Everything I Know about Being Trans I Learned before I Was Six

Transgender-at-sixBy the time I turned six I knew I was a boy; I did not want to be a girl. I also thought about it the other way around. I wanted to be a boy, and I knew I wasn’t a girl. I knew what felt right and what felt wrong. No one could convince me otherwise. I was a boy. I wanted to be a boy.

I knew I only felt comfortable in boys clothing. I was ecstatic when people called me young man or son or buddy. I knew that not all boy’s bodies were the same. I knew that some boy’s bodies looked like mine. It was frustrating that no one believed me.

In 1964 I could see that the world was split into two separate spheres; girls and boys. So much of what I wanted was off-limits. I did not understand why I had to look and act like a girl. Why couldn’t I choose between the two? Why couldn’t I be an exception to the rules?

I refused to believe that how you peed or what was in your underpants determined anything other than how you peed and what was in your underpants. I believed in what you wore, and how you acted, and who you said you were. If I wore boys clothing, acted like a boy, and said I was I boy, then that should prove it. It made sense to me but not to anyone else. I wasn’t pretending to be anything.

I fervently believed that I would turn into a boy. Either everyone would realize that I was one, or I would wake up one morning and be one. I could not accept the alternative. I was not going to grow up and be a teenage girl or a woman. I would never, ever, want to get married and have kids, or put-on make-up, or wear pantyhose, or walk in heels. I could not picture the future as female. I would only play house as the Dad.

I knew all this. I knew what it meant. I didn’t know the name for it. Everything I know about being trans I learned before I was six. Somehow it got pushed down below the surface by my parents, by my teachers, and by the kids at school and in the playground. I didn’t talk about it. I stuffed down the disappointment and the hurt. I held out hope. I fantasized that I was a boy. I created an alternative inner life as a boy. I dreamed up cockamamie schemes to turn myself into a boy.

Outwardly, I was the weird quiet chubby tomboy. Later, I discovered there were masculine women. I came out as a butch lesbian. My gender and my sexuality were muddled together. I lived as if I was a boy, but it was not enough. I kept silent. I kept swallowing it down but I kept heaving it back up. I knew it all again.

Where did the truth go between the ages of six and fifty? Why did it take so long for me to return to it? How do I make sense of the intervening years and does it matter?

Notes: This post is a reaction to a Simone Weil quote I received in an e-mail a few weeks ago “Nothing can have a destination which is not its origin.” The quote in context has nothing to do with gender or sexuality, but it captures a childhood spent trying to hold onto the truth only to recapture it after a long journey.

18 thoughts on “Everything I Know about Being Trans I Learned before I Was Six

  1. Mrs Fever

    Sometimes I think we only know ourselves when we are children. Then, one day, we forget. And we spend the rest of our lives looking for that person we once knew… But don’t necessarily recognize ourselves we find one another again. *If* we can be found.

    I know it probably feels the opposite at times, but from my (outsider’s/onlooker’s) perspective, I think you’re lucky in that you’ve searched for, found, and were able to recognize that boy you once knew, and that you are getting to know him again. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I am definitely lucky in that regard – I’m also wary of transgender hindsight – i.e. recreating a childhood to prove that you really are trans. In this case I clearly remember those feelings of desire and envy, and the refusal to believe that there was this hidden (in the underpants) difference that was so important and that could not be fixed (changed).
      The only people I personally know who managed to stay connected to their child self are visual artists and writers. It is a shame that we are forced to give up that part of ourselves and become “adults.”

      Liked by 4 people

      Reply
  2. Lesboi

    I justify those years of wandering around in the dark as part of my path on this journey. I feel like I needed to experience being a woman for some reason in order to find myself again. When the time was right I was awakened to my truth. Unlike you I didn’t have a deep knowing as a child. I just felt irritated and hurt and jealous that I wasn’t allowed to do what I wanted to do. I learned to be ashamed of my innate character traits that went against what my family and my culture and now I have to figure out how to deal with that. The shame is what kept me in the dark for so long.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I was totally aware and consumed by the desire to be a boy – and I ended up numbing myself out because the pain of not being able to be a boy was unbearable, and it was useless to keep trying. My shame was (is) that I couldn’t completely let go of the wish, even if it keep kind of oozing out around the edges. Glad I’m not hiding anymore.

      Liked by 3 people

      Reply
  3. georgiakevin

    Do i ever understand what you write about from the other direction. i knew that i was a girl when i was 5. i wasn’t real clear on the difference in plumbing until was about 18 but i knew who i was. i prayed to God every morning and every night that he would make me a girl. i read books that had magic a=in them and fairy tales wishing that i had a magic wand that i could wave to make me me. When my sister was having cramps i never wanted anything soo badly even though i was just 6. ((((((((((((((((((((hug))))))))))))))))))))0

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      When someone says that kids can’t know that they are trans I want to scream. Some kids know very early on, some don’t know until puberty or adolescence. Everyone has a slightly different experience of it. For those of us who knew early, I think there was a lot of magical thinking going on, hoping to make everything right.

      Liked by 5 people

      Reply
  4. Cai

    I was arguing with my kindergarten teacher over how to bow. I was bowing like a boy, not a girl. I wanted to wear trousers; she wanted a dress. I wore those dressy coulottes instead…but I bowed like a boy at the school show.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Yes, it is quite a club. If I had a dollar for every time I was told “you’d look so pretty if you lost some weight” I’d be rich. Instead it sent me running for the cookie jar.

      Like

      Reply
  5. J.D.

    I knew nothing at six. I was still living under the illusion that I was a normal girl except I didn’t play much with dolls and I liked being strong. Puberty was the big wakeup call that I would not be a woman despite the hormonal distortion of my body. Like you I believe it’s not too late to transition after half a century of seeing the mismatched outside.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I’m always interested in how and when people knew, because everyone has their own narrative, and their own focus. Some knew at 3 or 4, but I’ve heard a lot of people say they had a vague unease or sense of alienation from other kids, but that it didn’t kick in until adolescence. I was so hell bent on having the right (boys) clothing, sneakers, haircut, etc. that I made a lot of kids and adults uncomfortable from nursery school on up.
      It makes it simpler (for the media and the medical profession) if everyone has the same trans narrative and the same transition path, but it just doesn’t work that way.

      Liked by 3 people

      Reply
  6. UnknownJamie

    I still figure that a lot of people never get the chance to know themselves truly, no matter what that may be. Repression is pretty much universal. But it’s awesome for you, because you get to find it all again and express it in the most profound ways to make your existence shine some more!

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I agree, most people sleepwalk their way through life. I think having everything out in the open (regardless of transition status) made the biggest difference to me. Outwardly (with the exception of being lighter on top and slightly better dressed) I look the same, but I have much more inner peace and quiet.

      Like

      Reply
  7. Cai

    I always hated that when the men and boys I knew in my life wanted to get together for some “guy time” and wouldn’t let me go simply because I was a “girl”. Didn’t matter that we had all these interests in common; because of my physical anatomy they wouldn’t let me join.

    Probably the earliest trans-related moment was when I would go to the bathroom right after my dad, and when he wouldn’t flush (to conserve water) I wondered how he got all those little bubbles to appear in the water, and I wanted to do the same thing. I had no idea at the time about the physical and anatomical differences between the sexes, or that we went to the bathroom differently 😉

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I remember being completely perplexed when my brother and I would get “matching” toys except his were the boy version and mine were the girl version. If he got a black cowboy hat I did not want a red one! Nothing to do with sitting or standing or seat up or down! It made no sense whatsoever except to announce that I was a girl. Hated it.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s