Girlhood

Hey y’all. I had a random memory of my childhood today and thought I would share it with whoever happens to read this post. Enjoy!

Picture this: an overcrowded classroom in East Harlem. It must have been the 2nd or 3rd grade. On this particular day, we had a substitute teacher, Mr. Leon de Peña. He was an interesting older gentleman with bouts of extremely boisterous energy. He also had a strong citrusy scent that permeated wherever he would walk. Mr. Leon de Peña was definitely a character. Anyway, he must have been teaching science or english because we were learning the differences between the words “female” and “male”. Everyone was being called on to participate and declare which word belonged to them. I pretty much zoned out the entire lesson and realized too late what was happening. As Mr. Leon de Peña inched closer to my desk, panic started to set in. “Which word should I say?” I thought to myself. “I know! I’ll just say female because that’s what sounds correct for me to say.” I felt validated and confident in my answer. As Mr. Leon de Peña approached my tiny desk, I bravely declared that I am female to the entire class. “No!” commanded Mr. Leon de Peña. “Are you a girl?” Mr. Leon de Peña asked me assertively. My many classmates’ eyes darted towards my direction. Ashamed, I answered no and looked down suddenly. This took me back to an unhappy place – yet another one of the many reminders that my feelings would never be validated. Mr. Leon de Peña was still looming over me and asked, “So, what are you?” “Male,” I replied bashfully. “I am male.” Mr. Leon de Peña had received the affirmation he needed and moved on to the next student. “Phew! What a relief,” I thought to myself. And for that moment, my misery was temporarily alleviated…