“You were never much of a man.” Anne has said this to me several times since I transitioned; I know exactly what she means and love to hear it. From puberty onwards when I started to become aware of gender I didn’t identify with any of the male role models around me.
I couldn’t put a name to how I felt; I saw part of a documentary (back in the 1980’s) which I couldn’t tell you the title of. It was about a middle-aged trans woman but her circumstances were so far removed from my own that I failed to see any connection to my own life.
So all I had were people treating me as male. My mum bought me boys’ clothes, I attended an all boys school from age 11 to 16, I played rugby. Any comments on how I looked or acted were male-oriented, either praising my conformance to the stereotypes or criticizing me when my act was unconvincing.
In my teens when I was considered old enough to be left at home alone I would decline to accompany the rest of the family to rugby matches. Instead I’d wait for them to leave and then raid my mother’s closet, dressing in her clothes for an hour or so. I’d look at myself in the mirror and feel so happy seeing a girl reflected there. I used to dream that I could travel Alice-like through the looking glass, become that mirror-girl.
I hated my male genitalia. I’d dream of cutting them off but was always too afraid of the pain and risk of death to attempt it. I always avoided showering after games at school because I couldn’t even bear the thought of anybody else seeing those parts I hated so much.
It’s easy to look back from where I am now and wish I’d said something then, started my transition before my voice dropped and my hair started to grow out on my face, recede at my forehead and become thin on top. But I didn’t have the concepts back then to even begin to explain, and I’d have been terrified at the thought of trying to explain to my parents (who probably knew even less about such things than I did).
Obviously I can’t change what happened: the events of the past are immutable. But what I can change is how I speak about my past. I’ve completely stopped using male-specific terms to refer to myself at earlier stages of my life. I was a child, not a boy; I was in my 20s, then my 30s. It’s straightforward in the present: I’m a woman and that’s that.
In my own mind I consider myself to have always been female. I don’t consider that I was socialized as male: being autistic I never felt that I fitted in anyway and didn’t form many relationships with my peers. I was always happier when left to my own devices with a stack of books, box of Lego and my computer. I didn’t participate in playground games with either boys or girls; instead I’d be reading, building trains and space ships, or writing programs.
I don’t consider my gender to be defined at all by my interests; rather it is an aspect of my identity. I simply know it as a fact of my existence, exactly the same as most other people. My mind informs my reality. That’s the reason it doesn’t feel right to talk about myself ever having been a boy or a man. I’m a woman whose body turned out wrong. One small error led to the development of male characteristics and I need medical treatment to correct it.
I tried. I tried hard for years to live up to the expectations of those around me who saw me as male. But it felt false. It was a charade, never feeling natural. I was wearing a mask, playing a part. Pretending to be what everybody else thought I was. No more. I’m through with denying who I know myself to be inside.
The new job helps a lot. Nobody there knew me pre-transition so they all just treat me as who I am. There’s no reservation in behaving the same way towards me as towards any other woman in the office: it feels very natural and comfortable. I feel accepted as myself. It might be hard for somebody who’s not trans to fully appreciate the importance of this, how validating it is to know that I’m around other people who see me as I do myself.