I'm From Driftwood is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit archive for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer stories. New stories are posted on the site every Wednesday.
Renee was a tomboy as long as they can remember. When Renee was a teenager, they were part of an all-girls youth group, and they were asked to represent the group at a pageant weekend. Part of that involved wearing a gown. Renee recalls:
[M]y 15-year-old self decided that to wear this formal gown, I was going to wear it with a fedora and a tie and elbow-length gloves. It was my way of asserting some kind of gender mixing, like, "If I have to wear this formal gown, this is what I'm going to do, and this is how I'm going to do it, as me!"
Renee felt comfortable in the gender-mixed attire, but the mom of one of the other students did not. In an attempt to "fix" Renee's gender, the mom took Renee to Gap to buy them some pants for girls:
I found some tight, flare-leg jeans, like, "Fine," and we left. I think she really did want to do right by me, but all I could remember in that moment was my ears getting hot, and my stomach was in my throat, and I just wanted to cry. That moment was the first time I was really consciously aware of someone actively policing my gender. And this little tomboy kind of felt like they needed to go back in the closet.
Renee found their footing in college by getting more involved with the LGBTQ community and learning that some people identify with the pronouns "they," "them," and "their," which Renee does now. Ultimately, they say, it's about doing what makes you happy:
It's really hard to tease apart what you genuinely enjoy versus what everyone else is telling you that you want. If it makes you happy, if it makes your heart warm and fuzzy, if it's what you genuinely enjoy, if you want to wear a bowtie and paint your nails, do it. If it's not hurting anyone, if it makes you feel good, if it makes you feel beautiful, then feel beautiful.
For more stories, visit I'm From Driftwood, the LGBTQ Story Archive.