A Girl Who Was Raised Like A Boy

Sondos, as a little girl.

S. as a little girl.

By S. Abu-Coush

Men are men and women are women?

We don’t learn to be. We just are?

But I didn’t learn gender the way most girls do. And even less the way most Middle Eastern girls do.

And I don’t see myself the way most girls do, either.


I lost my mum when I was 5 years old. After that, my dad took care of me and my brothers.

My dad was my hero. I was so attached to him that I dressed like him and mimicked him.

Meanwhile, my grandmother fed us lots of healthy, tasty food. So we all got fat. That wasn’t a problem for my brothers but I couldn’t find my size in the girls’ section back home in Kuwait. So I shopped in the boys’ section, and sometimes traded clothes with my brothers.

Meanwhile, my dad treated us all the same. Or almost the same. My brothers and I went to the same stores and dressed the same and I cut my hair like them. My brothers and I had the same friends and played the same games and watched the same TV – like WWE.

I grew up thinking that we were all alike.

Guess it shouldn’t have surprised anyone when I was mistaken for a boy — several times. But my family took offense and got mad.

Be you.

Be you.

I personally didn’t care, and I even wished I was a boy back then, because I wanted to be just like my dad and my brothers.

Back then I never realized that I was acting differently from how society thought I should. But when I got older I saw the weird looks people gave me.

I’m not transgender in the sense of feeling like I was born in the wrong body. And I actually do like wearing dresses from time to time, but I don’t feel that comfortable in dresses or makeup or looking like the lady society says I should be.

I have felt confused about my identity. And I do push gender boundaries and don’t feel entirely comfortable on either side.

Maybe as a way of taking control over my identity, I have started my own trend of wearing cartoons on my clothes all the time. Cartoons that express something about me. So I’ve gotten creative and make my own T-shirts. That way I look unique and don’t have to dress up in boys clothes or in girls clothes.

I can just be me and express who I am.

Now, if society could just get on board and let us all be who we are, expressing our unique selves!

This was written by one of my students who gave permission to post it.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on August 26, 2016, in feminism, gender, LGBTQ+, psychology, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 35 Comments.

  1. I loved reading this article, as a woman who was raised in a family of mostly men I get that feeling sometimes. Although I do like to be very feminine, I also like to dress androgynously as well. I like to wear boys clothes a lot in my teenage years. I think that also had to do with the fact I have always been a little bit bigger and guys clothes sometimes fit me better. I always loved boy things, barbies and dolls weren’t really my thing. I liked playing with legos and I watched a lot of what would be considered “boy shows” like dragon ball z or teenage mutant ninja turtles. Being raised around almost nothing by boys, I feel like influenced me a lot. I had to be tough and I had to be able to keep up with all the boys. I only have 3 aunts, and of my cousins that are girls, there is only 8 of us. I think gender and sexuality are a very broad spectrum that you can play around with on all sides. I do consider myself a women, but from time to time I like to be androgynous.

  2. I have a similar experience, but different in the sense that I raised and presented myself as a boy. When I was growing up, I actually always hated feminine things. I hated pink, skirts, makeup, and anything “girly”. I grew up denying my femininity and enjoying the label of a tomboy. I enjoyed wearing baggy clothing, which were hand-me-downs from my brother, and also staying indifferent to anything related to “girly” things. As a kid, I had one year where I had short hair, I felt some form of joy when I was mistaken as a boy. Now older, I no longer deny or hate femininity. I still don’t like pink, but I no longer hate it.

    Speaking from a different standpoint, as social creatures, humans tend to want to fit in, which is why we follow rules and norms. Also when we try to avoid standing out, despite the idea of “we are all unique and special”. It’s an issue since I’ve experienced in my daily life. I usually have shorter hair and I receive comments like “why did you cut your pretty hair?” or “maybe you can grow it out again”, which at the moment I am, but my decision about my hair is for myself. Even common children toys and cartoons still seem to replicate the old 1960s ideals of a nuclear family. Society is still stuck on these ideals since there’s not enough education on how different each gender can present themselves and that everyone is capable of doing whatever they want, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone.

  3. Adolescents whose own identity is nascent and malleable can be hard to establish by themselves. Children at an impressionable age cannot establish their own identities by themselves, and they can be influenced by their environment like parents, friends, and schools. If they live with parents who do not want them look like a girl, they can be influenced to be manlike like an appearance or thoughts. I have seen that one of my high school friends always wore to be manlike. My high school was only for girls school, but she always wore a pant, not a skirt. At that time, I was curious why she always wore the pant and seemed like manlike, however I just respected her who had her own mind and thought that she wanted to be like.

