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Too Queer for your binary.

The maturity of uncertainty.

We all have gender expression. And in most cases, the first time we stumbled upon our gender is at birth (or ultrasound scan) when we show our genitals, I am a girl, I am a boy. At that moment, everything on that day and at that place is supposed to be and will be a man or a woman, is sealed to us like a second skin.

From that moment we will build and we will express our gender, which will be observed, analyzed, monitored and corrected by the society and also for each of us. To put it simply, our gender, or better said, our gender expression is the gender we look like, the gender we show, what others think we are from our appearance, our sex and identity expression, the form and manner of expressing ourselves, the things we like and shape of behavior that are expected we have, tastes and behavior imposed and that also we impose upon ourselves.

Things are changing, but before the stupid psycho-biological determinism (has a vagina then will be a woman and behaves as such) worked very well and managed to boys made boy things and girls made girl things, and much should fear who did something that did not correspond with that had between the legs. It was from this gender vigilance where the word Tomboy was born, and also its team formed by the label, the category, the stereotype, and the same Tomboy phenomenon.

The word Tomboy.

tomboy poster

Is common to find the word Tomboy explained as a young masculine lesbian, however it is not correct since Tomboy does not refer to sex orientation, but gender expression, an issue that appears quite evident from the appearance of the term.

For all its meanings, the first known written reference to the word Tomboy is found in the 16th century, first to name the particular masculine, rough and lively boys (1550), then with the meaning of immoral woman, prostitute, etc. (1570) by that which a woman who does not behave as expected is suspicious for the worst and, thirdly, that concerns us today, to name young girls who prefer activities, appearance and boy attitude, of the alleged feminine (1590), meaning that derives from the first and has reached our days.

The tomboyism.

In the 19th century, in American culture, the term Tomboy and its abstract Tomboyism enjoyed much popularity for his relationship with a healthy lifestyle as opposed to the code of conduct socially imposed on women of the time. A healthy lifestyle needed clothing that allow freedom of movement for physical exercise. Keep in mind that the woman of the time was considered a lesser being, stripped of sexuality, abilities and away from any kind of activity reserved for men, so by the hand of healthy life, assumed by society as positive, the tomboyism allowed the success of alternatives to corseted female code that went beyond the purely athletic lifestyle, vindicating the equality of women relative to men.

The gender vigilance, binarism and psycho-biological determinism.

Although the tomboyism tells us nothing about sexual orientation, it has always established a relationship between tomboys and lesbianism. Here, gender expression also works, not without error, as predictor of sexual orientation, as simplistically it is reasoned that if a girl does boy things, maybe like girls. Therefore, although during childhood could let a girl show some supposedly boy behavior, in youth, a less feminine girl was and is punished and repressed by the omnipresent gender vigilance.

The gender vigilance is a social tool that tries to suppress or modify any gender expression that not correspond to the gender assigned at birth, and that tends to reinforce the so-called gender binarism. The gender binarism establishes exclusive categories, male and female, masculine and feminine, in which all people should be classified and self classified, and also established in each historical moment the characteristics that define each category. When someone shows some distinct feature, the gender vigilance appears and attempts to correct the deviations.

This gender binarism comes from a simplistic and strict psycho-biological determinism that links the man with the masculine and the woman with the feminine, without even consider for a moment that the characteristics of man and woman, of masculine and feminine vary over time and space, thus being social constructions and not divine or natural determinism.

So when a young girl prefers activities, appearance and boy attitude, of the alleged feminine, clashes with the psycho-biological determinism and its binarism, and the gender vigilance of her environment attempts to correct and to despise naming her Tomboy, and all the world around will think she's a lesbian.

Gender changes are accepted when is convenient.

When a girl shows masculinity or a guy shows femininity it sparks the seven apocalypse plages. It can not be, it is something bad, nasty, disgusting, the world will be destroyed...bla, bla, bla. But as occurs with everything human, something is wrong except when it is convenient.

shkurtan malaj. Sworn Virgin of Albania.

Shkurtan Malaj. Sworn Virgin of Albania.

