I have come to the realization that I have spent my entire life living like a person who is looking at something they could never buy through a storefront window. My hands pressed against the glass, staring in wonder. After all, I grew up watching the other girls getting to be “girls” while I was doing the best I could to fit in with the “boys”. Nonetheless, I always had this kind of resentment and overwhelming sadness over the fact I was born different. I would always play along and fill the role I was told to live, but in my heart I knew I wasn’t like the other kids. At that point I had never met anyone like myself. To be honest I was ashamed of many of the things that went on in my head.
“IT IS EASY TO LOOK BACK AND SEE HOW OBVIOUSLY TRANSGENDER I WAS AS A KID, BUT IT WASN’T SO CLEAR TO ME WHEN IT WAS HAPPENING.”
It is easy to look back and see how obviously transgender I was as a kid, but it wasn’t so clear to me when it was happening. I felt such guilt over the feelings I had, and I saw no examples where it was okay to have them. I just assumed that deep down there was something wrong with me. I learned to put these thoughts into the vault the best I could, but they would always be with me. I would mask my feelings and expression, all of which were based on my own stereotypes of femininity as a kid, all throughout my life. I became an expert at being “feminine” without people being able to so readily realize it.
When I was little, I remember wanting to be Sandy from the movie Grease. It was also at that same time when I learned how to start hiding my identity. It was when I realized my family just assumed I had a crush on Olivia Newton John, and they were totally unaware of the fact that I really wanted to be her. What a perfect cover it was. I would get to watch the movie over and over with my little gender problem perfectly masked in the assumed adoration of its female star. Oh, and I really did adore her, just not in the ways people thought.
There was something about Sandy’s struggle to be accepted by the other girls, and her evolution into a head turning diva as she flew off into the ether with John Travolta in a convertible. It somehow seemed to reflect back at me in some strange way. Her long curly blond hair, tight black pants, leather jacket, and red high heels, at that time she was the coolest thing I ever saw. I remember wanting to be a pink lady, but I knew at that early age that it wouldn’t turn out too well for me if I ever expressed that desire. It would be one of the first of many things in my life that I associated with gender, but I was always on the wrong end of that association. I learned to do my best to live them in my head, always looking through the glass window. I became an expert at hiding the true me. Perhaps it was a subconscious mode of survival.
“OVER THE YEARS I WOULD LEARN TO BECOME AN EXPERT IN HIDING MYSELF.”
Over the years I would learn to become an expert in hiding myself. I ended up getting involved with music and became a singer. I was able to grow my hair long and wear that big orange furry jacket I bought in the women’s department. Don’t forget the platform boots. I had a high voice, which was my excuse for why I always sang the “girl” songs. Music was the greatest cover for a girl who was otherwise raised as a boy. It was the perfect excuse. I wasn’t seen as stereotypically “girly”, I was cool and eclectic. Most importantly there was an outlet, however so small, to express my femininity without it being so obvious. I fooled everyone, including myself.
The scars from when we were kids often run deep and can affect us for our entire lives. To this day there is a feeling of built in guilt that I feel when I watch a movie like Grease or anything else that fit the mold of “girly” in my childhood mind. I learned shame at such a young age and carried it through my life to this day. I learned to feel guilt as though my existence would hurt others.
Today, I find myself still struggling with the guilt I feel over my transition. I feel guilt that I uprooted the lives around me. I feel sorry that some people can’t handle it. In many ways, I am still afraid. Though I now present as myself, I haven’t fully figured out how to truly be myself. It is still the feeling that I am indulging in these forbidden fruits that society doesn’t want me to have, that somehow I don’t deserve it. But maybe this is just a prison I built for myself, with its foundation rooted in my childhood. It is funny how something as simple as a movie could have such a profound effect on you in this way, but it is one of my earliest memories of denying my own existence.