The me I've known my entire life has been fiercely private about, well, me. Especially this.
This being a collection of puzzle pieces that manifested when puberty rolled around and estrogen kicked in. Funny things started happening in funny places, but I subconsciously ignored these changes and blundered along, albeit uncomfortably.
I kept this discomfort to myself while opting to utilize the vast and magical Interwebs for any sign of not being alone. Low and behold, I eventually came across terms like female-to-male, transgender, transsexual, and, from that, found communities full of stories and experiences strikingly similar to mine. Even though I'd relate to the why behind many of these transitioning stories (the underlying disconnect), I didn't connect to the gender identity aspect of most (for the record, though, I did learn that transsexualism is a long and complicated process. It varies considerably in how it manifests itself from individual to individual. No two people will perceive their own gender identity in the exact same fashion.)
With the disconnect, I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself or what the solution was, if any. What I did know is that I had become very efficient at avoiding stumbling across my unclothed image in a mirror – well, but only the disconnected bits that estrogen had provided. I never mentioned much to my friends or parents.
Still, those puzzle pieces that had manifested were all strewn about, but inexorably pulled towards a center of sorts.
With my gender identity, I was fine with "woman" for a long time. It was empowering and positive, actually - because, in my mind, I was just a different kind of woman. It wasn't until I began to question the gender binary that I started to think deeper about how I identified. I eventually knew that it wasn't cisgender - probably not woman and it didn't make sense to me why it would therefore have to be the only other available option: man (with biological sex we only culturally distinguish between two distinct sexes, even though a remarkable amount of people are born with blatantly ambiguous genitalia, and a lot more people than that are born with subtler forms of sex anatomy variations, some of which won’t show up until later in life. When it comes to a social construct like gender identity, I can't help but wonder how vast the variation is there, also; even moreso!)
Also, I'd been skeptical for some time about all of the hype surrounding someone's sex or gender being a gender ambiguous kid romping about. "Is is a boy or a girl?" is usually the first question asked about a baby - even before asking about its health.
I also didn't understand what it meant to pass as one or the other, since we are all individuals who express ourselves in unique ways (especially when we're not afraid of persecution, or despite that). This isn't to say that there aren't evolutionary adaptations and general differences, but there's definitely much more individual variation when it comes to gender than our culture realizes. All I knew was that I wanted to pass as myself, however that manifested, irrelevant to where or how that fit - or didn't - in to the gender binary. I don't have any desire to ever "pass" as cisgender.
Eventually I came across this nifty term: genderqueer. It was very exciting to come across a term like this, not just because it clicked with my pre-existing notions when it came to my own gender identity, but also because it helped me realize that I wasn't alone.
"Some genderqueer people see their identity as one of many possible genders other than male or female, while others see "genderqueer" as an umbrella term that encompasses all of those possible genders. Still others see "genderqueer" as a third gender to complement the traditional two, while others identify as genderless or agender. Genderqueer people are united by their rejection of the notion that there are only two genders. The term "genderqueer" can also be used as an adjective to refer to any people who transgress gender, regardless of their self-defined gender identity"I began openly identifying as genderqueer. And prior to hormone therapy or knowing that I was also transsexual, I was asked to participate in a transgender panel discussion to represent the genderqueer branch of the Trans Tree. Which is actually impossible, but I sat there with the blood drained from my very well-lit face on a panel, squeaking out a response every so often anyway. My dad was in the audience and even enthusiastically recorded it.
My dad and I hadn't talked about my gender identity prior to this, but it was obviously a non-issue to him. With my parents, it has always felt like they haven't made assumptions about me one way or another (e.g. defaulting on the assumption that I'm heterosexual), so I never had to come "out" sexual orientation-wise, gender-wise, or even as trans*. All of the above aren't issues to them, so long as I'm happy and not hurting anyone. The same logic applied to my brother, who didn't have to come out as heterosexual or cisgender.
Family ramble aside, even though I had become very open about my gender identity, the actual, painful and uncomfortable disconnect was something I had a very hard time sharing.
I had rationalized for years that, despite having such a clear disconnect in regards to everything estrogen produced in me physically; I could somehow come to terms with it and cope my entire life. Knowing there are potential solutions (i.e. hormones, surgery, etc.), but not opting for them because of being concerned about my physical health.
Coping wasn't happening. Instead, I became gradually more withdrawn. I felt progressively more isolated. The hopelessness I'd been feeling for some time worsened. It felt like there was this insurmountable wall that I'd hit and there was no way around it. I've spent over two years avoiding intimate relationships, since this has always triggered the reality that my body doesn't match and it had become easier to ignore if I avoided intimacy, and, in turn, to keep truggin’ along.
My mind had been very, very patient, but finally started aggressively advocating for equal consideration. Being detached and withdrawn gets old.
The second I decided to go forward with my transition AND to come out, I literally felt the biggest weight lift off my shoulders. When I really, genuinely figured out I was trans, I realized that there’s nothing wrong with me at all. All of those puzzle pieces were pulling towards a center - towards this.
I’ve finally allowed myself to be who I really am.
I also figured out there was nothing to be afraid of in regards to sharing my experience with others. Not to mention that, in general, it's only by being open that communities develop, that education happens, that bridges are built and people realize they're not alone. I tested the waters by mentioning it to a few friends. The reaction wasn't negative or judgmental - it was enthusiastic and inquisitive. This reaction continued and everyone became so excited and inquisitive that I thought I just might implode if I answered any more questions about my trannying out.
Blogging has been an extension of this. An extension of being open and also a byproduct of the inquisition. I'm enjoying it oodles.