I Grew Up a Boy
*This is a true story*
Happy Pride Month everyone! I’m terrified to post this, and I’ve been waiting for this moment since last year. I marked little else on my social media calendar. I knew that in June I wanted to come out & share one of my deepest, burning truths with you. Before I tell my story, I’d like to thank the activists, and leaders in my community who have talked to me about my identity and listened to me. I appreciate y’all.
My earliest memory is dancing at my 3rd birthday party. Running in and out of the house in my bitty baby bathing suit. We had a good ol California backyard party with water balloons and a kiddie pool. And I, in true 80s baby fashion, wore rainbow and leopard print. It was a look. I think that was my first memory because it was full of so much joy for me.
My next earliest memory is me the very next day after the party thinking “I hate girls!” For my birthday I had received many gifts. Toys from mommy. A keyboard from my dad. Books from neighbors. But there was one gift in particular, that I got from one of my mom’s coworkers, I absolutely hated with a burning passion.
That fucking bitch, Barbie!!! I HATED her! She served no purpose. She was useless, with her unmoving plastic smile. She was styled to look “perfect,” with her blonde bangs, and she was so different from me. I hated her for existing, and I hated being a girl for receiving her. ‘They wouldn’t give me Barbie if I was a boy, they only gave it to me because I’m a girl!’ I thought angrily. In a rage I went into the house and grabbed every doll I could (the ones I didn’t think I’d get in trouble for destroying), and the sharpest pair of scissors I could find. I cut the heads off of each, one by one, including that brand new Barbie and ones that didn’t even belong to me (my sister Terra didn’t have many, but I cut up one of her old dolls from where she grew up in Meadville, Pa too…and yes I still got in trouble for doing it).
From that day I decided that I was gonna be called Sam. No more Samanthia. My best friends became boys, and we played football on our cul de sac all day and all night. I pushed myself to run faster than the boys. I wanted to throw like them. I learned to catch from them. And though I didn’t mind the occasional dress, most of the time I wanted to wear jeans, a ball cap, and a T with some fly ass sneakers. Back then words like non-binary, genderfluid, or queer weren’t in my lexicon. I was a tomboy. And I wore that label proudly.
That extended all the way into high school. In theatre class, I loved dressing as or playing the role of a man. And though I was a cheerleader, the athleticism is what turned me on. I loved outrunning the football players. I felt strong. To this day, outside of yoga, I love to lift!! Back then it’s not that I thought I was a boy, nor was I attracted to them (ew. boys were gross)… I just hated being a girl, and wished I was a boy.
I could list all the taumas and things that contributed to my self hatred. Instead I’ll ask you to please buy my forthcoming book, Ancient Future Unity, when it’s released. There I go into detail about all the crazy things that happened to me and contributed to my poor self image. For now I’ll tell you what’s not in the book:
I am named after my great grandmother Symanthia Sisk-Richardson. I don’t know much about her personality…But I have to believe that she was one tough mother. She had 8 young kids in the deep south; 6 boys and 2 girls. One of those girls was my grandmother, whom she named Lue Willie Richardson. The other, my great aunt, she named Bobbie Melvin-Fredrick Richardson. Story goes that Mrs. Symanthia Richardson only wanted to give birth to boys, and she wasn’t gonna let a little thing like their gender determine their name.
Being raised by the children of Symantia sometimes felt unforgiving. There’s a certain tough love that’s always dispensed. I think they were trying to make us strong. They probably saw no other option for us. Growing up as Black Women in the deep south in the early 1900s, you had to be strong to survive. Maybe that’s why Symanthia only wanted boys, to spare her baby girls the pain of being born Black and a Woman. And though I was born in the 1980s, they trained me to see emotion, vulnerability, and most of the things traditionally associated with femininity to be avoided at all costs.
Through the years, I’ve un-trained myself out of those old beliefs, and re-trained myself into new beliefs. I understand that emotion, vulnerability, and femininity not only matter, they are essential and life giving. I learned to love and embrace the gifts of being a Black Woman, because what could have a higher honor? I hold nothing but the highest regard and love for my family, and lineage. I can only imagine the battles they fought, and won, and why they made the choices they did. I’m grateful for them, and I know they did it for me. The transformation and re-training I’ve undergone laid the foundation for me to literally live my dreams and fulfill my purpose. While simultaneously fulfilling their wishes for me. However, in my journey I wonder if I took the easy way out.
Don’t get me wrong. The spiritual path ain’t for the weak. Healing my mind, traumas, and nervous system…that whole process of un-training and re-training myself has been brutal. It’s my battle that I have fought, and won. And it hasn’t been easy. But, it’s nothing like the process of going under the knife, changing my body, taking hormones, and permanently altering my physical identity. Sometimes I wonder if I would have made different choices if I had been even stronger or braver.
Other times I simply celebrate and enjoy the body I was given, even though it hasn’t always matched who I think I am or who I want to be. Indeed, I have chosen to settle for my physical body, satisfied with internal transformation. I decided to fit in, and I know I am extremely privileged to be able to make that choice, and for the body I have.
Though I have spent years sinking into embodiment of the feminine, at my core I still feel really masculine. I have this penetrating vision; I can look into or through people and things to see solutions for all the things that are wrong or not working. While having this humorous sense of detachment, because deep down idgaf if it gets fixed or not lol. And I deeply appreciate those masculine parts of me. I don’t think I would have made it through the battle of healing and re-training myself had it not been for that vision and detachment.
At a certain point, feminism, and divine femininity had me ashamed of or not recognizing my masculine parts. I mean, Ew! Boys are gross, right? Let’s smash the patriarchy, and whine about how much men aint shit together! But, yknow what? Farther on down the line in my divine feminine journey, I started to meet AMAZING men from all backgrounds. Men that anticipated my needs, and really listened. Men that fight to protect me, and want to provide assistance. Men who believe in me, and respect my space. And the masculine in me stopped allowing anyone who was outside those standards to be around me. Even the most crucial men in my life, my dad and my husband, began to change and our relationships are now better than they ever were. And I can see all that in them, because I can see it in myself too.
So I’m using this #pride month to stop fitting in, and come out, in honor of my masculine. I am masculine. I am feminine. I am unity. And I love all of me. In this body, I’ve experienced and expressed myself in a lot of different ways. I don’t claim to have all the answers, I’m learning everyday, and I don’t subscribe to every label. But one thing you can always call me that I’ll always answer to, is Sam.