Updated: Dec 18, 2021
Most of my strongest childhood memories revolve around my desire to be a girl or at least the knowledge that I did not “fit” as a boy. We now call that gender dysphoria. I remember distinctly going to bed for several years with the constant secret wish that I would wake up and be a girl. From preschool through high school you were likely to find me as the lone boy among a group of girls. While I did have the occasional boy in my neighborhood that I was friends with, other boys tended to confuse me. They didn’t tend to like what I liked, they didn’t play the games I liked to play. At recess, I was often playing jump rope or learning the latest rhyming game with the girls, while the boys learned to play basketball or football or just chased around after each other.
Children tend to be strict enforcers of “gender”. “Boys do this.” “Only girls do that.” Most young children don’t really know about the sex differences between boys and girls, so what makes them different becomes other factors. When I was wishing to be a girl at 6 and 7, I didn’t understand that that would require a change of my sexed body. What I did know is that I was different and that difference was not OK with some people. My parents were loving. They never tried to force me to “be like the other boys” but there were always limits on just how far I was allowed to go in the other direction. I could talk them into some “girls’ toys” but dolls and Barbie were a no go. I’d get the occasional lecture about how “Boys don’t do that. Boys don’t stand that way. They don’t carry their books like that.”
I was around 9 the first time I learned that people could actually have a “sex change”. From that moment on, I knew that’s what I wanted when I got older. (It was still very much an adult issue back then) Shortly after, I learned the word transsexual and began trying to find out everything I could. I was probably the only one in elementary school that knew who Christine Jorgenson and Renee Richards was.
Middle school and high school became very confusing. The friendships I had always enjoyed with girls became complicated. I lost one friend in middle school because a rumor started that we had “done it” in the girls’ bathroom. I didn’t even know what “it” was. Other friends became disappointed when I showed no interest in being their boyfriend. I never had crushes on boys my own age. I did however have crushes on male teachers, Being gay in middle school or high school wasn’t really a thing back then. Besides, it didn’t occur to me to consider the attraction I had to these men as “gay”, because the men weren’t gay and I had already convinced myself that I’d be a woman when I grew up. I became obsessed with transsexuals and “gender”, watching and reading everything I could find. Not the easiest thing to do in the early 1990s.
Unlike a lot of dysphoric children and teens of that time, I actually do have proof of these feelings and experiences. At 16, I called a cable talk show that was doing a story on transsexuals. The cohost was a young Dr. Drew. I also came out to one of my teachers because an assignment asked us to visualize how we saw ourselves in the future. I became paralyzed because how could I explain that in the future I saw myself as a woman? Coming out led to talks with the school counselor and then to my parents. My parents took me to a therapist, who did eventually diagnose me with what was then called Gender Identity Disorder. She told them that I was a “likely transsexual”.
Right after turning 17 my family and I moved to the southeast United States and I started college. My parents had made me promise to stop all this talk about being a woman and asked me if I was sure I wasn’t “just gay”. Despite that, I maintained the idea that I would transition after college. I grey my hair out and even frequently “passed” as a woman, even though that wasn’t my intent. After college (and more time on the internet) I decided to see if maybe everything else people said about me was true, maybe I was a gay man. I went on my first date with the man that would become my husband of 19 years. The dysphoria didn’t disappear, but it became tolerable. I had a relationship and a career to focus on, “gender” took a back seat.
In 2016 the dysphoria started getting stronger again. After discussion with my husband, I began socially transitioning and seeking a therapist and medical transition. My transition was from April 2016-July 2017 when I completed SRS. During my transition and after, I realized that things had changed from my initial ideas in the 90s. Gender Identity Disorder was out, gender dysphoria was in. Transsexuals were out, trans men and trans women were in. Therapy focused more on how you felt about the transition process than your dysphoria.
I spent the first few years after my transition saying a lot of the things gender ideology says. Even if I didn’t fully believe some of it, you start to trust those with more knowledge and experience. Slowly though I started listening to more voices and asserting my own views. “Trans” is not something you innately are, it’s something you become with transition. Transition is not a blanket solution for everything. Those of us that choose to transition need to understand the limitations of the process.