The painting of a strange man with beautiful eyes looked down at me in my living room, but the eyes on his face were not his own. He had the eyes of a woman with long thick eyelashes, and glittering shadows on his eyelids. These eyes were clearly not his own as they were too large for his face, and they looked like they had been cut out of a magazine and glued over his own eyes. The rest of the painting looked like any ordinary photo of a man. His lips were calmly shut and expressionless, he wore a suit and had slicked back hair, the only unusual thing about him were his beautiful eyes. This was the first time I had ever truly looked at this painting of the man with longing, feminine eyes that had been in my house for years. I now saw this painting through a new perspective, the man was trying to hide his feminine side. He like any other man, had emotions and another side to him that might be associated with women if he showed it. I was intrigued by this idea, and that’s what got me thinking.
When I was in eighth grade, I decided that I didn’t like when girls and boys were treated differently. I didn’t want to be considered more, or less than the boys in my grade. I wanted to do the things that are “only” acceptable for boys to do, and I wanted to see boys doing the things that are “only” acceptable for girls to do. I believed strongly that people should be allowed to be themselves, whether or not they’re following what’s considered normal or acceptable. I decided that I wanted to be the one to change the possibilities different genders were offered, but I knew that I couldn’t just expect everyone to begin changing the way they did every day things so instead, I decided that I'd start with myself, and with sports. I didn’t want to be on the softball team, because I thought it was demeaning that sports had to be modified for girls. I wanted to be challenged just as much as any boy, because I wanted to prove that I too could play the tougher sport.I explained this to my best friend, and she nodded sympathetically agreeing with me that it was unfair and saying that she too would love to do baseball. We decided to talk to one of the two principles at my school, Teacher Ed. Teacher Ed was a small, strict man and when I saw him scurry into my study hall room I decided to seize my opportunity.
“Teacher Ed, I was wondering if it was possible for Emmi and I to join the boys baseball team bec-” I didn’t even get to finish my sentence before he cut in and said “No” but that wasn’t going to stop me from trying. “I want to play on the boys team because there’s different rules, and the balls are smaller and harder, also overall I feel like I'd be more challenged” I said confidently, but this time he just laughed “No, just play softball” he said walking out of the room. I sat there frustrated, and disappointed as I watched him walk back to his office, but I was not about to give up.The next day, I waited until school was over to go talk to my other principle, who was a woman. Tap-tap-tap! I knocked on her decorated office door. “Teacher Terry?” “Come in!” she said in a sing-song voice from inside so I pushed the door open and stepped into her office. I still thought I had a chance at being on the team, and I wasn’t about to let it pass by. Not to mention, Teacher Terry was quite the feminist herself. “I would like to know if Emmi and I could be on the boys baseball team” I tried slowly, eyeing her for any signs of an answer but she nodded so I kept going “I think we’d both be good, and I don’t want to do softball because I just don’t feel like it’s challenging enough for me. I want to be able to play the same version of sports that the guys get to play”. She nodded and looked up at the ceiling making a light humming noise “Okay” she said pursing her lips. “I think we might be able to make that work. The team needs more players anyways...I just have to run it by the sports coordinator. No promises though, it’s not every day that we have girls signing up for boys sports”. I smiled excitedly and thanked her. She nodded and shooed me out of her office with her hand.
The next day at school, I told Emmi the good news. She was as excited as I was, even though it wasn’t official yet. We talked about how awesome it was going to be to practice on the boys team every day, and to get to avoid all of the drama and attitude that tended to come with girls’ sports at my school. Sure enough at the end of the day, Teacher Terry told us she pulled some strings so that we could join the team, and that we should show up at practice the next day. I went home feeling proud of myself for getting us on the team, but I knew the hard part was going to be the actual practices and games with the boys’ team. I told my parents, and they seemed proud that I had taken an interest in something other than my social life. It was the beginning of a new me.
The following morning, I packed my bag with a pair of cleats, high socks, a baseball hat, and a water bottle. I was now prepared to face the challenge I had set up for myself. When it was finally time for practice, we got on the bus to the field, and introduced ourselves to the boys, who weren’t very happy to have girls on their team. They were territorial over their field, coaches, and traditions that we knew nothing about, but we were confident and no amount of pushing was going to break me. The practices were hard, and the boys were hard on us. However, after a lot of bad throws, a lot of frustration, and a bloody nose from getting hit in the face with a ball, I began improving. And when the season was almost over, the boys were giving me high fives, cheering for me, and I even won a game ball!
When the season ended, the rest of the team told me they were going to miss me, and they had really warmed up to having girls on their team, especially since I wasn’t bad anymore. Whenever someone said something to me about being weird for joining a boy’s sport, or for just joining in the midst of trying to get attention the guys on my team would stand up for me and defend my new found skills. My coach who went by “Wink”, gave me this whole speech about how he was so grateful to have a girl as dedicated as me on his team and that he was going to miss me. I remember him patting my head and saying “everyone has the potential to be good at what they love, silly old rules shouldn’t stop you from doing what you enjoy.” I gave him a hug, and was proud of myself for sticking up for what I wanted to do, and following through with it. I hoped that girls all over the world began sticking up for themselves and making opportunities to do the things they love, no matter the gender rule. Although it was a big goal, I was more confident that things would keep changing for the better. To this day, I’m still friends with every boy on that baseball team and they all have a different perspective on girls, and what they are capable of.