In Albania, it was allowed women changed her gender expression in order to be the patriarch and keep the family heritage; they are the Sworn Virgins of Albania (or Burrnesha), who dress and behave like men and renounce having sex life. In Afghanistan they change gender expression of girls to enable them to attend school. In Iran change sex to gay men if they insist on being gay. The argument is simple, if a man likes men, it is because he is like a woman, so authorities offer two options, sex change or jail.

In Thailand and other parts of Asia there is the paradigmatic case of Tomboys or Toms, which we already talk about in the publication of our article for the blog, Kesser Vater - Papi Chula. In these societies the word lesbian is rejected even by those involved because it is strongly related to mental illness. So much so, they have created new terms and new sexual identities. Tom and Dee.

Generally in the youth field, a Tom is a girl who does not feel neither lesbian nor transgender, who dresses like a guy, who acts like a boy and who perform boy activities in the more conventional sense of the term, and that is attracted to the Dee, who are ultra-feminine girls. The relationship established between them will also be ultra-conventional, because are subjected by a strict code of conduct: the toms should have a flat chest, they must be able to defend his girl and pay all expenses.

tom and dee, from film yes or not.

Tom y Dee couple, from film Yes or not.

To own and others eyes they are a boy and a girl in love. Everybody happy, they are not lesbians. The odd thing is that although they change her gender to be lesbians, in Thailand has generated a fantastic and spectacular Tomboy movement that sweeps the masses, participating in contests, which television series, and has its own competitions, not only in big cities but also in less populated rural areas. Fascinating. Girls who look like boys, in gym lifting weights, showing off an abundant and notorious hairy armpits. Wow.

tomboy patcharee anantaveerat

Patcharee Anantayveerat, Thailand Tomboy.

Tomboy in the 21st century.

Nearly 5 centuries of gender vigilance, of a binary and excluding conception of sexuality, of repressing showing characteristics attributed to the other sex, have just achieved the opposite. With the passage of time and the progressive development of human rights, sexual diversity make its way with authority and solvency, showing the naturalness of a plastic sexuality that relativises the ideals of man and woman. So, if that yokel society wanted to keep feminine girls and masculine boys, what it has achieved is a Cambrian explosion of Tom identities that, being labels, categories and stereotypes, show us how fluid is what seemed so rigid and immovable.

So the Tomboy movement has gained strength and naturalization, developing a unique universe, all over the word, in which different types are distinguished:

Girl Tomboy: dresses like a girl, performs boy activities and behaves like a boy.

Girly Tomboy: dresses like a boy, looks like a boy and behaves like a girl.

Boy Tomboy: dresses like a boy, behaves like a boy and do boy things. This type is usually called Tomboy.

Neutral Tomboy: may have an almost androgynous aesthetic, combining masculine with feminine clothes, having male and female behaviors and performing male and female activities.

As you can see Tomboy is a term and a phenomenon that focuses on gender expression and that nothing is said about sexual orientation. Tomboy shows us that the allegedly male characteristics are not exclusive to men, as likewise, the allegedly feminine characteristics are not exclusive to women.

The maturity of uncertainty.

Yes, it gets tricky. It is no longer as easy as before when distantly you could classify people. Is a man?, is a woman?, is straight?, is homo?, Am I interested ?, I'm not interested?. All these questions could be answered without getting too close. But not anymore. Tomboy is the vanguard of what is about to come. With Tomboy determinism no longer works but Schrödinger uncertainty. Not you avail see what clothes is wearing or what is doing to deduce sex, identity or orientation. Welcome to the adult age in which you must know the person first. Get ready, maybe you will enjoy much more.

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Do not miss our Drawings & Stories:

On our website you have lots of illustrations based on the research we do on the origin of the words used to signal who dare not follow the norm. Friendly, assertive, fun or spicy drawings we make available for printing on clothing, accessories, posters and housewares.

Treat yourself and surprise the rest claiming with the story behind each drawing, or make an original gift to someone special. In our gay and lesbian dictionaries and in articles dedicated to each expression, you will find curious and interesting stories about the great universe LGBTI.

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