Not a reference to Lady Gaga, but a response to one of the most asked questions of a trans-woman. “Why are you like this?” “Why do you do this?”
Most of the time this question comes from a good place. It comes from wanting to understand and know more about a side of someone that most people just cannot grasp.
I truly was born this way. My earliest memories are from around the age of three. There are some things I can remember vividly, like the entire layout of the house we lived in until just after I turned three. Other things from then are fuzzy but I still can get flashes of memories, of little things that happened to me, or involving other family members. Nothing bad. No repressed memories. Just images that aren’t necessarily as strong as others. The desire to be a girl is the strongest of all these childhood memories.
I can remember feeling like something was not right in me. Not right with me. Perhaps I should also take this time to reveal that I was quite a surprise to my parents when I popped out with a “stem”. All through the pregnancy, the doctor told my mother that she was going to have a girl. So, when I slid into this world and I had an outy instead of an inny, well, they wee not prepared. Back went a slew of baby girl clothes, to be replaced with clothes for a boy. Honestly, at such an infantile state, why do we feel the need to immediately throw pink on a girl and blue on a boy. We talk softer to a girl and a little louder and “stronger” to a boy. It’s ridiculous, quite frankly, assigning gender roles at birth, but, alas, I digest. They only thing that remained with me was a quilt my mother had made. A little Bo Peep quilt with a pink border. It remained while the rest was sent back.
Growing up, I began to really notice what was “wrong” with me. I didn’t look like the rest of the girls. I had short hair, wore pants, had swim trunks instead of a full swimsuit (where was my top?). I knew I was missing something. I knew that I should have been like all the other girls in my class. Since we were a religious family, I knew that god had made a mistake. Somewhere along the assembly line, my heart and soul and been put in the wrong body. So I prayed. We were religious. This is what you did. I prayed all the time, but more strongly at bedtime. I prayed that I would wake up from this dream and that all of my clothes would be corrected and my parents would have their loving daughter in the house. Some prayers don’t get answered.
Not understanding this, I would vaguely ask questions in Sunday school. I was told that all prayers are answered, but sometimes the answer is no. All this despite the fact that the bible actually states “ask and ye shall receive”. I guess this was the beginning of the end for my taste for religion. It didn’t stop me, though. I continued to pray, whole-heartedly and with complete surrender, to wake up and have everything made right. I would cry myself to sleep. I would wake up crying. I was a mess. But I never let anyone know. To the outside world, I was the happiest little kid you could find. Always smiling. Always laughing. Always there for my friends. Inside I was a perfect storm of depression, grief, guilt, anger and disgust. The perfect recipe for horrendous ulcers, or a killing spree, neither of which manifested itself.
As I got older, I would continually hear people say, when they thought I was out of earshot, that I was a beautiful little boy. Almost too pretty to be a boy. I was always having older girls tell me how jealous they were of my long eye lashes. This made me feel tremendous and angry at the same time. If others could see that I was meant to be a girl, why couldn’t my parents? Why had I been made this way? I have to say, I was indeed a cute kid, till about third grade. Interestingly enough, third grade is when I got stuck in a christian school. I got to learn, on a daily basis, how wrong I felt.
At this point, the line from IT’S A SIN by The Pet Shop Boys rings true.
“Everything I’ve ever done
Everything I ever do
Every place I’ve ever been
Everywhere I’m going to
It’s a sin”
This is how I felt at that school. To put this into perspective, when I was at Pleasantview Elementary, we had a dress up box. It was full of all sorts of clothes and such, but I was drawn, immediately, to the purple dress. I grabbed it right away and would not give it up. We had a playhouse in the room as well, so every recess, on rainy days, we would be inside and I would grab the dress and play in the house. My best friend was a girl named Lori. We played together non stop. She accepted me for who I was and who I was pretending to be. Honestly, none of the other kids cared either. We were innocent. There was no color. there was no wrong way to be. There was no right way to be. We were equals. All of us. Most of the way through my Kindergarten experience, Lori died. I felt a sudden loss, greater than anything I had ever experienced. The sadness of missing her prompted me to stop with the dress up. In memory of her. Even into 1st and 2nd grade, nobody really cared that I was different. I played with the girls. We would play everything from Chinese Jump Rope, to the “hand/knee/partner’s hand while saying or singing the rhyme” game (you know the ones, like):
Say, say, oh playmate,
Come out and play with me
And bring your dollies three
Climb up my apple tree
Shout down my rain barrel
Slide down my cellar door
And we’ll be jolly friends
Forever more more more more more
Say, say, oh playmate
I cannot play with you
My dolly’s got the flu
Boo hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo
Ain’t got no rain barrel
Ain’t got no cellar door
But we’ll be jolly friends
Forever more more more more more
And we would have a great time. Myself and the rest of the girls. This also put me in the situation of being the messenger to find out who liked who and if they LIKE liked them or not. Nobody liked me, though, which was ok, I suppose. I always made sure I had my cootie spray on hand, just in case I had to be all boy-like and put up the barrier against the girls, you know. But that all ended when I hit the doors of the christian school.
Boys were boys and girls were girls and there would be no mixing of the two. We had classes together, but a boy better not seem girlie and a girl, well, girls could be tomboyish, but they had to wear dresses. Boys had to wear shirts with collars and the hair had to be above the ears and off the collar. Perfect little christian soldiers. I despised my time there and it lasted until my Freshman year. That was my year of rebelling against the idiocy of the teachers, the curriculum, the studies, everything. I was doing poorly in school, which tends to happen when you hate it. Also that year I had actually gotten spanked for laughing. Yeah, laughing. Not during class. Not at a teacher. But laughing at a good friend who had fallen on the ice. After he got up and was ok, we all laughed, as kids will do. After the class we had been walking to, three of us had to stay behind and get spanked. Had it been the end of that year, or a year later, I would have grabbed the paddle from the teacher and spanked them, but they had me at the right time. I endured till summer, when I proclaimed I was not going back there. It hurt my mom but my dad was thrilled. It was expensive.
Before my exodus (part of a mass exodus of students that year) I threw caution to the wind and dressed up like a girl for one of our school spirit days. My mom had, at one time, good taste in clothes. I snagged a skirt and top, heels and an old wig she had (from the early 70s). I changed at school and, even though I had worn makeup several times prior to this, I fumbled around, like I didn’t know what I was doing, and then had a girl friend in my class do my eye shadow, blush and lipstick, and away I went for the day. Girls couldn’t believe how well I could walk in heels (with no problems at all). Teachers were far less than thrilled with my appearance, but suddenly the girls were flocking all around me. There were some who had put their lip gloss on me in the past, or painted my nails with their clear nail polish, but now it were as though I was part of the group. I was in, again for lack of a better word, heaven. I was a girl! And nobody really seemed to care, except the teachers, who finally banded together and made me take off this ridiculous guise, but it was almost the end of the day, so I had a full day of fabulous. The next day, I had a girl tell me that I made a much better looking girl than a boy, but not to take offense at the comment. I certainly didn’t. She was one of the popular, pretty girls, and for her to tell me what I knew all along, was amazing. I told her I knew and that this wasn’t the first time I had dressed up. She told me she figured as much. That was my 2nd time to tell someone. The first time did not go as well. A couple days later I was confronted by my mother, who had been told how girlish and real I had looked at school the couple days prior. She went through the roof. She was disgusted. Angry. Judgemental. I played it off as just a couple pieces of clothing and a wig from our plays at school. At that point, I knew she would never accept what I was.
Thus endeth Part One. Stay tuned for further adventures……
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DREAM the impossible dream…..wait, that’s THE MAN FROM LA MANCHA!