I Didn’t Know I Was a Girl.

In Girlhood, Michfest by ssml44 Comments

I did not know cropped

When I was a child I knew I was a girl but the word was devoid of meaning to me. I wasn’t identified by more than my family name – a name that had no meaning beyond the fact that it was mine. I walked alone with my favorite dog through the backyard expanse of sage brush and tumbleweeds in the Nevada desert stopping to make forts out of abandoned camper shells. I was a superhero on a mission riding a tiny red bicycle through empty morning streets wearing Wonder Woman Underoos. I had an internal landscape of blues, greens, browns and the fiery color of sunsets. I was friends with the holy ghost. I knew how to carve soap. I read books. I practiced penmanship for fun. I studied the art of magic tricks. I made up stories. I kept close watch over my siblings, rode skateboards, I knew how to line a fishing hook and how to braid my friend’s hair. I walked around with rocks in my pockets. I spoke to stars and I refused to accept that Pegasus was a myth. I ran with a wild pack of kids. I rode on the shoulders of my uncles. I felt handsome and fast footed in sneakers, brown corduroy and a shirt that said “10-4 good buddy”.  I wore dresses on Easter and Christmas and didn’t mind it so much. Beyond the slight irritation of the fabric, the dresses had no meaning to me.

I did not know that the girl body I was born into had meaning beyond my own use of it, to move through space, to test my own strength, to take in breath, pleasure and understanding my own senses – until that meaning was explained to me by others. I did not know there was a weaker and a stronger, a chosen by god to serve and a chosen by god to be served or that my designation into those groups was determined by the girl body I was born into. I did not know that my body had power until I was told that I wasn’t capable of governing it and was therefor asked to relinquish it. I did not know that my mind had limitations until I was told not to work too hard and was vocationally tracked before I reached middle school. I didn’t know that there was a language used to define girls – a whole set of denigratory descriptors and names until I absorbed them from the atmosphere, claimed them as my own, and then used them to define myself and other girls. I did not know that the blood in my body could be a source of shame. I did not know there was a war against girls until I pled for my life on a battlefield and heard rumors about other girls who had done the same. I did not know what it meant to be a girl until I stopped talking to stars because I had become afraid of a night sky that they shone against. I did not know what it meant to be a girl until I was afraid that someone else would notice that I was a girl – standing alone and unprotected in the light of day. The girl body I was born into did not teach me or tell me what it meant to be a girl; it was the world I was born into that did.

I did not know that my Girlhood had meaning until I looked into the hearts of my Sisters and saw the ghosts of our Girlhoods, the Girlhoods of our Mothers and the Mothers of our Mothers. I did not know that our Girlhoods had meaning until I understood that our stories, the narratives we transmit are like sacred knowledge in our cells. I did not know that my Girlhood had meaning until I realized that I had nearly buckled under the weight of a shame that was not mine and that this was not my fault. I didn’t know our Girlhood had meaning until I knew it was not your fault either or the fault of our Mothers or Grandmothers. It will not be the fault of my Daughter or your Daughter or our Granddaughters, Goddess Daughters or Nieces.  I did not know my Girlhood had meaning until I sent that shame back to its source. I did not know that my Girlhood had meaning until I was a Womon standing in a Michigan field unafraid, talking to stars in the dark of the night, naked and awake as the day I was born, a Girl.



  1. Lee Evans

    How is it possible to write this way?! How is it possible to capture something so covered over by cultural debris and reintroduce it into the light of a new day? Thank you, thank you, thank you, Sara, not just for your incredible writing, but for allowing us to remember. Thank you.

  2. jenn

    wow. i think we had the same childhood. lots of us. thank you for pinpointing it for those of us that just fumbled through the words. i love you sister.

  3. Adlai

    Thanks for the reminder of my childhood. Now I better understand why I tore the heads off of the off-brand Barbie dolls given to me so I would know that I was a girl.

  4. Mary Sunshine

    Whisked this over to tumblr so that the young radical dykes there can enjoy it.

    My comment for the link: “This is a breathtaking piece of lesbian writing.

    ♀♀♀♀♀♀ “

  5. Jo Peterson

    Wow. Sara, this resounds deeply inside me. I had to read it three times, before I could breathe again. Deeply and profoundly moving. And true.

    1. Author

      Little Sister, you’ve always been a source of hope and love for me. We were girls together, you and me. I love you. Your big Sister, Bud.

  6. Griffin

    Thank you Sara. This really says a great deal in a short space, and leaves us wanting to read more. It’s good to read your writing again, and I look forward to more.

  7. Kathleen

    This was beautiful. I remember feeling so betrayed when I learned what society actually thought of women. I still do. Thank you for writing and sharing this <3

  8. Jane

    Whoa! How is it that, even though I am so very clear that you are amazing in so many ways, I am constantly experience amazement anew? Thanks for the neverending gifts of you!!

  9. Ash

    This was really tremendously beautiful. (Thanks for taking it to tumblr, Mary.) Looking forward to seeing more from you, Sara St. Martin Lynne (-:

  10. Northern Free Thinker

    Wow, my jaw dropped, I never thought my thoughts could so clearly come out of someone else’s mouth! Absolutely beautiful

  11. Crayola England

    What a beautiful post…it brings tears to my eyes. I feel the kinship with your words your girlhood….this is why it should be womon born womon.

  12. Daña Alder

    Holy Girlhood, Sara! Thank you for putting your heart and soul right out there. I learned a lot reading this. b.b.

  13. Christina

    Sad and beautiful. Sad how true (for me too) and beautifully written. Thank you! Hopefully this experience will be less true for the next generations of girls because of us and our experiences (some that we learn / gather at MICHFEST and take back out to the world.)

    As a multi-year staff person at Gaia Girls Camp, I rest assured our daughters, too, were feeling free and strong too!!!! 🙂 They, too, were and are going back to the world after MICHFEST. (Our sons also, for that matter.)

  14. Kristie Vogel

    Such beautiful writing and clarity. As I sat and read this it touched me very deeply, to the depths of my soul. Thank you for putting your experience into words, and speaking to and for so many of our experiences as womyn and girls. I know you spoke to mine.

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