When I was little I played with dolls. I loved barbie, science and all things artistic. I sketched, sang, danced took things apart to see how they worked and stared at the night sky when I was supposed to be asleep. I was raised mostly by a single mom who had me pretty early in life so we always had a friend vibe in addition to our biological relationship. My mom never bothered me about playing with dolls. I would play in plain sight with my cousin’s female friend’s and anybody’s dolls I could get my hands on, no problem. My mother seemed to draw the line at buying the dolls though. I’m not sure why she chose this as the line, maybe a psychological thing. As I’m sure one would imagine I overheard all kinds of comments and questions when I would play this way. questions asked my mom by adults, questions asked me by other children and questions posed between my peers. I knew I wanted to grow up to be pretty and have a boyfriend but I was a boy myself.
As I got older I began to realize just how much my interests bothered some people. I began to get more sinister questions and comments from peers and adults looked at me in a way that told me how strange they thought I was. At some point people outside my immediate family began to ignore the fact that I was obsessed with space, how much I loved science or how much natural talent I had for art. They could only focus on the issue, that there was no neat box to put me in and I was making no effort to create one for myself. Although there where bumps in the road, my mother’s total acceptance of who I am set the tone for my family. They had offered nothing less, but even they struggled with knowing how to handle me while balancing their own indoctrination. Being the strong willed proud person that I am I never allowed anyone to feel as if they had made any headway with changing who I am. I continued to play with whatever I wanted to and behave the way I naturally behaved. Most of all I never cried or let anyone have the satisfaction of knowing they had gotten to me in that way, but it wasn’t that simple. I had internalized so much of their ignorance and negativity despite my determination to remain proud and strong.
The dolls where just an extension of something much bigger than plastic toys with lady bodies. I have always revered women, my role models were women. Not only was there my mom but so many other powerful women raising children alone, going to school, or just working hard to make things happen for themselves. I wanted to be like my mom and as I got a little older I wanted to be like my aunt, who went off to school, spoke spanish and had what I thought must have been amazing adventures. I wanted to be a girl physically, I wanted long flowing hair and I wanted to be powerful like the queens I knew. I wanted to be a mother and when I thought about one day raising children that was the role I visualized myself in. I made better friends with girls, I identified more with them and found the company of boys very awkward because of our usually being so different. I was always very active naturally athletic and quite fearless which I turned into excursions into the woods, up trees, into abandoned structures, and anywhere else I sensed adventure. This guys where a lot more able to stand so it’s where I got to hang with them.
Fast forward a few years and at 19 I got myself some barbie dolls. Yeah I know how strange that is but alas it is true and thats what this is all about. I got the dolls because to do so made me feel empowered, it felt like a rebellion against all the garbage society had heaped onto me about it’s norms and what everyone else thought I should enjoy. A rebellion against my mom even, it was my way of saying haha I own them now, I can get what I want for myself! But very soon the feeling of empowerment faded and I was left with these little plastic women that I didn’t even see the appeal in anymore. They only ended up coming with me when I moved because I was embarrassed at the prospect of my parents finding them in my things in their storage area. I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away though, little did I know how huge of a clue that was. I left the comfort of my family to strike out on my own looking for the place I belonged. I had a long term relationship, moved to New York for a brief period to pursue my ambitions of stardom, then settled in Massachusetts.
Then in August of this year at 27, I was talking to a friend about gender identity and I had a revelation. The dolls meant so much more than I ever knew, but paradoxically they lost all of their power and meaning in that moment. It came so clear to me that somewhere along the line I had absorbed much more ignorance than I thought. I had been warped by the same patriarchal society as everyone else while I thought I was fighting it and winning in my own life. I have relationships with men, I pursue the interests I want to pursue, and I have no shame or even timidity about it. But somewhere somehow I had absorbed the idea that there was something wrong with the way I felt about femininity. Patriarchy is a beast, think about the difference between a 6 year old boy and a girl crying in how those situations are handled. The little girl is likely to get “it’s ok sweetheart” and so is the little boy but he is also way more likely than the little girl to get “don’t cry”. It’s ingrained from an extremely early age, like barbie and say a toy truck, one is “for a boy” and one is “for a girl”. First off the distinction is made crystal clear from the beginning and we are never allowed to forget how different we are. Then you have those subtle social norms that make the feminine into some kind of embarrassment. When someone is perceived as being weak or conniving they are “acting like a girl”. Why are those negative qualities associated with femininity, but even more importantly why is exhibiting qualities associated with femininity such an insult?! I realized that it was more about the way I felt about femininity than my feminine qualities that had rubbed people. I also didn’t realize how those negative energies had kept me from realizing the true nature of my spirit. It wasn’t a problem for people that I was attracted to men or that I was sort of effeminate, the issue was that I was proudly wearing my femininity and not hiding in shame or pretending. More than that the problem was that I saw the feminine energy as it is, a creative force, the true representation of the element fire. That I unapologetically channeled this energy into creating art and my life, barbie was just where I channelled it in play. The societal structure wouldn’t let me believe I was a normal boy and my genitals wouldn’t let me believe I was a girl. I felt like many of my impulses and my cognitive process were inherently female but I didn’t feel like nature had made a mistake with my body. The society that we live in also doesn’t really allow for the idea that there is something in-between or undefined. I realized that the dolls were just a place where I put my power, my pride in my feminine energy and the gifts it granted me. Moreover they were the keepers of my reverence for my physical body (male energy) and the duality dance. At that moment I knew I no longer needed the dolls. I was what they represented so I did what I do, shed some tears and pulled out some art supplies. I wanted to project myself onto barbie and help her represent me a little better since she had been so immeshed in my psychology for so long and that is how Habib was born. I Pulled the girls out one more time to give a good makeover and then I tossed them in the fucking garbage. Taking in everything they held for me and just like that I was new but the same.
I always knew how I felt inside, and looking back I believe those closest to me did too. But I had also been taught like most of us, that I had to be either male or female. All the innate knowledge that I had of myself as a child came back to me in the moment that I realized what had happened. At talking to my mother I realized how simple it was once I knew who I was. I was operating from the strength that only security in ones identity can produce, I didn’t know what that felt like. She responded with her reliable acceptance as if she had known all along and was relieved that I had figured it out. I knew then that everything was as it should be. I am duality, I am the embodiment of both the female and male universal energies, I am two spirited. My male energy manifests my physical body and my female energy manifests my life force. I’m super proud of who I am and what I am truly made of. I won’t turn this into a battle of the sexes but I wouldn’t be any other way if I could. Kings are great and there is nothing like a queen but I’m happy balancing a little of both.
. Rebirth, creation, love, art, venus
. Thank you Britney for inspiring me to tell this story and for showing me where to start.