Who Am I
One of the effects of growing up as a repressed and suppressed trans kid is a lack of confidence and identity. You never feel like you belong anywhere or to anything. You don’t know who you are. You never feel like you are entitled to anything. You’ve never earned an award. You give, but you feel you shouldn’t get.
All these other kids seem to know who they are and what they want to do. They go through life with confidence, with a direction, with a plan, with a future. They knew how to relate to other kids. They weren’t afraid to be silly, stand out, show off, and have fun. They wanted attention, they wanted to be noticed, That idea was anathema to me.
I was a shy kid, I could not, for the life of me, take the initiative in any social encounter. I still can’t. I wasn’t weird or off putting, just withdrawn and scared. In school when we had to pick a partner for a project, or pair off for something, I “knew” that no one would want to pair up with me, so I held back and ended up with the odd person out.
I learned early on to never stand out. You did not want attention. For some it resulted in bullying, for some it resulted in praise and reward, for some it would result in punishments, but I knew, for me, it would result in inquiry leading to exposure. I was hiding something. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it wasn’t acceptable. There were butch girls and femme boys in school, and they stood out as different, especially the femme boys. I didn’t dislike them, but I sensed something about them, perhaps a kinship, but I didn’t want the attention. So I avoided them.
Here’s one example of my social anxiety. In 2nd or 3rd grade everyone had to learn to play the recorder. I was not good at it. I got “hot cross buns” down pretty well, but after that, I was lost. After a certain amount of time, we were put into some sort of recorder club that was going to play for the school and parents. I absolutely refused to participate. I remember the music teacher talking to me in private, and I remember her being very kind, but did not want to do it. I knew in my heart that if I went up there I didn’t know the songs and it would be a disaster. I would draw attention to myself. So I never joined this recorder club, but I do remember that we all had a recital for the parents and I stood on the risers and moved my fingers and never blew any air into the recorder.
In 4th grade it was real instruments, and I got the trumpet. The same thing happened. I managed the basic stuff, but never progressed. Again, after getting past a certain page in the music book, you joined the school band. I refused again. That was the end of my music career. I do remember one incident; I was walking home from school with my trumpet. To get home we passed the high school and as I did, I was looking down at the ground and swinging the trumpet case. I didn’t see the parked car, and my trumpet case bumped the bumper of a car. This was the mid ‘70s, cars were built like tanks and I certainly didn’t bruise the car, but the adult driver hopped out and was really upset. Giving me what’s for, and I distinctly remember him telling me to “go home and tell your elders what you did”. My elders? Weird.
Anyway, back to the thesis. This deep feeling of not knowing who you are leads to that lack of confidence and your feeling of not being worthy of things you are entitled to. You are afraid to stick up for yourself. I absolutely never sought out help in school when I was struggling. I was terrified that if I admitted to a teacher that I didn’t know something, the teacher would be very disappointed in me, and would wonder how I could be so ignorant, and then things would begin to unravel because I had opened myself up to inspection and my failures would become an open book. From grade school to law school, I did what I could by myself. As a result I didn’t do as well as I could have.
I didn’t participate in much either. I played little league baseball. I was not good, but for some reason I felt comfortable and played through 5th grade. After that they got serious and I dropped out. I wouldn’t play any other sports, because I didn’t know how and if I showed up, not as advanced as the other kids, I would be ridiculed. In junior high, my father encouraged me to try ice hockey. I wouldn’t do it. By the end of high I had actually started playing and I love the game.
This feeling persists to this day. When I finally accepted that I was trans, a huge weight was lifted from my soul. I wanted to go to a mountain top and shout it to the world. But, obviously I didn’t. I knew that was a bad idea. When my therapist encouraged me to say out loud, “I am a woman”, during a session, I had a very difficult time.
I know in my heart that I am a woman. But, 50+ years of hiding and being conditioned to be a man makes it very hard to assert myself as a woman. I don't feel like I have the right to claim girl status. In our support group we begin each meeting with an introduction where we say our names and pronouns. I have always said that I didn't care what pronouns people used for me. I don't feel that I have earned the right to be referred to as she/her. I have finally been able to say I like they/them.
Sadly, I personalize a lot of the nonsense that is peddled by the anti-LGBT brigade and the TERFs. Despite knowing that most people support trans people and feeling this same way about others, that a Tans girl is a real girl, I can’t own it for myself. I am terrified of being confronted and told I am not a girl, that I am an abomination, a disgusting pervert, a pathetic little man, a Shrek like ogre trying to fit into a dress and heels. I look absurd and should be embarrassed. This is internalized transphobia and it is insidious.
My therapist had to write a letter for me recommending voice therapy. In it she referred to me as she and her. It was very surreal reading the letter and knowing it was about me and that I was a girl. I really liked it and it felt good.
As I write this, I have been on estrogen for about 15 months. I haven't made any outward attempts to appear female. Everything I have done can be explained. I'm letting my hair grow out. I have always wanted long hair and plenty of men wear their hair long. Alas, I am thinning on top. I saw a dermatologist today who is getting me on a treatment plan and hopefully that will improve the hair situation.
I have made some progress, I have come out to my therapist, my wife and a multitude of doctors, not to mention my support group family. Two years ago that would have been unthinkable. No one has pointed at me and screamed. But the doctors are professionals who understand the situation and are compassionate, and the support group are all in the same boat. The next people to tell would be the rest of my family. Two adult children, my 93 year old father and my sister. I don't think any of them would shun me, but I am sure it would get weird. More on that topic in a future post.
The fear of drawing attention is still very strong. It is holding me back in my development. There are other factors holding me back, but this is a big one. I have a strong block on doing anything to draw attention to myself. Transitioning would certainly do that.