Steph Lum

Once, when I was a kid, I told my parents I wanted to cut my hair
Cut off the long blond hair tied in braid
Keep it short

People will think you’re a boy.
You look nice with long hair.
You don’t want short hair.

They’ve always been so sure
as long as I remember
they’ve been scared

One time, we went for a walk in a forest
I wandered off, got really lost. I thought they’d be so upset with me
Pink skirt torn, flower pattern covered with dirt
Took ages to find my parents again but then when I did
they thought I’d been with them the whole time.
Didn’t even notice what I’d done to my clothes.
I think they were scared because they were lost too
Or were they scared of me?

My parents think that to be a girl you have to look a certain way
They say it’s for the best, that I’ll understand
One day

My parents always try to think ahead
They imagine things that might happen, and then do things to stop the things that might
I’ve never been so good
Sometimes, I try and imagine the future they imagine for me
but I always just end up lost, back in the forest

I find it hard to imagine because I know that to be a woman
you don’t have to look a certain way
I think they know that too but they’re scared
of the power of the woman who looks different and is comfortable with herself

So they never told me that
A woman isn’t the parts of her body but the strength inside her
Instead they told me that
This is what you’ll want, one day

One day
I cut my hair
Cut off the long blond hair tied in braid
Kept it short

Told my parents

If I change my mind
At least my hair will grow back
One day

In 2016, in the family court case Re: Carla (Medical procedure) [2016] FamCA 7, a judge in Queensland, Australia allowed for the sterilisation of a 5-year-old girl, Carla (not her real name), based on gender stereotypes and erroneous medical information. The judge further ruled that Court authorisation was not necessary for such procedures, condoned medically unnecessary surgeries undertaken two years prior that ‘enhanced the appearance of her female genitalia’, and failed to recognise the investment of her clinicians and parents in the reinforcement of Carla’s gender following those previous surgeries.

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