When I moved into the first grade, there was no more play time in class, now all the play time took place outside on the playground. While the girls were playing their games, I was playing tag and hide-and-seek with the boys. One day, while we were playing, one of the boys asked me why I always played with them.
“Why?” I asked him. “Is there something wrong with me playing with you?”
“No,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “I just wanted to know.”
I didn’t think any more about it until later that day when I got home and I decided to ask my dad about it.
“Dad, is there anything wrong with me playing with boys?”
“No, not if that’s what you want to do. Why?”
“A boy at school asked me why I always played with them rather than the girls.”
“Are they bothered by your playing with them?” he asked, intently.
“I don’t know. He just asked.”
I thought that ended the conversation, but then I noticed that my dad started doing things differently. He bought fashion magazines home and dolls with wardrobes and silly girly pajamas. When I asked him why he was doing all that stuff, he just smiled and said, “no reason.” I didn’t think much more about it until he started sending me to spend time with my aunts more often than usual. That was okay with me—their kids had lots of cool stuff to play with and I could even beat one their sons wrestling.
It wasn’t until I was in the second grade that I knew something was different about me. On the outside I was a girl, but I wasn’t interested in any of the girl stuff. I wasn’t sitting around giggling about boys or the silly things they did; I didn’t want to do things with them. One day when we were outside on the jungle-gym, I climbed to the top and one of the girls asked me if I knew that my panties could be seen. I was horrified! It had never occurred to me that I shouldn’t climb things while wearing a dress. After all, my dad spent a great deal of time picking the dresses out for me. I climbed down, petrified that the boys I had been playing with would laugh. One snickered, the others just looked away. When I got home that day, I told my dad I never wanted to wear a dress again. He asked me why and I told him what happened. While I was talking, his face puzzled—crinkled with indecision and concern. He told me not to worry about it and he would buy me more pants.
When I came home the following day, Dad had gone shopping for pants, but they all zipped on the side. I wanted pants with a fly. I didn’t know why, I just wanted pants that looked like the other boys’ pants. My tantrum about the pants brought us both to a new awareness. I didn’t want to be girl; I wanted to be a boy. Not knowing what else to do, he sat on my bed staring at the picture of my mother. I didn’t know what to say, so I just waited. He looked toward the ceiling, tears flowing down his face and he said, “I’m sorry, Elena, I did the best I could without you.”