What sisterhood means to me as a genderfluid person

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image credit: pallas gutierrez

What sisterhood means to me as a genderfluid person

February 7, 2020

I was always a queer kid, in every sense of the word. I wore striped dresses with matching leggings as I climbed trees, sat under my desk to read books, and had a total preoccupation with finding magic in the world. I wanted to hold my girl friends' hands long after we were “too old” for that. In fifth grade, I chose to learn the leading steps in ballroom classes, typically reserved for boys, under the pretext of evening out the gender disparity in my class. In reality, I didn’t want to dance with the boys and their sweaty hands. Through my queerness, I found that I didn’t need sweaty fifth grade boys or anyone else for that matter. I had more than enough love from the girls in my life.

I was always friends with boys—even after 'cooties' took over our world—but I was also close to my girl friends. Although I always fantasized about becoming a Boy Scout, I became a member of the Girl Scouts. In line with my dream of becoming a Boy Scout, I made up a boy’s name, fantasized about cutting my waist length hair, and imagined camping trips with the boys. In third grade, I joined a Brownie troop but I didn’t like it nearly as much as I had imagined I would. We did a lot of shopping and makeovers—exactly the kind of stuff I did not enjoy. I quit that troop before the end of the year.

In fourth grade, my mom found another Girl Scout troop for me. The group activities were different with this troop; we did crafts, went on trips, organized food drives, and had sleepovers. This troop was what I had been looking for—these girls felt like they were my sisters. Even as my striped dresses morphed into t-shirts and cargo shorts from the boy’s section, I felt at home when I was with my troop. Sometimes kids at school—and even some parents—would disdainfully call me names like “tomboy” and say that I should act “more like a girl.” Even in those cases, I saw that my sisters didn’t care about the queer implications of me not fitting into the “normal” idea of a young girl. They cared about me, no matter what. We went trick or treating together, gave each other Christmas presents, and jumped up and down to keep warm during Easter bake sales. I didn’t have any real sisters of my own, so Girl Scouts was my first opportunity to find the sisters I lacked and we were inseparable.

In seventh grade, I gradually came to the realization that I liked girls and boys. I was scared. Would people treat me differently? I told my Girl Scout sisters about my realization because I felt I couldn’t hide it from them. There were so few of us, and we had no secrets. Even outside of Girl Scouts, they were a part of my everyday life. One of my scout sisters lived down the street from me and another scout sister was a close friend’s best friend. When I came out to them, I saw that their treatment of me didn’t change. We continued to have sleepovers, cuddle puddles and dance together. Their love for me was unconditional.

I struggled throughout the middle two years of high school as I began to figure out what I felt was wrong, and once again my sisters were there for me. During this tough time, I turned to the Internet to explain the sudden and vigorous return of my childhood obsession with becoming a boy. From my web searches, I realized I was probably experiencing gender dysphoria; it was no longer as simple as a name change and a haircut for me. I cringed at gendered phrases like “ladies and gentleman.” Sometimes I wanted to crawl out of my skin, whereas at other times I was perfectly happy in my body. I had spent so long accepting that it was okay to be a “different” kind of girl, that I never questioned the idea of whether I was a girl at all. I did more research, I read personal stories and definitions, and I started finding words that fit me better. Genderfluid had a nice clarity to it; I wasn’t strictly one thing or another, I existed on a spectrum.

But if I wasn’t a girl, how could I be a sister? And if I wasn’t a sister, would my Girl Scout sisters still love me?

I changed my pronouns on Facebook to they/them. My sisters noticed and asked me why I hadn’t told them anything. I verbalized my fears of not fitting in with them anymore, and told them exactly how I conceptualized my gender. They quickly dispelled me of my fears and reassured me that sisters meant forever. They told me that chosen families form life bonds; sisterhood didn’t stop just because it turned out one of the sisters was never a girl to begin with. I remained a Girl Scout until my high school graduation, and I am still close to my Girl Scout sisters today.

Going into my freshman year of college, I began looking for something analogous to Girl Scouts. The sisters from my original troop could never be replaced, but I wanted something that would make college feel more like home. I decided to look into sororities. A no-boys space was essential for me. The first few sororities I found were not for me; they didn’t ask my pronouns (assuming I went by she/her) and seemed more interested in retaining the image of their sorority than finding a place where I would fit well. Determined to find a new accepting womxn only space, I kept looking.

Soon enough, I found a promising sorority. They asked my pronouns, they were interested in what I was looking for in a sorority, and they used the more gender neutral terms 'womxn' or 'sxsters.' I gradually learned more about the organization and the sxsters, and I grew to love it even more. They took service and sxsterhood very seriously, which are two of the most important Girl Scout values. Two of the sxsters were openly queer. When I joined the new class, the sxster responsible for putting out the information about the new class asked me if I was okay with the word sxster or if I would prefer other gender neutral language. I had struck gold twice, once again finding sxsters who loved and respected me.

People are sometimes shocked when I say I used to be a Girl Scout. For some reason, people are quick to assume that being queer and being a Girl Scout are mutually exclusive. People are also shocked when I say I’m in a sorority. The typical sorority girl image is very much a straight cisgender white woman and I don’t fit that image in any way. The purpose of Girl Scouts, sororities, and other womxn only spaces is to give the members a safe, no-men space to find friends and sisters who will help them be themselves and improve upon themselves. Womxn only organizations are much more inclusive than the image typically presented in pop culture. Sometimes, womxn need a space away from men; a space to laugh, cuddle and share with your sisters.

The word ‘girl’ sometimes itches like a sweater tag but never when I’m around my sisters. My Girl Scout sisters always supported my interests and identity, whether that meant listening to me talk about crocheting or listening to me explain what gender fluidity meant. I never felt pressure to be one type of person, but rather I felt free to shape my Girl Scout experience to help me grow into who I wanted to be. In my sorority, I feel the same way. My sisters allow me to be who I am and support me exactly the way I am.

Pallas Gutierrez is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and a sophomore at Northwestern University majoring in Theatre with a minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies. Pallas is a part of Northwestern's student Theatre Coalition Accessibility, Inclusion, and Diversity Chair, and formely served as an Opinion Editor at The Daily Northwestern. They currently serve as a Lead Junior Editor of Amp.

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