Bosque County, Texas, USA
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Editor’s Pick
MARCH 9, 2011 4:59AM

The Day I Switched Genders

Rate: 52 Flag


     I was born with a fatal flaw, I had no penis. I was reminded of this on a daily basis by my four brothers. My twin and the younger brother would flash me after their bath, whipping their wet towels at each other's butts, whipping their penises like flagpoles while running up and down the hall. My older brothers would always let me know that I was an inferior being, barely acknowledging my presence in the room. My mother and father were complicit in this. My mom made me wear dresses, and panties, white socks with patent leather buckled shoes. My father lorded it over us all at the table, in every way our superior, as he delegated me to the high chair long after my feet touched the floor, as he denigrated my eating habits by nicknaming me, "Piddle."

     I did not hang out with any other little girls before entering school.  If I saw some, while in the company of my brothers, I probably sneered at their pitiful status just like my brothers were doing. I knew how to hold in tears, trek over rough ground, climb trees, catch crawdads and frogs, keep away from snakes ... silently, in case you didn't know. If we ever saw a woman on television catch sight of a mouse or lizard and see her scream and climb a chair, we all laughed at her total stupidity.

     Even though I could blend, I could not hide. I knew what I was, they made sure to remind me, and it was something I was stuck with. I didn't necessarily want a penis, I just didn't want to be so damn inferior. I wonder if this is something like a Jew feels in a room full of Christians. like the black child feels in a class full of white kids? Is this what it feels like to be gay when everyone around you is straight?

     There was a day when I switched genders. 

     I had all the skills of male assimilation as my weapons in this world. I knew how to look someone straight in the eye and tell them whatever I wanted them to believe. I knew how to speak with a certain bark in my voice that made people jump to compliance. I  knew how to throw up shields before the opponent even knew there was going to be a contest. All this came to my aid one day.

     After moving to the country to help my mother with the death of my father and the life thereafter, I needed to get a job. Lots of people might like to live in wide open spaces, but the thing keeping that from happening is the lack of paying jobs. I found a help wanted ad in the newspaper and got hired at a nearby nursing home as kitchen staff. I cooked eggs for breakfast, then made vegetables for lunch, for 200 people. I had to be at work at 5:30 in the ungodly morning. By the time I got home around 4pm. I was worn out. The horrible hours, the hard work, and the minimal pay were not the only troubles with that job.

     We were required to wear so-called scrubs as our work uniforms. If you have never worn these abominations, you may not know they are tied at the waist with a cotton string, which is never ever going to be untied before you wet your pants trying to make it in the bathroom stall. The shirts are shapeless, almost seamless sacks, which are enlivened with prints and colors usually found in a daycare facility. Really lovely. Especially attractive, and convenient for those who do not need to pee. I found that I could wear cotton or polyester pants with elasticized waists and stay nice and dry. No one would know unless they lifted the tent top to peek. Problem solved!

     Nope. Others in the kitchen were also experimenting with various forms of trousers. There was this big guy in the dishwashing area who always wore jeans. Some of the other women wore whatever they had, knit pants, capris, etc. The Kitchen Boss decided to put a stop to it. 

     She pissed me off, first, by calling the meeting to take place after we had clocked out for the day. We were not being paid, but we had to stay to hear this BS.

     She pissed me off, second, by announcing that, hereafter, all kitchen staff would be required to wear SCRUB PANTS. The only exception would be the men. They could wear what they want. 

     I gave her the hairy eyeball, and announced, "Then, I am a guy!"

     Poor Olga, the Mexican lady with limited English, was so confused. She fiercly whispered to Lola, "¿Qué dice ella????"

     The Kitchen Boss dropped her jaw, stunned into silence.  so I drove it home, just like a man. "Yep! That's it! I am a guy, and I don't have to wear scrub pants!" I had done it then. I dared anyone to prove me a liar. Say it with enough conviction, and they begin to doubt their own minds.

     The meeting was adjourned without a final deliberation, and the Kitchen Boss was later told by the Human Resouce guy that her rules would not fly in the real world.  Olga gave me some funny looks, but the others just thought I was crazy. I lasted there 11 months, crazy is right.


image © diana ani stokely 2011

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Proud to be the first commenter on this excellent post.

