Long before I started training, I often felt like “Third Gender.” My earliest memories of pre-school were of a little troupe of boys who were my friends. I don’t remember their names now, but I remember that we would pretend to be soldiers, or play on an old, rusted-out tractor that had been painted in bright colours and left to us as play-equipment.
When I started primary school, children segregated themselves into gender groups, and I tried to do the same. A beautiful girl with long dark hair and big greenish eyes introduced me to the term “Best Friend” and claimed to be mine. She consecrated the “Best Friend-ship” by taking me to a big old pine tree that she called “the Tree of Sheba” and burying a fallen pine-seed under it. The next week, she had a new best friend, and I was heart-broken. I continued to visit the tree for a long time afterward to see if our seed grew – it never did.
Later in primary school, led by a thrillingly talented and tomboy-ish girl, who won every athletic event she entered, all of the girls in my grade started to play soccer. I found an outlet for my physical energy, my competitiveness and my lust for challenge (all of which had formerly been described as an “attitude problem”). I was never very skilled at soccer, but I enjoyed it immensely, and my eagerness to assert myself physically made me an effective, if not very skilled, defender. Our team went on to win local tournaments. We never really had a coach, although I do remember our male teacher being very supportive of our team and organising a seminar with a real, grown-up female soccer player.
Almost spontaneously, we practised every recess and lunch-time, usually against the “boys team,” who weren’t nearly as dominant in their tournaments as we were. We would run out to the oval and make a pair of goal posts out of hats and bins. Kids would be hurrying to eat their snacks or lunch while playing.
I loved the cameraderie in this experience. To this day, I miss the sense of female solidarity and pride that we had as children.