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One day I was wearing shirts and whistling in class. And the next, I was told I was a girl and had to act like one.

The responsibilities of being a girl and an older sibling meant I had to wear shalwar kurtas and keep my legs neatly tucked.

A girl with long, dyed hair is whistling and on the other side is a girl with short hair, whistling.

Text on the card reads:

“I used to be a Tomboy"

When I told someone this, they said that they found it difficult to believe.I seemed so shy, they'd said. I don't think I was ever shy. Misanthropic yes, but not shy, I think.

A group of men are towering over a frightened little tomboy.

Text on the card reads:

Growing up, my house was full of young male relatives. Spending so much time with them made me dress like them. I wore their shirts. Even if they felt like dresses on my tiny frame.

My hair was regularly cut short (to avoid lice).

I picked up some Bollywood mannerisms as well.

I learnt to whistle like a professional catcaller.

And, I wore my little girl handkerchief around my neck.

A tomboy is whistling in the background. A tomboy is smiling.

Text on the card reads:

Photographs suggest the phase started when I was 2-3 years old.

I don't think tomboy was part of my lexicon at the time or even for a few years later. I use the term in retrospect.

At the time, I remember people saying girls didn't do such things when reacting to some of my mannerisms.

A girl with a bob cut in Salwar-Kurta is sulking.

Text on the card reads:

When puberty hit so much changed. The instructions to be less rough and tumble (with me) and be more modest extended to all males, my father included. For me, there were no more handkerchiefs around the neck anymore.

I had to sit with legs neatly tucked together. Shalwar kurtas took over from loose floppy shirts.

I remembered feeling bewildered by the physical and other changes

But I agreed to everything that was asked of me. I wasn't a difficult kid!

A tomboy is standing in a room with a cricket bat in hand, frowning. In the room, there is a fan and a poster of a masculine man.

Text on the card reads:

Our house also emptied of all these male relatives. They set up homes of their own, or left in pursuit of work.

And I acquired a sibling, so I was no longer the focus of everyone's attention. The logic was two-fold: "You are the elder one, so you must set a good example" and, "you are a woman now, not a girl anymore, so you must watch how you behave."

A girl with a bob cut, wearing a salwar kurta is frowning.

Text on the card reads:

The parental dictums of those times have coloured all my interactions with the Lorem Ipsum opposite sex to this day.

I am most comfortable with women but I am still not sure about my femininity-how to define it or even express it.

I am attracted to men, but am fascinated by feminine women because they seem to have something I don't, or can't, access within myself.

A pair of jhumkas and a pair of sneakers.

Text on the card reads:

I still don't know what my personal style is. I used to be bothered by this, but I think age and self acceptance is helping.

My hair, long and falling down my back, is the site of my vanity now. I have discovered earrings and dresses.

But I still prefer comfortable shoes that don't necessarily match my outfits. I toyed with makeup for a bit and then decided it was too much of a bother.

A girl with long, dyed hair is whistling.

Text on the card reads:

Getting a job brought in financial independence. It was truly liberating, allowing me to make my own decisions about what to wear, how to live my life and where to live it.

It bestowed me with the privilege to be me without having to pander too much to stereotypes and expectations.

A girl with long, dyed hair is whistling, and on the other side is a girl with short hair, whistling.

Text on the card reads:

I don't think I thought then or think now of gender,

But in retrospect I do wish that my choice of how to be was more organic and less forced.

A girl with long, dyed hair is whistling, and on the other side is a girl with short hair, whistling.

Text on the card reads:

And even now, I have a very special place in my heart for the pre-teen with a Hankerchief around her neck and whistling in an all girls classroom.

That image seems unsullied by expectations and remains innocent.

Read the full essay by Anonymous in the link in our bio!

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