What power!! You did it! Switched horses in midstream and I bet it felt really good. Great post!
I am Man, hear me Rorrrrr~~Great Post!
You're a brave woman--make that, human being--Diana. I've been waiting for this. Hope there's more. Hope self-acceptance has worked for you fulltime.
Good for you!
It reminds me of the joke; the punch line by the 'mom' was 'if you have one of these, you can get all of those you want'. Smiling
Laughing and wishing you lived closer! LOVE it! Happy well deserved EP!
You got gumption, girl! Great story, well-told (and I love the reference to "hairy eyeball"--haven't heard that in a while!)
just to clear any record, it only lasted a moment. i can pull out the hairy eyeball and barking voice and a true liar's conviction any time i want.
there's more here than the words, that everyone at every age should be clothed with dignity and respect, that every child should be cherished and loved, that we all at times are frail and fail, but that love and respect should prevail. beautifully told diana.
Brilliant Diana.
This was before penis's were sold on ebay I guess too?
"Press send please FRed(tm) and lets have another go at the rated button."
This made me laugh because I could see and hear you.:)
I love you
rated with hugs
Nice: an entertaining story and a well-considered commentary on gender inequality. Getting older also helps when you want to stick to your guns; unfortuantely the corrallary loss of strength and mobility makes it hard to back up convictions with physical intimidation.
I switched genders once to use a men's portapotty with distastrous enough results that I will ever after wait in line with the ladies. EP well-deserved.
Good Job. I like a person who can think on their feet.
this piece has that ring to it, the ring that says it all happened, that it's all true, no exaggeration or pretense. really good writing, diana, and the story you tell is hilarious and wry. i had only brothers, too. i know, i know. huge congratulations on the EP.
Good for you. I love that you stood your ground on this issue. Your early training paid off. Great post. R
great post! especially love th paragraph *" I had all the skills of male assimilation " r
Congratulations on your quick thinking and your bravery to confront a bully.
Good man!
This is so funny! You go girl!! This looks like a great idea for a memoir.... rated
Oh dianaani! Exceptional writing. En la diana! (Bullseye!) ... de verdad felicitaciones ~
Great story dianaani.
Strength and smarts always wins !!!!
Such a great tale! It's easy to picture this whole thing, you tell it so well.
I must say your descriptions of "male skills" absolutely stunned me, and helped me have a huge epiphany about my own life.
I learned all of those attributes from my older sister. All of them. This explains a LOT...
I had to wear a hair net at the cannery job in college even though I had a buzz cut and my ears were out where everyone could see them. Is that the same?
Gender is one of those things that in the end you need to go with what you got.
I don't mean "got" physically
I mean "got" in terms of who you are.
People should feel free to be any gender that is appropriate to them at the moment.
Sex is rather hard to switch
Gender is not- be all that you can be.
Wonderful! I can see and hear you....I have witnessed that look and can give testimony! You are such an open, friendly lady who has such patience and tolerance BUT your "bullshit" detector is a unerring and you don't suffer fools lightly! As they say, I want you in my lifeboat! I love both your plain-spoken honesty and your art. Rated most highly!!!
Well done!! And I do know--I spent 30 years in scrubs. They finally designed the elastic top ones. But the secret to the ties..don't tie the initial knot. Just start with the loops. Saved me many a pants change!
I am crazy busy at work today, patience is a virtue.

Hey mark in japan, happy to meet you. Thanks for being first!

Zanelle, yep, felt so nice to dump that mess on the Kitchen Boss, felt good just to write about it.

Scanner, I can do an imitation roar, and it fools everyone but my brothers.

Leon, I love myself, and that is one true solid thing I own. Thanks for your friendship.

Ah, Rednose, I had heard it another way, much cruder. How can you tell a good joke in writing? I always rely on the physical humor.

PersistantMuse, I wish we lived close enough to meet for late Friday afternoon drinks, I bet we would tell some whoppers.

Dirndl Skirt, I am so glad to see you, my hairy eyeball is NOTHING compared to my littlest sister's. She can stop a train.

