When I was born and my father presented the wonderful news of my arrival to his father, all he said was “well, you can always try again”. My father is the oldest son of the oldest son and so on for 14 documented generations (and probably even longer back considering the naming tradition in the family) and my fathers side of the family take great pride in this. The thought of my father not having a boy was unthinkable for my grandfather, he was supposed to keep the tradition of firstborn sons. My dad was furious over the comment his dad made, with all right. I ended up being an only child and I always thought that I was the end of the “oldest boy” line and have felt the disappointment from relatives throughout my childhood. Nothing has been said explicitly, but there’s always little hints to pick up. Like the naming-tradition; I’ve always known what my name would have been if I were a boy and I’ve felt the pressure to name my oldest boy with my family’s traditional first name. My dad, like all boys in the family, has two names, one is the traditional name that all firstborn boys in the family have and the other one is his own. By his relatives he is known only by the traditional name even though everyone else calls him by his other name. It’s weird, but I guess that it is their way of acknowledge his position as the oldest boy.
I have an old photograph of me, my father, grandfather and great grandfather in front of his house. It’s one of those four-generations-in-one-pic things that’s somehow compulsory to do since it’s so rare to have four generations alive and in the same place, or at least it was rare. Now this photo is very special since all of them are the oldest boy. Well, and me. If I were a boy that picture would have made the news. You get the disappointment.
I’ve never had a good relationship with my dads relatives. I don’t know if it’s because my dad is the way he is, if it’s because my grandfather is the way he is or if it’s because I was a girl. I can’t help to think that they would have been more interested in me if I was a boy. Or had a brother. But then I guess that they would prefer him…
Since I was born a gender failure, I’ve been treated like a boy for most parts when I was growing up. My grandfathers comment made my dad determined to show that the gender of the firstborn didn’t matter. My father had the same expectations and rules for me that he would have for a son, with a few exceptions like biking alone after dark. My mother on the other hand was thrilled to have a baby girl to put in dresses and force to have long hair. So my upbringing was a mixture of Lego, cars and unisex clothes on one side and dresses, long hair and behaving like a girl in public on the other. You can guess which part I liked the most.
The overall message I got growing up was that I was allowed to be whoever I wanted to be and look however I wanted to look, as long as I looked and behaved like a girly girl in public. It made me feel like I was never good enough just the way I was. Looking back at all of this the conclusion is that all my family’s and relatives efforts was in vein. I got stuck between what they wanted me to be and what I truly was. I could never live up to their expectations, I could only be myself. Somehow I managed to keep being myself despite all their efforts to change me.