I’ve always been able to rumble and tumble with the best of them. I’ve never minded getting bruised or scraping a knee or getting blood on my uniform. Not since I was the only girl playing flag football with the boys in fifth grade; not while I earned my black belt in Taekwondo; and not when I grew up in a household with a twin brother and an older brother who were addicted to competition and constantly taunting me to prove that I was just as tough and fast as they were.
Because they constantly discounted me, I loathed anything that was considered to be“girl-like.” I was a tomboy who proudly wore basketball shorts, high tops, and a backward baseball hat to school. I tried to keep up with them, and I always wondered: Was this the girl I wanted to be? Or was I too afraid to have my brothers do something that I, a girl, couldn’t and shouldn’t be doing?
As a middle schooler, I was different from the other girls, and being different wasn’t the best way to win friends. That made being me a little lonely at times.
Yet, high school was a liberating revelation. I found other girls who shared my independent nature, girls like me who enjoyed the rough and tumble of physical competition and didn't mind getting sweaty and dirty in the process. Friends who could bruise without breaking, who liked to compete, and most importantly, who loved to win. We didn’t have a charter. We didn’t have any secret handshakes or exclusive group chats. We came to one another to find strength, confidence, and affirmation in our informal and unspoken sisterhood.
The power I found here made me realize that this tomboy persona was my attempt to rid the traditional gender stereotype that I was weaker and less capable. My clothing, my identity was just my disguise to blend in—to be seen like my brothers and my male peers. I didn’t just learn that basketball shorts did not flatter me, high tops made me look short, and baseball hats gave me horrible hat hair; I realized that a community of women could cultivate my power and strength.
It is within a community of other like-minded, driven, wondrous women that I find the courage to embrace who I am, that I find the courage to face my brothers in any task demanded, that I find the courage to continue to defy the expectations that are set around me.
I no longer need to wear a backward baseball cap to define my worth because I’ve found the power in us: the other strong, capable, and courageous women I continue to meet and see day in and day out.