Thanks Barry! I feel so bad for maligning my parents, especially my father. He was always so sorry for his treatment of me as a child, he never forgave himself, and I always knew it. He was so kind, he just thought he was supposed to act that way. I am glad he gave up on it. But I love your poetry, and it still resonates, and it is still true.
This was excellent and funny ! Congratulations on your EP, dianaani.
I felt the male bonding at "I knew how to throw up..." God, how I enjoyed this.
Crazy like a fox. How I love this story, Dianaani. ~r
I was forced to play "Barbie and Ken" with my sister, but I don't think the injustice I suffered approaches yours.
Oh how I can relate! I was the only girl in my family too...but I never tried what you did. I did insist on the right to take wrestling in high school gym. another story for another day. So nice to see the "Editor's Pick" at the top!
creekend, you can't get penises like you used to on eBay.

Linda Seccaspinnnnnnnnnnnna! We could do the happy dance, I love you too. I am so glad you knew my tongue was firmly in my cheek.

thanks Nikki, i am finding that the older i get, the easier it is to intimidate people, i need to scale it back so nobody gets hurt. i do it with less effort. ah well, nice can't last forever, eh?

maryway, we can all tell our stories of the dark side. it is safe now.

bobbot, i was too mad to do anything else, I just knew I wasn't gonna work there long enough to buy new clothes, and that drove my choices.

femme! it was true, although i kinda showed only the childish perception of being treated unfairly by my folks. I know now that i had the skinniest ass to fit in that chair, and all the other chairs were taken. I know my dad called me "piddle" with love, and he stopped on the day I asked him to. I was FOURTEEN!

thanks, sheila!!!!!!!!!!!

rita, yep, ground standing, grandstanding, and bullheadedness, i am good at that. Plus, if Kitchen Boss wanted my cooperation, she shouldn't have pissed me off before I walked in the room.

PatienceP, it was so much fun, I am still smiling.
As soon as I read your first sentence, I knew this was going tobe good!
That was the way to handle it!

Great post. Congrats on the EP, "Piddle."
hugs, me: glad you liked it. do you ever pull out your inner "man" to bend others to your will?

Stevie! No one has ever said "Good Man!" to me before. I am unsure about the protocol, but thanks!

Susie Lindau, hello and welcome! I am probably exaggerating too much to call it a memoir. What do they call a pack of lies?

inverted interrobang, can you believe that only last week i learned the meaning of the word "diana" in spanish! Hijo! thank you dearly, you are so kind.

thanks trilogy, this is what you get when you play with what you got.

desert rat! smarts wins anyway, strength ain't always dependable.

Just Thinking ... now you gotta write this one down! I want to know how kinky is your older sister that she knows all the male secrets!

alsoknownas: yes, wearing a completely useless hairnet over a buzzcut with hanging out ears is as stupid as having a string waistband versus an elastic one. let us get a beer.

Token, i just love reading your stuff. you take everything in a whole nuther level than i do. yes, what i am and who i am, is what it is. my favorite line in the post was, "I didn't necessarily want a penis, I just didn't want to be so damn inferior." and i am not inferior for lack of penis (i am really a girl) or boobs (11.5 years out!) or money (there is no parenthetical for that one).

Doireann! Wouldn't you and I make a party out of any lifeboat? You could do your bobwhite imitations, and i could whistle.

Satori! who knew? Why don't they put instructions on those things? Not only are string waistbands hard to tie and untie, they are uncomfortable too. If you are having your laundry done by the big machine, i see the point. Otherwise, they are joke clothes.
I was the only girl in a streetful of boys...learned how to square shoulders and say it like I mean it.
I hear ya'
Fusun: Thanks! It has been a long time, eh?

Stacey: I am pleased you enjoyed it, tell martha hey okay?

Joan: oh, it was fun to write. i was up in the middle of the night, so what can you do?

Con: I did a double-take on your comment. I know that I did suffer by having to wear skirts and panties and patent leather shoes. Did you see the look on my face in the banner image? I never played Barbie and Ken, so I don't know how much it hurt. Nyah, nyah.

Mimetalker: i do want to hear about your wrestling adventures. re: EP, long time, eh? i am glad you liked it.

