I can accept that I am butch and transgender, but I have trouble accepting that I will never be a boy. It should be obvious; I am chronologically an adult. I can’t time-travel backwards. It is unfair that I only got to be a child once, and that I went through it as a girl. No second chance.
The adults tried to convince me that I should want to be a girl. That I should be happy I was a girl. I kept hoping I would morph into a boy. I refused to believe that body parts were destiny. I kicked and screamed and dragged my feet through childhood. I would not march willingly into the strange territory of teenage girls. I dug in my heels and hoped for a miracle.
This is evidently how fetishes are made. One of mine is a sneaker fetish. I will not wear women’s sneakers. Every time I’ve bought a pair, no matter how plain they were, they ended up discarded at the back of the closet. I like men’s sneakers. I own a few pairs.
Up to the age of eight, sneakers were simple. Cheap kid’s sneakers, and my parents were cheap, were for all kids. They were canvas, had round toes with rubber toe caps, and came in red, white, or navy blue. Once my feet hit a certain size, cheap sneakers diverged into boy’s or girl’s. The boy’s kept the rounded toes and had a larger rubber cap, and the girl’s sneakers had pointy toes and no rubber bumper. I was given the later. I hated them. I hated them as if they were pink with purple polka dots and glitter.
I dragged my feet. On the swing, back and forth, over the pavement. Scraping where the rubber would have been. Grey smudges and holes. One pair, and then the replacement pair. My parents were cheap. The third pair were boy’s Converse All-Stars. They lasted until I grew out of them. They were replaced with a similar pair, one size larger. I took good care of them.
Most of my problems did not have elegant solutions. I was unable to will myself into a boy; there were no miracles. I settled for being a tomboy. Adults expected me to step out of it and do things that boys would not do. I avoided and resisted as much as I could; the victories were few but memorable.
I spent a lot of years in therapy tiptoeing around wanting to be a boy. Somehow, unexpectedly, I finally got out the words “I’m not a girl.” I had often said I didn’t want to be girl, but I’d never said I wasn’t one. A few months later I was sitting in my therapist’s office crying that I wanted to be a boy. Kathy looked up and said “You are never going to be a boy.” Even though I knew it was the truth, it made me angry. I was not ready to hear it. The eight year old in me had not given up hope.
I was not raised, loved, and socialized as a boy. My history is looking, yearning, waiting, throwing tantrums, and conniving. I can not change my history.
I used to believe that therapy would heal my childhood pain. It didn’t. I didn’t realize that mourning helps you live with the pain, not get over it. My lost boyhood will always be there, just out of my reach. I’m not happy about it, but I have stopped crying about it.
Note: Bobbito Garcia’s book “Where’d You Get Those?” is a great history of NYC sneaker culture. It has just been re-issued.