Luffy was seven before she realized there was anything unusual about her behavior. Being the only small child in the village and with no parents to speak of and a grandfather who was only around part of the time, she was allowed almost free reign to run wild, as long as she was back at Makino’s for meals and before dark. She knew, sort of, that she was a girl, which was different from being a boy, and Makino had told her that she would be a woman when she grew up but she never knew that it mattered, being a girl instead of a boy. She knew that lots of women like Makino wore skirts and had long hair but Luffy didn’t see the point of either – skirts were much harder to run in and long hair got caught on tree branches and hurt something awful when Luffy tried to pull it free – and no one had ever tried to force her into skirts or grow her hair out after Makino had cut it all off the last time Luffy had returned home with sap stuck all in it.
She knew, too, that lots of women in the village tended to work closer to home while men tended to work out further away, either traversing the thick woods that separated their tiny village from the rest of the island or going out on their small fishing boats, careful to avoid the mean Sea King that sometimes came close to shore, but no one had ever told Luffy she couldn’t go sprinting across the beach and the docks begging the fishermen to take her on an adventure with them in the morning or cheering them on when she caught sight of them coming home in the evenings before she had to return to Makino’s. And no one had tried to shoo her away from the trees or scolded her for scampering up them and shaking all the fruits down, as long as she didn’t go too far into them and lose track of how to get back home.
Sometimes, when people from far away came to visit, they accidentally called Luffy a boy, which Luffy thought was a little odd but she never corrected them because it didn’t matter very much and she wasn’t even sure what the difference between a boy and girl was except that Makino had told her boys had different privates and they grew up to be men instead of women. Not even Gramps, who used to bring Luffy odd, useless things that tasted bad and couldn’t be used to play with like a tiny dancing figurine made of glass Makino had helped her put up on the shelf in her little room above the bar just because he thought she’d “like something pretty”, had ever told her that Luffy didn’t act like girls acted.
And so, when Shanks – her absolute favorite person in the world even though he was a pirate and Gramps said pirates were bad people because they broke the law– stared at her with a wide-eyed, weird look on his face after Makino had yelled at him for “risking a little girl’s life” after Luffy had come running into the bar with a large bright-white bandage over her cheek, Luffy had no idea what was going on.
“You’re a girl, Anchor?” There was an odd tone in his voice that matched the odd look on his face and a quick glance over her shoulder as she scrambled up a barstool to reach the delicious smelling food Makino had set out for her showed that it was mirrored on many of the other pirates’ faces. She made a face at them in turn even though scrunching her face up made her cheek throb.
“Yeah, does it matter?” She asked, grabbing a piece of meat off her plate and tearing into it as she looked at Shanks. Another odd look that Luffy had no chance of understanding passed across his face before his expression cleared and the wide grin she was far more accustomed to replaced it.
“Nope,” he told her, easing himself into the stool next to her. “Boy or girl, you’re still just a little brat.”
“HEY!” She yelled, to a chorus of loud laughter. Shanks could be so uncoolly mean sometimes. Maybe that was the difference between men and women – Makino was always really nice to Luffy and never uncool.
Luffy only had a moment to ponder this before Shanks was teasing her again – and then the bandits came and all thoughts about boys and girls fled Luffy’s mind in the flurry of adventure that followed.