Scarlett: There was a "fatal flaw" OC recently, and I missed it. I am on my own time here. Thanks sweetheart.

Cranky: Oh, dear, God, I knew someone was paying attention.

Tink: i said penis i don't know how many times, and then they quotes it on the cover, but that's not why you read it, right?
ah vanessa! i had forgotten about the shoulders! i bet you can still do it if you need to. *big hug*
I like your spirit! Your voice reminds me of the protagonist in Jeanette Walls' HALF BROKE HORSES. If you haven't read it, you really should. You'll love it. :)
Whoohoo!! I woulda never thought of that! You go girl, uh, guy ... R
As a child, I was very upset to be told I wasn't a boy, when I knew I was. My male influences, the men I loved and respected, were not loud, I did not see their penises, nor their asses. That came later with men who were a poor influence and I allowed it for a time. I got bored with that scene. Give me my genteel dad, Albert Einstein, and my first science teacher any day. Great post, good to see you on the cover. xox
What a great story! And told perfectly.
oh hello lainey - it's been forever! i haven't read half-broke horses yet, but i have read her book, "ice castles" which was gripping. I will do so soon, maybe during this upcoming vacation. thanks!

marilyn, yep, thank you. i was so not gonna buy new pants for a job i had no intention of staying in. still a girl, yeah, still. i really do not want to be a guy.

robin, i always knew i was a girl, but i did not agree with the assessment that girls were inferior. never did. i loved and respected my father more than any man ever, and it pained me to draw him in an unfavorable light here.i am glad your genteel dad and science teacher and einstein gave you real men worth your respect.thanks for your comment, and the hugs and kisses!

Lindaaaaaaaaaaaa! I Know, Right? wooooooooooooooooop!

Thanks, Brassawe, I hoped you'd get it.
Priceless! :-D And I say that even before I remove the (pink?) fingernail polish from my TEAMSTER fingers. Truth.
Love this post for you see, I too was born without a penis. While my brother wanted to play with my Barbie, I wanted to play with his cars.
I remember the first day I wore girl pants to school, girl pants period. My friend, Priscilla, said, "Damn Nina. You look like a girl. Nice ass." Then Victor told me I was hott. (With two t's.)
From then on, I decided it wasn't so bad being a girl.
I was supposed to be a boy, as was the wish of my father, but when I popped out female, I too learned some of the same skills you did. They have served me well. I think this is one of your best, Diana.
I agree with Susie - I want to story to continue. It is hard to make a way in the wide open spaces.
I'm reading Half Broke Horses now - really enjoying it.
I'm humming the TLC song "Scrubs" in my head: "No, I don't want no scrubs...". It's used as a derogatory term for unemployed, useless men! I like this post.
What a fun and thought provoking piece. I'm glad I found this!
Lenny7: my pal, Jan, is a welder, and she wears nail polish. She has kicked some ass to get where she is. Thanks for coming by.

NSisifo - welcome, Nina. You should have seen me at 16 and 17 when I realized where the REAL power lay. Oh god, I was a horrible flirt.

Linnnn: It doesn't hurt to expand the arsenal, does it? I am so glad you liked it this much. I wrote it in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep. Maybe I should do that more often. Yep, my waking brain is my enemy! :o)

Rosemary: Okay, I am getting the book tonight, and taking it on vacation to read. Making a life (and making a living) in the country is off the charts, slipped through the cracks, not the mainstream, so it is like inventing your own wheels sometimes. I always appreciate your views.

aim: oh, now I am singing "Scrubs" too! I am so glad I wear no uniform any more. Thank you.

