Hi. I'm Liberty.
Or, as my fursona, Desmond the kangaroo. I have just recently discovered the furry universe, and I am happy to be a member. But, I am having some problems. You see, I want to be a boy. I'm afraid to tell my parents. I said I want to change my clothes, and cut my hair, but it still doesn't give me legal privileges that boys have. Boy takes his shirt off, nothing happens. Girl takes her shirt off, she gets arrested for public nudity. I just can't tell my parents. Please help. Oh and by the way, my state info has no relevance. It doesn't matter.
* * *
To be clear, do you mean you wish to act like a boy (no shirt, doing boy things) or that you actually wish to have a gender reassignment (sex change)? It's important to be clear here.
* * *
I want to act like a boy. I don't want a gender change. I want to be seen as a boy.
* * *
Okay, Liberty, I see.
A lot of girls your age like to behave and dress more like boys. It’s called—at least it used to be called—being a tomboy. It’s perfectly fine for you to cut your hair short, play baseball, enjoy working on cars in the garage and doing other stuff that is considered the domain of boys.
If the only thing that is bugging you otherwise is the fact that it is not considered okay in “proper society” for a girl to take off her shirt and walk around in public that way (even if her breasts have not yet developed) then that is just part of our culture. Every culture has its constraints. Taking it a step further, Papabear can’t take off all his clothes and walk around in the shopping mall. Why? Well, because a lot of people just don’t want to see a naked bear!
This is called “being considerate of other people’s feelings.”
Now, there are places in the world where you can walk around without a shirt. For example, there are places called “nudist colonies,” even in America, where people go about their daily lives without clothing. This is not considered a sexual thing by any means; it is simply a lifestyle. Nudists, as they are called, feel that going naked is natural (which, frankly, it is), comfortable, and enjoyable. There are other places where this is done, too, such as at nude or “clothing optional” beaches, both in the U.S. and in places such as Europe. Europeans, by the way, are much more comfortable with nudity than Americans are. It has a lot to do with the Puritan heritage of Americans that has an influence on us to this day.
When you say “I want to be seen as a boy,” then, you just mean you want to be treated the same way that boys are treated. Being only 10 years old, you might not be aware that a LOT of progress has actually been made in America over the years in this area. Did you know, for example, that women were not allowed to vote until 1920? Women in American society were denied a lot of rights, and when they married they pretty much forfeited all their rights to money and property. Women were not allowed to work, in many cases, except in a few limited careers, such as teachers or nuns or seamstresses. They were basically told to stay at home and raise the children. They were also not allowed to wear pants (you had to wear a dress all the time) and you had to be very modest in your dress (even showing a bare ankle was considered scandalous in the nineteenth century).
In the late 1960s and 1970s, there was something called the Women’s Liberation Movement. Women lobbied for the right to work, they protested restrictive clothing (there was a whole movement to burn bras), they won the important victory of Roe v. Wade in which the U.S. Supreme Court said abortion was legal (in the first trimester), and they strove to pass an Equal Rights Amendment (still not there yet) and equal pay for equal work.
There is still work to be done, but progress is being made. Perhaps you could be part of that progress one day :-)
Now, let’s get back to being topless. You say that your location is not relevant. Guess what? You’re wrong. Utah, Tennessee, and Indiana are the only three states in the U.S. that have laws on the books that explicitly forbid women to go topless. You live in Texas, so, guess what? No written law says you can’t go topless in the state. Now, what’s important, though, is that counties and municipalities can pass local ordinances forbidding toplessness (some people consider such local laws to be unconstitutional). So, one thing you could do is find out what county you’re in and see whether there is a local ordinance that says a 10-year-old girl can’t take her shirt off in public (this is the part where you start doing research and educating yourself about the law).
The fundamental reason why women are restricted from taking their tops off is that men find this to be sexual and provocative. Now, your being a 10-year-old would, I should think, make this not important because you are not sexually mature yet and anyone finding you going topless to be sexy would be a pervert. Sadly, the rule tends to be applied to both adult women and to children, however.
There is a growing movement among women in this country to reverse this. Celebrities such as Miley Cyrus and Chelsea Handler have said that there is a double standard in which men can go without shirts but women can’t and they are protesting this attitude. (You might have also missed the debate about public breastfeeding of children, which is now allowed).
Attitudes are changing, Liberty. Here’s a helpful link for you about going topless: http://gotopless.org/topless-laws. If you live in Austin, Texas, you’re very much in luck as they allow toplessness in that city. As I said, check out your local laws to be sure.
Of course, there is one more factor: your parents, which might be what you meant in the first place! Even if all the laws and society said it was okay for you to go topless, if your parents disapprove, then there's not much you can do until you leave the house and live by your own rules. You might show them what I've written here and see if that changes their minds, but, let's face it, it probably wouldn't. Therefore, I would just stick with being a tomboy and not worry about the shirt thing. Family and society are just weird, and often wrong (some guys should never be seen outside in swim trunks, but they do it anyway).
Papabear feels Americans are way too insecure about nudity and too prudish about it. At least we’re moving in the right direction.
Leave a Reply.
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.