Disclaimer: I am but one humble trans woman, and my experiences do not reflect or extend to every trans person’s experience. Everyone is different and wonderful in their own little way and have different struggles that they go through. This is just one of mine.
There’s a lot of fierce debate right now on the subject of transgender kids. Many are asking questions. What should we do about them? Is it okay to allow them to transition? With such flagrant amounts of hate and misinformation being thrown around on these topics, I wanted to chime in with my own thoughts and experiences; illustrate to you why I feel that it’s important that we allow transgender children to express and change themselves the way they need to.
When I was a kid, like young kid, I was already confused about my gender. I felt off about it somehow, but I didn’t have the ability to say anything about it. I couldn’t explain it. So, as kids do, I asked simple questions to try and get some clarity. I have a vivid memory of being in my room with my mom working on something, and nervously asked her at no later than the age of 6, “Mom am I a boy or a girl?” Her response was equally candid,
“A boy. Why?”
It wasn’t mean in the slightest but for some reason, that answer hit me like a truck. I fell silent out of a strange feeling of shock. She’d left and I began to cry about it. I couldn’t understand why at the time, but I know now that it’s because I do, and always did, have gender dysphoria. Describing how dysphoria feels to someone who doesn’t have it is a little difficult. It’s kinda like when you plug in an audio cable the wrong way and you hear that shocking “BZZZT” noise, as if to punish you for your misdeed. Only, that “BZZZT” is anxiety. And it’s loud. Does that many any sense?
Anyway, having gender dysphoria as a kid is a cruel act of nature. My parents are remarkable and let me get away with a lot, but school is another matter entirely. American public school as a kid anywhere on the rainbow spectrum is rough, so often kids will hide in the closet, awaiting their moment to come out and be who they want to be. The same had to go for me, but some things I couldn’t help. I’d primarily hung out with girls. I was emotional. I didn’t like roughing around with other boys. I let me hair grow out. Apparently even the way I checked my nails got me “caught” one time. Like, there was a trend going around at the time that was like “if you check your nails with your palm facing down that’s a girl thing.” What? Anyway, things started stacking up. I’d been teased a lot, even for a time bullied at elementary school. That had to change and fast.
I got very good at not being bullied.
I know that’s not an actual skill, but it felt like it at the time. After a while of dealing with it I made it almost like a game to avoid confrontation by being really overt about being the “weird” kid. It seems ironic, but it worked for me. I realized that the more defensive and reserved I was, the more the crappy mean kids would tease me. So, I went the opposite direction. I got loud. I started acting out. I made friends with other “weird” kids (power in numbers) and, ironically enough, was so brazen in my unusual nature that it got people who weren’t my friends to leave me alone. This actually continued for a long time, and continued to work into everybody’s favorite time in their life: Middle school.
Middle school sucks. That’s just a universal law. It’s the one where kids all collectively go through puberty together and enter the terrible teens. The kids are a lot more vicious; the adults are hyper-defensive and always feel standoffish, and I’m sitting there having to watch my body change with male puberty.
My male puberty was traumatic. My anxiety grew to a fever pitch and ran constantly like there was a lava rock in my gut at any given time. And puberty is matched with expectations: “rites of passage.” I had to start shaving my face. Which I really didn’t want to do. Not only did it feel wrong, but I read that it would make the hair more coarse — which obviously I didn’t want. I had to change in the guys’ locker room for gym. After doing that a few times, I was so incredibly uncomfortable that I just flat out refused to do it. Did you know you could fail gym class? I failed gym class.
New paragraph for emphasis: I failed gym in middle school because I wouldn’t change in front of other boys.
I had to be surrounded by pubescent dudes and was expected to relate to them. They wanted to talk about sex, and girls, and how cool it was that they were growing into themselves. I couldn’t relate. Not even a little. I was outcast again. I got quiet. Depressed. I wanted it to end.
I hated how I looked; how I felt. I didn’t care what I wore, how my hair looked, how I acted. None of it mattered. But I had to act. The performance of my male life took place from morning to night any time I was near someone. It became routine. But the dysphoria consumed my mind any chance it got. If I had it my way, I would have wanted to delay puberty. If I’d known that was an option I could have asked about. if I’d been given the chance, I would have taken it without question, if nothing else just to give myself more time to assess my own feelings at the very least. It just wasn’t a possibility back then.
I’m an adult now; capable of rational, meaningful, adult thoughts, and I still would stand by that decision.
I’m not political at all, and I’m not trying to make any like huge platform statement like I’m running for office or anything, but I hope this gave someone out there something to think about. I’m not advocating for any overarching point, but if there’s a closeted trans person out there reading this, I just wanna say you’re not alone. Stay strong out there. I’m optimistic that the world is moving to a better place; one where hopefully you can be happy.
One where you won’t fail gym class. (I’ll never get over that…)