Stories of Bravery: Being Brave in My Own Skin
Updated: Dec 20, 2021
Guest Blog By Dr. Gaiathry Jeyarajan
I grew up in a household (like many of my 80’s peers) where stereotypic gender roles were valued and enforced. Some words used to describe me include tomboy, rowdy, loud, too ambitious, and even intense. They were right I had endless energy, played soccer, I climbed trees, I had bruised up knees, and was quick to point out when adults contradicted themselves. Well maybe they were right, I went from barely saying introducing myself, I am Dr. Jeyarajan to I am intense, maybe that makes me intense (ha!).
So let’s start over again. Hi, my name is Gaiathry and I am professionally known as Dr. Jeyarajan. I am a psychiatrist in Toronto, and I am very passionate about trauma, abuse prevention and child safety. I am hoping that my story of gender dichotomy is a story of finding myself and embracing all that I am in my thirties. There is HOPE y’all.
So here goes my story. Growing up being labelled as being “too masculine” was also directly tied to my ability to find a suitable mate. Can you believe that? I am just a young girl for god’s sake; finding a partner was the last thing on my mind. So much of our young life is really about finding and exploring ourselves and as you reach young adulthood separating from our family of origin is a key step in that process. Let me clarify I am not assuming these dichotomies; I was clearly told that my “masculine” behaviors were unpleasant to the male gaze or overbearing and would not be something a man could “put up with”.
Nonetheless, as I got older, I started to embrace what one might call my traditional femininity, you know the hair, nails, tight dresses, heels, etc. Here comes the irony, when I did that I was felt to believe that I was “too feminine”. Whether it was the snarky remark by a secretary saying she could “hear me click-clacking in everyday”, or being called “high- maintenance” like it’s the bad thing, or the endless comments on my curvy body shape. It took me many more years to realize it didn’t matter, someone was always going to be jealous. It really is jealousy because none of the things mentioned above are actual insults. Don’t let me start on jealousy; it was an idea that I did not want to accept for many years even when it was staring me cold in my face. I felt that using the word to refer to someone’s feeling towards me, would make me sound conceited. Now I call spade a spade, that’s it.
Anyway the one term that was used to describe me that stuck with me is “you are intense”. What the hell am I intense about? It made me upset! What’s so intense about me? And why is it a bad thing? I felt that it implied that I was overwhelming, and I didn’t like that. It didn’t matter so much in my personal life, because people could choose to stick around or not, but how can I be an effective doctor if I am overwhelming. While I didn’t really consciously do anything to tame it down, I made some subconscious changes. For example, I toned down my dressing style to earthier natural colors instead of all the colors of the rainbow. I would no longer dye my hair strikingly blonde. I told myself that it went well with being a doctor because I didn’t want my external appearance to be loud or distracting.
But over time, I realized that I don’t feel like myself; it’s not authentic nor genuine. People love my sense of style, but more than anyone, I really feel most alive when I put myself together and use whatever color suits my mood that day. I like to take some risks with fashion and my hair and pull it off with confidence. I would wear a jersey in the morning, and a cocktail dress the same night. I would walk into a hair salon after a long day of work, and go from luscious curls to pixie on my way home from work. This “toning down” business was rubbish.
Over the years, and especially in my thirties, I am really becoming comfortable in my skin the way I never thought possible. I know I am intense and it has been what’s made my life so colorful. I am intense about the things I want in life, though not to be confused with intensity. Ambition is the desire; intensity is “apparently “how you pursue that desire. I am very ambitious and once I have a plan and right time, there really is no stopping me. Many people are ambitious but your approach can be very different. Many of my friends are ambitious and I love how they can achieve their desires in such various ways, I call one of them the “fungus grower”; she is all about the slow and steady, love her for it; it works.
I am sure some people find that I am too much to handle, or too intense, but I’m generally not intense towards others. Once I realized that my intensity and my so called masculinity is not a bad thing, I have truly come to appreciate and embrace it and it has transformed my life. I am more empathic, less self-conscious, more fearless, more unapologetic, and more than ever I am able to let go of things/people that no longer want to be in my life. I live the most authentic version of myself, and even on days where I have failed someone, I go to bed and sleep in peace, because my heart and intentions are in the right place. I wake up and try again tomorrow.
My point is none of those characteristics stated above need to be attached to a gender. Well we now know very well what most of us didn’t when we were young, which is that gender is fluid and for me that has never been more true. Gender is fluid and there is no way to put your life or your personality traits into a box. And so I didn’t have a gender reveal for my daughter, in fact I still don’t know what gender she is, all I know is that she is biologically female. And I know that some people disagree with the term biological sex, but that’s a discussion for another day. I really just hope to raise a child that doesn’t have to live within this caged world of binaries. I hope that she doesn’t have to be made felt less for expressing her full personality, and enjoying all that she is. I hope that she knows that the world is her oyster and that she has my unconditional acceptance.
My book Ella’s Choice is very much in line of this thinking because it is about breaking down unnecessary power differentials in parenting, and allowing us to let go the little boxes we want to place our children in, and instead learn to listen to their needs. By letting go, and instead listening and observing, we can help them more effectively explore themselves and their interests. I really dislike hearing when people say they were forced to do a sport or learn an instrument they absolutely hate. I believe in trying something out and giving it a fair chance, and I do believe in commitment and seeing things through, but forcing a child to do something week after week that they clearly hate, is unnecessary. Life is short, lets minimize their pain and discomfort, I don’t want to be a source of pain and discomfort for my child. Let’s respect their boundaries, let’s ask them for permission, so they can grow into empathic adults who respect others. I think that more empathic children become more empathic adults, and true empathy is directly in paradox with abuse, bullying, rape culture, and heck even war. Ella’s Choice is a reflection of my odyssey to become a more confident human and therefore a more conscious parent, who wants to give her child the best chance to learn by example. I want her to be free. I want all children to be free to discover themselves without judgment and live with ease. I hope Ella’s Choice contributes to raise a new generation of conscious parents and empathic children.
Dr. Jeya has donated over 50 books to at risk children throughout Canada.
Book link: https:;//linktr.ee/ellaschoice
Instagram book page: @ellas.choice
Instagram author page:@lifeofashrink
Facebook: Gaia Jey