In my first essay of this series, I addressed the issues I faced as a child, and through my teen years as a victim of bullying. As you may recall, my contemporaries found my behavior odd, and labeled me gay as a result. I wanted to focus exclusively on the issue of bullying in that essay, so I did not delve into the personal struggle that underlies it. The fact is, those bullies were onto something; there is something different about me. Sadly, the trauma that they inflicted strengthened my resolve to prove that I was normal to a point where I denied the truth to myself. It is only through the emotional work I have done as a result of that first essay, and with the help of some very dear friends and family members that I finally feel, at age 30, that I can now share the truth of who I am without unreasonable fear of harm. I have known about almost all of the component parts of this reality for quite some time, but within the last week I have been willing to take the last step and admit to myself that this is all part of one truth.
I am transgendered.
Simply put, I feel that I was supposed to be born a woman.
I have felt this way my entire life. I have always preferred to keep female friends (almost exclusively). I also have shown a strong preference for their style of play (“house” was more fun than “cops and robbers”). Additionally, it was my custom to assume female roles in imaginary play (I would play the “mom” not the “dad”, the “sister” not the “brother”). I can remember only a handful of boys who have ever been the exception to my want to play with girls. I think that I found that most of them were simply too rough.
Many young, transgendered people, myself included, express their desire to be a member of the opposite gender by ‘cross-dressing.’ This was something that I feared torment or punishment over, even at a young age. So, I did this in secret and told no one until very recently. The resulting trauma from all of the bullying I sustained ultimately caused me to be too fearful to continue this practice, and I have not done it in my adult life. I am not sure how ‘coming out’ will affect this behavior.
It is interesting to me that this bullying, perpetrated almost exclusively by males, has furthered the behavior of only seeking to have relationships with women. It’s sort of a vicious cycle. I have always found it very difficult to empathize with the male condition. Add to that the sort of disdain that comes from my own identity issues, and mix in that this group of people have been out to do me physical harm, and you seem to have a recipe for not having close male relationships. It interests me to consider how societal norms force many men to become angry and aggressive, and if that is a major factor in any of this bullying behavior. Whatever the reason, it is clear that the bullying itself created at least some of the behavior that was found to be questionable. Reinforcing this notion…and, probably making the bullying worse, was the fact that girls sometimes came to my aid when I was being teased and beaten up.
I was not only afraid of being bullied and harmed by my peers, I was afraid I would bring shame on my family. I worked very hard to conceal my true self from view. It is likely that this had a hand in my belief that I had to behave perfectly at all times. (Although, this was probably much more about the abusive consequences that awaited anything less.) I could not allow anyone to ask questions or get near the truth.
Those close to me seemed to believe I was gay, and wanted to make it clear to me that being gay was alright, and that I would be loved anyway. I am not altogether certain what the effect of this was, but I knew I did not have an interest in males. It seemed like an either-or proposition: one was either ‘gay’ or ‘normal.’ I was neither. Even now, I cannot really be any one thing. I try to be as close to behaving like a woman as I can, but I do not deny that I am most certainly, a man. It’s a lonely in-between place… being one, wishing to be the other.
Over time, a wedge was driven between who I was and who I wanted people to think I was. Outwardly, I became distinctly male. I grew facial hair (which got shaved off yesterday), drove a hot rod, worked out, participated in sports. I tried so hard, even once the bullying subsided to prove my masculinity. All the while, my inner self grew more and more resentful of males. I wanted, for so many reasons not to be like them. I did not want anyone to hurt like I did. I became something of an enigma…both distinctly male and distinctly female in my attributes. I listened and empathized like a woman, but could talk cars and guy stuff with the guys. My two halves, or really, the person and the mask grew further and further apart. Fortunately, I have found adult life to be much easier.
In my adult life, I am able to express my feminine identity in a variety of ways. Being a stay-at-home parent has proven an excellent fit for me. I continue to seek and enjoy the company of women. I tend to take on relationships that one might view as being more typical of the way two women interact. (I enjoy clothes shopping with women, commiserating about relationships and domestic issues, talking about style, entertaining guests, interior design, raising children, and taking care of one’s appearance….etc.)
It is typical for me to attain a level of trust in my relationships with women which is not typical of a male-female relationship. My communication style is distinctly female. I am a careful listener, and try to extract the relevant feelings from what a person is saying. I understand the world from a distinctly emotional point of view. I am a caregiver and nurturer in every possible way. I empathize with the female point of view on almost everything, and have little if any ability to empathize with my fellow men. (I can still understand the perspectives as part of a pattern of behavior, I just happen not to identify with this pattern personally.)
There is really very little about being biologically male that inhibits me from being who I feel that I am inside. There is, of course, one glaring exception….I have been hit very hard in the past several years by the fact that I cannot be a mother. I spent a considerable length of time believing that it might be better not to have children at all, because the pain of jealousy at watching someone else carry a baby might outweigh the pain of being childless. This was something that was known to DW and I when we decided to try to get pregnant.
I felt the sting long before we conceived, as we tracked cycles and temperatures, examined saliva under a microscope, and began to allow parts of our lives to revolve around the pursuit of parenthood. I was unmistakably excited when we discovered we were expecting. But even in the immediate aftermath, the pain came again. The bitter taste of jealousy swept me up. Not only because I would not get to experience pregnancy, but, as DW had done it all before, it seemed routine at times. I had major resentment issues during doctor’s appointments, ultrasounds and at milestones in development. Every kick was both magical, and painful. There were a few times I remember being asked if I felt movement that I could not feel. It really hurt to have it pointed out how far removed I was from the process.
DW was an amazing partner through all of this, though. Knowing of my struggles, she was even more inclusive of me in making decisions on her care. We worked collaboratively on a birth plan. And, when the time came for Babykiddo to be born, we kept this team mentality, and used it to keep each other strong. DW was incredible! She trusted me to know every detail of the process, she believed in me…relied on me, even. All the while trying to depict for me what the process was like. I couldn’t have asked for more! There had been, and would continue to be very difficult moments, but it had all been well worth it.
I feel relieved that I have reached a point in my life where I can indulge in being myself. I have been too afraid for too long. And it’s important to me not to let any more of my life escape while trying to be someone I’m not.