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 comfortabl