Words by Gianna Sibal
If you identify as a girl, you are a girl.
It doesn’t matter what you wear, what you do with your face, how you sit, how you walk, what you like, or which parts of the song you sing to (Troy’s or Gabriella’s). I thought there was a guide to being a girl, a rulebook—do this and do that. But I’ve learned the long and hard way that there isn’t one.
Growing up, I’ve always been the ‘boyish’ type. I was supposed to be named ‘Gio Paolo’ instead of ‘Gianna Paula.’ My uncle gifted me a toy car because he thought I was a boy, while my sister received a Kim Possible doll. My sister and I used to perform a lot—and I mean a lot—of High School Musical songs, and I’d always choose Troy’s parts. I used to play basketball with my neighbors, I hated ballet. As an iyakin kid, I cried when I needed to wear makeup to a wedding, and I absolutely loathed shopping. I’d go with my dad to a coffee shop instead because shopping made my sneakers-clad feet hurt.
In high school, I didn’t care what I looked like. I didn’t even know how makeup worked. I went to school wearing a big shirt and chino shorts or leggings, and I didn’t put anything on my hair or face. I wasn’t what was considered to be ‘appropriate’ or ‘feminine’ for a girl. Some of my guy friends also used to say, “‘Di ka naman babae e.”
At first, I wasn’t bothered by it. I wasn’t the ideal type—the girly type, and I knew that. I accepted it.
But a lot of people were asking me why. Why I don’t wear makeup, why I don’t dress like this, why am I not graceful enough—and that started to bother me. Some would say, “Kababae mo’ng tao, ganyan ka?“
And… do boys like it better if I tried to wear dresses instead of shorts? If I put something on my face to make it look less… average?
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And when the time came that I eventually wanted to try, to wear girly things, or do girly things—people had something to say about it. Last year, during my birthday, I went to school wearing eyeliner—and instantly wished I hadn’t. A lot of my friends were teasing me and laughing about it, and though I was laughing along with them, it felt humiliating. I wished I hadn’t done it.
I was scared to ask my mom and my sister, or anyone else, really, advice about makeup because I was afraid of what their reactions would be: “Ikaw? Nagme-makeup?”
When people feel the need to point it out, just because I hadn’t been as girly, when I do something on my face—like look pretty for once—it’s humiliating.
It’s hard to feel confident about yourself when people laugh at you when you start to dress differently or want to look pretty for yourself. I was shamed for being ‘one of the boys’ and now I’m also being shamed for being ‘girly.’
It was hard to find the balance between who and what I wanted to be without wanting to avoid being shamed. Eventually, I found my place—and I thought to myself, you know what? Who cares? Sometimes, I don’t want to be girly. Sometimes, I do. No one else should have a say in that.
So, to all the girls who are shamed for not being too ‘girly’, or to all the girls who are shamed for being so—you do you. You are beautiful and amazing—and I am on the road to just realizing that. Our choice in clothes, decision to wear makeup or not, the sports or shows that we like, and most especially, no boy, and no romance
or lack thereof, can define that.
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