The Gender Bandit

Why do I write? This was WordPress’ Writing 101 question of the day. I write to break moulds, to write about the moulds that need breaking and the people who are breaking them.

One of the moulds that I feel most passionately about breaking are those related to gender. What it means to be male or female, according to society, and the effect those moulds can have on people who don’t quite fit them. It seems only fitting (cough) to start off this month of posting every day with a post about a fellow gender mould breaker and self-described “Gender Bandit.”


Today, I want to introduce you to a good friend of mine and a fellow mould breaker, Eliot.

Eliot is a student that lives in Ottawa and goes to my church. Eliot is passionate about history, is always encouraging other people, and shares my love of video games – Animal Crossing in particular. Eliot has two cats, makes all kinds of creative things by hand, and is always wearing a cool hat of some sort.

That should give you a pretty good, albeit basic, introduction to Eliot. But you may be feeling like I missed something, and feel awkward about asking…

What’s Eliot’s… gender?

One of the first articles I posted on this blog was entitled “To Be Male or To Be Female, That Is The Question.” It was about the complexities of choosing a gender in video games, and how that affected the experience of the game. Eliot has been asking, and living out this question, in real life.

Here she is:

Photo: DreamLoveGrow
Photo: Mailyne Briggs / DreamLoveGrow

And here he is:

Photo: Mailyne Briggs / DreamLoveGrow
Photo: Mailyne Briggs / DreamLoveGrow

So you tell me. Which person looks more like the Eliot I just described above?

My answer is neither. While I know that technically they are both Eliot, neither of them are the Eliot I know: they both look like strangers. This is the real Eliot:

Photo: Mailyne Briggs / DreamLoveGrow
Photo: Mailyne Briggs / DreamLoveGrow

…That smile, eh?

I have watched Eliot’s journey with compassionate curiosity. Compassion because this is a person I care about, and a member of my community. Curiosity because Eliot has been so open in sharing about the journey, and because I often am reminded of a younger version of myself: in that awkward space between adolescence and adulthood, so uncomfortable with the gender moulds imposed upon me, so yearning to break free of them, to wear what I liked regardless of which section of the store it came from, to have the confidence and the affirmation to just be… me.

We’ve taken different paths: I have found satisfaction in taking the role of “The Girl” in various male-centric situations; to break moulds by driving forklifts, riding motorcycles, fixing computers, beating the boys at their own games. Eliot recently received an official name change certificate in the mail, a couple of weeks after an amazing “name change ceremony” at our church, and has made the leap from “she” to “they.”

And to borrow a phrase that Eliot so often uses for others: They are a “beautiful person.”

Interested in learning more of Eliot’s story? Check out their blog, Eliot Interchange. Also check out Dream Love Grow, the people that worked with Eliot on this amazing gender mould breaking photo project. And please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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8 thoughts on “The Gender Bandit

  1. Thank you very much for sharing these journeys with me. I know someone going through this at the moment and I am the only family member who knows. i send my love to everyone wearing these shoes…stilettos, boots, whatever xx Rowena

    1. Pronouns are annoying. I think people will get more used to “they” as it becomes more common though. As a writer it gets me because I’ve had “they is a plural” drilled into my brain, but I understand and respect the reason for choosing it. I prefer the Japanese way of referring to people, by their names or titles… Japanese doesn’t really have pronouns. Makes things much easier (except if you forget someone’s name. You’re screwed. All the more incentive to remember names though because you can’t cheat with pronouns!)

  2. Thank you for sharing this. As a mother of all boys I get the occasional odd look from strangers in stores and other places when I let my boys play with the “girl” toys, some even so bold as to ask why I’m allowing my obviously male children to do things that are obviously only for females. I find it offensive, personally. Why does it matter what parts are in their pants? If they find pink an attractive color or enjoy dressing dolls or cooking in play kitchens and that makes them happy, shouldn’t that be all that’s important?

    I also enjoy being the girl who does boy things. I’m perfectly at home with power tools, the insides of computers, and video games. Why does this have to make me a “tomboy”? And why isn’t there such a name for boys who enjoy “girl” things? Silly stigmas.

    1. Thanks for sharing as well, Christy. My husband’s favourite colour is pink… and he is an amazing cook. Why dissuade anyone from playing in a toy kitchen! Let kids be kids, never mind boys being boys or girls being girls as society defines… heck, blue used to be the female colour and red the male! 🙂

      1. Absolutely! These are all labels defined and placed by society, so there really is no right or wrong to anything (or shouldn’t be). As long as it doesn’t hurt you or anyone else (and a boy liking pink really does not hurt anyone, no matter what one may say), then do what’s best for you.

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