Image by Timothy Haglund

I’ve never known how to be a good girl. To be clearer: I’ve known how to be good, but never how to be good at being a girl. I learned this early in my childhood. 
My mom used to babysit this little girl who was a little older than I was. We would play act, and being older, she always took the more desirable parts. We reenacted scenes from Perfect Strangers, and I never got to be Balki. Larry Appleton was such a drag, but at least then we fought equally, arguing over male leads. When it came to Batman, she named herself Vicki Vale and I got to be Batman. She claimed that I got the coveted role because he was the superhero, but I knew better.

As much as I loved Batman, I wanted to play the beautiful supporting actress. She never let me.

Whenever I think of my lifelong pattern of struggling with what it means for me to present myself as female to the world, I think about how I’m always running into someone or something telling me I have to play another part. The parts I want are already taken or reserved for someone else more powerful than I am—someone who knows how to be a good girl.

I never meant to become a feminist, but as a Christian, I can’t not be interested in my role as a woman. If anyone knew the power, place, and value of woman, it was Jesus. I find rest, in part, when I remember that there is “no male or female in Christ,” yet my anatomy is decidedly female. I struggle with how my society interprets gender identity, and the seeds of many of my spiritual frustrations are found in the problems of living in my present female flesh.

In the next several months, I will be working on a series of essays that will explore some funny and not-so-funny times that I’ve failed when attempting to be more of a “lady” or “girl” or “woman.” I will post several of the draft versions here, but they will be gathered in a collection of essays.