  4. Thank you for sharing and it makes me feel that I am not alone. Although, my story was a bit different because each family is different, I am connected to the story. From time to time, I still feel the pressure on what to wear as a girl from everyone around me. One thing I notice is comparison and expectation. We internalise the exceptions of being a boy and a girl like, which blind us not to see the person as who they are. To lift up the pressure, I would prefer to my idol like Amber Liu, k-pop star, she is totally a tomboy and she always is. I turn to her for inspiration.

  5. When I was in high school, one of my classmate who looked like a boy wished to be a boy, for real. My school was only for women, and the environment was good for her. Everyone didn’t care about not to be girly, cute and feminine since there is no boy at school. If there were some, we might to try to be feminine for attracting boys. So the friend who pretends like a boy did not even feel stress in her school life. I heard, however, she could not adjust to her new life at coeducational college. What I thought from this is the environment is really important for this kind of people, and they should be accepted by everyone in any situation. I hope this can happen in any country. If those were discriminated at some place, that is so unfair. Also I felt like knowing more those people just like this girl, Georgia, in this article, and supporting them.

  6. When I was living with my father, my father never let me grow my hair long. My hair was very short like a boy. Sometimes I had been mistaken for a boy by I graduated from a high school. My father doesn’t like me to wear miniskirts and makeup. He wants me to be manlike. And I believed I liked to pretend to be a boy. I don’t know the reason. When I came to U.S, I started to live without my parents. I started to polish my nail, wear miniskirt, put on makeup, which I had a great longing for while I was living with my parents. I found I also like to be feminine. I still don’t know why my father forced me to be manlike.

  7. My life, quite relates to the way the author felt as growing up, and it doesn’t matter what society thinks about you! really, because in the end, you’re the one being unique, and moving along, it’s more like the saying,” I’m living life! and you’re not!” because little do you know, why people act a certain way until, you have put on their shoe! and also you get a better understanding of how people approach stuff! Such as in fashion, I never imagined, why most of the boys don’t like wearing muscle shirts, well the reason is, because they don’t have any muscles to show! :p I was never afraid to buy indoor soccer shoes, and wear them to class! because mostly it didn’t affect me, nor did it hurt when they asked, why do you wear boy’s shoes? because I was proud to be an athlete at my school. And I had no problem competing them, whenever they felt like challenging me!

  8. Our sexualtiy as well as our gender exist on a continuum. The girly-girls are at the end of what is considered feminine and the alpha males at the other masculine end. The rest of us all fall in somewhere along that continuum. At the midpoint are folks who are androgenous, possessing both male and female characteristics. Along the continuum are two well known types: the tomboy and the sissyboy. We don’t grow out of those designations, but in adulthood the boys become Beta men, blessed with the ability to emote and communicate. Tomboys grow into elegant woman who are adventurous and self-sufficient..And it ought to come as no surprise that these two types are drawn to each other. I am sure you get the picture. So depending on just where you land on the spectrum there is an opposite you are bound to be attractive to.The former sissy boys are today’s metrosexuals.
    The same idea exits on the gay spectrum. Bottom line we are who we are as a result of chemicals splashed about in utero, and are all deserving of respect.

    • True. And when it comes to gender some biological females feel like masculine males and some biological males feel like feminine females. I’m guessing you meant to include that. Thanks for adding that clarification.

    • I used to be a big supporter of the continuum thing, as a shining example myself… but I’ve come to think of it as more complicated than a straight (no pun intended) linear path from “girly girl” to “alpha male”. I think it’s more a 2-dimension or even 3-D (or more!) scatter plot with little pink and blue data points in a cloud. Say one dimension is level of empathy, one dimension is nurturing, one dimension is attention to appearance, one dimension is mechanical ability or spatial relationships or math or language or emotional sensitivity or whatever.

      As you say, most folks are very near one end or the other — in ALL the dimensions. So you have a big cloud of pink data points where all the dimensions converge in one corner, and a big cloud of blue data points where all the dimensions converge in another corner. And all along each of the axes, there are a few pink dots mixed in with the blue cloud and a few blue dots mixed in with the pink cloud.

