When I was young Gloria Steinem took up the banner of feminism. My older sisters, especially my hippy-chick sister, led the way and I stumbled behind.
And now I know a girl. And she epitomizes for me how the times have changed since I was her age, shy, hiding in a corner, most often found buried in a book, or in daydreams.
When she was little she was our local wild child. Bare-butt naked, free soul, half fish in the river, half elf in the woods, bare feet in the mud, in the snow, in the grass.
She eventually had to put clothes on and go to school. I worried her spirit would be quenched by the bullies. And girls are so cruel when they bully. Grade school was hard for her. She grew taller than all the other girls. I saw her sitting alone, face buried in a book and was afraid.
Don’t turn into me. Stay free, stay wild.
Her mother made sure that happened.
One winter when the river edges froze and snow fell, she walked past my window dressed in black tights and tee shirt, her bare feet crimson red with cold, her long hair drenched. Coming back from her daily dip in the river.
Still free, still wild. Child on the threshold of girl.
Now, in high school, she’s taller than most students. She wild-forages for licorice root. She hikes. She defines gender by what it means to her, not by what society labels her. She stands firm against social media trolls, those who would tell her to change. She writes poetry that opens your eyes, that makes you pause as you glimpse her soul. This past weekend she walked, barefoot, through a festival, with her poetry.
Still free, still wild. Girl on the threshold of woman.
But one who is not bound by labels.
I can’t wait to see the next blooming of this flower. I worry that sometimes she is too hard on herself (like we all can be). So I want her to read this, to recognize herself, to see that being…just being, without labels of girl, feminist, lesbian, trans, woman, is beautiful. Just as beautiful as taking all those labels, fixing them to your chest, standing proud and saying, ‘this is who I am’.
Our little wild forest child.
Those of you reading this, who recognize her, please do not name her in comments. It should be her choice to be named in such a public way.