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It was the day of the championship game. If we won, we’d move on to the next division, with a shot at the state championship title.

We were all pumped up and ready to go as we saw how full the gym had become with family members, friends, and townspeople. I gave my parents the usual smile and wave and got on the court. The game was about to start when I realized the referees were all huddled around the scorer’s table looking and pointing at me. Confused, I looked at my parents who shared the same expression. In front of the large crowd of people, the referee pulled me off the court and started asking me questions about my age. “How old are you?” The referee stared at me long and hard not accepting my constant answer of “Eleven.” Continuing to say “You shouldn’t be playing right now. You’re not eleven.” and “You shouldn’t be lying about your age.”

The world seemed to stop as everyone stared at me in what felt like, disappointment. Tears stung my face as I stared at my sneakers wishing I could’ve disappeared, wishing that this was all just a bad dream. I never liked being called a liar and here I was being called one by an adult in front of all my peers. My parents had to go back home to retrieve my birth certificate before I was able to play; Costing me half the game. When the referees realized that I was eleven and developed for my age, I didn’t get an apology. Instead, they just let me back into the game, conveniently glossing over their blatant humiliation of me. I will never forget that moment. The shame that came with it or how I then became more conscious of my appearance.

Looking back, I remember the conscious efforts of my mother putting barrettes and beads in my hair, how she made sure that I “dressed my age.” Now, I see that those decisions weren’t just for the purpose of fashion, but a form of protection.