      This isn’t someone who is, say, 57% female and 43 % male. This is a biological girl who happens to have genes that make her more aggressive than her peers, or a biological boy who is hopelessly romantic and hooked on daytime soap operas. More like an a la carte buffet where you can mix and match numerous traits that may be larger or smaller quantities than your biological (and cultural) gender role expects of you. So (using myself as an example again) I identify 100% as male… but a man who happens to like wearing pretty dresses, even while I’m working on the car or watching Sylvester Stallone beat the crap out of bad guys or blow zombies away in a video game. Like me, some men have most of their dots securely on the blue side with just a few stray dots on the pink side of a couple of traits. And yes, some biological males may have most or all of their dots near the far corner where every trait is more female. Those folks would probably be happier with full transition 🙂

      Does that make sense? This is what it looks like in my head:

      [Georgia, I don’t know if your WordPress settings allow direct image links so I figured I’d just throw the URL there and let you deal with it however is appropriate]

      • I actually agree with you on this:

        “I used to be a big supporter of the continuum thing, as a shining example myself… but I’ve come to think of it as more complicated than a straight (no pun intended) linear path from “girly girl” to “alpha male”. I think it’s more a 2-dimension or even 3-D (or more!) scatter plot with little pink and blue data points in a cloud. Say one dimension is level of empathy, one dimension is nurturing, one dimension is attention to appearance, one dimension is mechanical ability or spatial relationships or math or language or emotional sensitivity or whatever.”

        I would say continuum +

  9. Georgia, I can so identify with your point of view — but from the opposite side. For many years, I thought I was transgender; I seriously considered what it would take to become a woman. But after years of soul-searching (and a very patient lady who accepted me with my quirks) I realized: Just because you do things that society claims are reserved for the opposite sex, doesn’t mean that you ARE the opposite sex.

    So I’m a man, and delighted to be one. A man who happens to be more empathetic than most men, and who happens to be more comfortable wearing dresses, but still a man inside and out.

    Unfortunately, society isn’t ready for me yet. A girl who wears rough clothes and plays rough games? They love you! A guy who prefers delicate, creative activities and wears dresses? Not so much. It’s more socially acceptable for a man to be transgender now than to be gender-nonconformist.

    One of these days…

    • If you have written about your story on your blog, or might in the future, I would love to cross post! Maybe I will write a post talking about both you and my student here — looking at things from both sides.

      • I have written about it on my blog in various forms a few times, but perhaps not in precisely those terms. You’re welcome to cross-link (no pun intended, heh) to anything on my site that catches your interest, or pick my brain for more details in a future post.

      • Thanks! If you have any posts that you think would be especially helpful, Please send a link, or links.

  10. Society plays a massive role in molding our thoughts and it is natural for girls and boys to get influenced by the expectations around them. Blessed are those who grow up to be what they are or what they want to be.

    I feel this story has been edited or certain parts not talked about. I am sure S. would have felt like a girl on some days, I am sure she must have had the first crush or is she ‘unique’ as she mentions?

  11. once upon a time it was always said that boys wore blue and girls pink but in this day and age none of that really matters but sometimes we still think along those lines lol

    • Yeah, things are starting to change. I’ve seen adult men wearing a lot more color than they used to lately. But it’s still really common for men to stay in the shades of blue, gray, black, beige … Sometimes I feel sorry for men having such boring quotes.

  12. You.should write a post about this story too

    The boy who was raised as a girl


    • I lecture on this case in my class. At the age he “transitioned” it works about half the time, and fails the other half. We are all a mix of biology + culture + and personal experience so the same types of experiences can affect different people in different ways. Here’s Daphne Scholinski, who had a similar experience to my student: httpshttps://www.amazon.com/Last-Time-Wore-Dress/dp/1573226963://www.amazon.com/Last-Time-Wore-Dress/dp/1573226963Scholinski

  13. I really appreciate hearing your student’s experience of this. I grew up at a time when girls wore pink and boys wore blue and gender norms were ingrained into kids from the start. It’s good that this is slowly changing. Stories like this matter.

    • It’s strange that on the one hand people think that boys are naturally boys and girls are naturally girls, and yet we get so upset if boys want to play with dolls. If they are just naturally boys they would grow up the same way whether they played with dolls or not, wouldn’t they?

  14. Gender or, rather, gender discrimination…is it the biggest issue on this planet after religion?

  15. I love this Georgia! Thanks for sharing. Gender is so much more (and less) than what we think.

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