symphonic, angry, heavy music gives me a new avenue of expressing myself, and makes me want to feel beautiful and strong. I start eating regularly again, and go for long walks. I go from looking frail to healthy, and I ditch the fibre supplements and mineral oil.
2005- My friends and I create a “beauty scale”, rating our individual features, like our noses, lips, cheeks, hair, breasts, legs, skin, and butts, and distribute them to our guy friends for their opinions. I remember feeling rotten and ugly after I get mine back, with none of my features earning anything higher than a “6” (on a 10-point scale) while my friends all earned solid 8-10 ratings on theirs.
2006- I attend my Junior Prom. I ask a good girl friend of mine to go, and we have great fun with each other, without needing boys. Everybody from my mother to my classmates express sadness (real and fake, respectively) that I couldn’t find a boy to take me, I don’t really care.
2007- I catch Jessica Valenti being interviewed on the Colbert Report, and I am intrigued by the idea of feminism being something modern, relevant, and alive today, I was told, both implicitly and explicitly, that feminism was something which happened long ago and had since then lost its relevance. Even though I experienced sexism daily, I didn’t question it, until Valenti convinced me. I buy a copy of Full Frontal Feminism the next day.
2008- My first year of university. I am surrounded by intelligent, accomplished, successful female professors who self-identify as feminists. This strengthens my dedication to self-identifying as a feminist. I immerse myself in feminist writing, from Simone de Beauvoir to Emma Goldman to bell hooks to Zora Neale Hurston to Yosano Akiko. Another great development is discovering woman painters, poets, and songwriters. Patti Smith, Shirley Manson, Lydia Lunch, and others fill my playlist. My blogroll is filled with the most popular feminist writers of the day, like Womanist Musings, Feministe, and others. At first, I act like a self-congratulatory asshole who feels she’s found the Truth, and I pity other girls who haven’t discovered feminism as being plebeian and backwards. These wonderfully patient women professors of mine take the time to correct me, and make me challenge my own assumptions, my own background, and my own flaws. I start the process of realizing that I have a lot of shitty, terrible ideas still ingrained in my head, and that it’s just as important to challenge your own assumptions about how the world works (and how it should be) as it is to call it out when you see it in others.
2009- I begin blogging about autism. I realize how much misinformation there is out there on the experiences of autistic women, especially in regards to the ridiculous “autism is a hyper-male brain” nonsense. I discover other autistic feminist bloggers, like Lindsay from Autist’s Corner and Clarissa. I become involved in disability advocacy in Montana. It opens up endless discussions between myself and others about the intersection of disability advocacy and feminism.
2010- I start thinking more critically about how I self-identify, especially in terms of my sexuality and my race. I feel like I am queer and biracial, but I don’t know how others will react to me owning these terms for myself, so I just silently contemplate them alone in my bed. I take a big leap forward in my sexual exploration and buy my first vibrator, a Leelo Gigi. It’s a breakthrough for my sexuality. I start attending local Indigenous events at UMontana, and feel welcomed. My shame and uncertainty begin to melt away.
2011- I move to Victoria and start working for UVic Pride. I’m no longer ashamed of either my sexuality or my race.
2012- I have the year of the greatest intellectual breakthroughs regarding feminism, intersectionality, and the continued relevance of it all, in one year than I did an entire two decades of living. But I realize that the more I learn and the more I take in, the more I realize I really don’t know, so my journey is only just beginning. I look forward to it with every step forward, every call-out, and every personal revelation.
2013- I write a post hoping to map out what it is that made me a feminist, and discover that it’s an ongoing process. I have fun, and remember that one of the best parts of my advocacy is being able to enjoy having a good laugh at the things which I know I will eventual render powerless. I’m having a chuckle at you, patriarchy.
* For the record, I.Q scores are garbage, especially for non-neurotypical kids.