PatriciaK: I wish I had a photo of Kitchen Boss' face, or Olga's. Glad you came by.
A well-deserved EP! The best of two worlds - a wonderful story with a really powerful point. Great job!
There ain't nothin' crazy about you, girlfriend! I just love you to pieces:) And BTW scrubs are my chosen style of pajamas:) I don't blame you for railing against them in the kitchen!
thank you, unbreakable! i am happy that the EP led folks to come by and read awhile. i had no idea how many people shared similar experiences. i guess we all find our own ways to truth.
hi suzi! i tell you what is the most comfortable pair of pants in the world, it is the kurta from india. thanks for the love! *mwah*
Just noticed your response, and had to laugh!
She's not kinky.
We were a liberal activist family in Ga. in the 60s, my sister didn't relate to the southern women ways...
This really was an epiphany to read as I've wondered why my straight forward approach, my direct gaze, my say it and don't falter way, all methods that I learned from her, was so intimidating and worked so well. It pisses off certain women which I didn't understand.....I love that it startles men though.
Hey Just Thinking... glad you cme back! I also notice, that when I use these tactics, some women think it is cheating. Some men are offended that their tricks are usurped by a woman. It is almost a meter for me, the women who get it, the men who respect it, those are the ones I can befriend.
In contrast to all the sappy replies(with one exception), I must say...what a bunch of genuine BS. This is coming from someone who personnally knows each and every one of the characters. How dare you?!!! Again, how dare you? To fantasize about the realization of one's childhood. The very reason you're strong enough to stand up to critters of any sort had nothing to do with your imaginary penis or your real twat. I believe it had much more to do with the strength that your mother showed as a strong and independent woman. She was never afraid. She stood up with the best of "them". Quit being a poor, sobbing victim . Yes, we were all teased for what we were, and what we believed. But, if we believed them enough, it didn't mater!! So....no wonder you turned out so weird. Grow up. It's time, instead of waggin' your penis, strut your twat and say "I don't have anything getting in my way." It makes no difference what you weild, as long as you have conviction. I love you, but.....
ah Laurie, glad to see you here. i should put "humor" or "Tongue-in-cheek" in the tags, in case someone thinks I really wanted a penis, or actually switched genders, etc. or in case someone takes it like you did.

growing up with 4 boys surrounding me was a daily reminder that i was different, and they did want me to know that my difference made me inferior. i knew in my heart that was not true, and in time saw that the way to self acceptance was to follow my own heart.

my mother gave me the freedom to learn this, she didn't baby me or shield me from it. the accusation that she was complicit in showing me that i was not a boy by dressing me as a girl is a true statement. i did the same to my daughter, mostly. and we all do the same to all children, acknowledge their gender. this is where i can wink and say, joke, because it is sorta humorous.

i dare to write a story about the boss trying to tell me i can't do something because i am not a boy. as i had already heard that enough times in my life to (a) be sick of it and (b) know it for a lie, i was quick to shoot down her argument. quicker than i was as a little kid to my brothers, and quicker than i was as a young woman to my husband. this is where i can wink and say joke, because i am beyond intimidation and told a bold-faced lie.

your judgment of comments as sappy is - in my opinion - false. they got the humor of the situation. and they laughed at the spirit of fun in telling such a silly lie.

in my comments, more than once, i apologized for my childish perceptions of unfairness by mom or dad. it hurt to write it, because i knew - as an adult - that my perceptions were wrong, but that IS what i felt. and i DARE to write any damn thing i want, as do you.

i love you too.
I have the same flaw...which...I'm glad I have! As, I'm sure, are you at this point. I love your solution to the problem. Way to go!
hi bell! i just got back from a week away - so i am slow to respond. yep, i do NOT want one of those dangly appendages. i am glad to be me, whether i am a girl or a boy is - thankfully - not pertinent to my happiness. when i saw my oldest brother this past week, i told him the first line of this story, and he nodded, yes. he agreed with it. we had a good laugh at our childish selves.
You go, girl! Loved this story and your courage. - Erica
I came back to read this today after reading mumblety's piece on the cover. I forget what was later sent up as a hook when it went on the cover, but I will say a couple of things...one, I'm happy with what I wrote in a comment back in March (I admit that I had since forgotten what I had written, or indeed that I had--apologies for my porous brain). And two, I am now delighted once again in your response to me.

Indeed, you are one of those who takes care of your readers, not just saying thanks, or worse--ignoring the efforts of others to sustain. And you do it in a way that shows you really understand what the commenter is getting at. It is a kindness, at least, to show that.

Finally, your response to Laurie Paulson is instructive on how we ought to be. Thanks personally for that.

An honor to know you Diana.