I realized being a girl is very different from being a boy early on in my life. But I didn’t know and no one ever taught me that was just the beginning of a challenging life still in this era.
My grandparents from my father side always wanted a boy as their grandchild because my dad is the only son in the family. When I was little, my mom was under a lot of pressure to have another child after giving births to two girls. But with a full time job, taking care of me and my sister, plus not physically strong, my mom never gave in. I only recently shared this memory from when I was five with her. It was in one late afternoon, she was about to start cooking dinner and my grandma called. After hanging up the phone, she started subbing with tears streaming down and she went hiding in the master bedroom. Immediately, I knew what that phone call was about; It was about giving me a baby brother. I cried. I went kneeling on the floor in front of our giant french windows connected to the balcony looking up the sky and I asked God, the most powerful being in the world I knew, changing me into a boy so grandma would not be able to make mom cry anymore.
That probably was the seed of how I always wanted to be ahead of boys.
I did really well academically growing up. I was always the only girl competing with boys to be the top three in our class when I was in elementary school and junior high. I was extremely annoyed by the common opinion that boys could do better in mathematics and science. In my class, I was consistently top three among other boys in those subjects. My last year in high school, I even beat my math teacher in class a few times solving several equations not only faster but also used fewer steps.
I wanted to win; I wanted to prove that I was better than any boys.
Looking back, I never embraced my feminine side, and I might have unconsciously suppressed it. I always dressed very neutral and would go find placed to buy men’s pants in smallest size that fit me. No skirts after uniforms were not required. I felt like I had to be tough to survive, especially being an electrician in theater. I had to show that I could do whatever other men could and better. At some point, one of my coworkers could not hold it in anymore and had to ask me my sexual orientation. He thought, with the way I behaved myself, I had to be a lesbian. Because, no “normal” girls/women would be like that. But that didn’t protect me from becoming a target. When we went on tour and had a chance to relax, all the horny rental house technicians that came with their equipments would always try to get new female faces drunk to get “lucky.” Fortunately, I had high tolerance and was able to get away from those situations unscratched.
How I became so sufficient running light boards is also an ironic gender-related story. When I was still free-lancing in Taiwan, after hanging and cabling lights, no one would trust a female electrician to focus lights. It was a general assumptions that women did not have the strength handling lighting units. I always ended up being on gel duty, which was cutting and organizing gels, and on the light board punching buttons because men didn’t like it. Of course time after time, I became good at it but still I barely had chances focusing lights.
It was an impossible ceiling to break at the time, so I decided to leave.