One day when I was about six years old, maybe soon after Mom gave birth to Keith, my youngest sibling and brother, I was playing under the dining room table of my grandmother’s home as Mom and guests conversed in the adjoining living room. While I cannot recall what prompted ‘The Story’ on this occasion, it is not unlikely that one of the guests commented on the unbalanced nature of Mom’s family. Over the last seven years she had given birth to five children — four boys and one girl. The story always began with the line ‘Well, of course, we wanted Glen to be a girl so. . . ” Or some words to this affect. What impact did ‘The Story’ have on my gender identity? What impact did ‘The Story’ have on how I coped with my gender identity? Each and every transgender woman or man is first and foremost an unique individual. As such for each and every transgender indivicual their transgender experience is unique. For me I cannot address who I am as a transgender woman without giving careful attention to what impact ‘The Story’ had on my life as a transgender woman.
My dad was an only child. It is possibly the primary reason he wanted a big family. I am not real certain why he had just a strong desire to have a daughter. However, maybe there was no reason. He simply wanted a daughter. Whatever the explanation, the first child born to Fred and Donna Broyles was a son so it became a given that the second child would have to be a girl. Mom gave birth to my older brother in mid-May. In early June of the following year, I was born. I was the second child. I was born a boy and not a girl. I was not the girl my parents wanted me to be.
When I heard ‘The Story’ on the day mentioned, it was not the first time I had heard ‘The Story.’ Or to be more accurate, as best as I can recall, I had no impression of hearing ‘The Story’ that day and thinking, ‘Wow, I never knew that.’ It should be noted that at the time Mom and Dad did have a daughter. After three sons, Mom finally gave birth to a daughter. Hopeful of maybe having two daughters, my parents went for one more child and my youngest brother was born a month after my fifth birthday. It would also be several years before I would hear ‘The Story’ told for what would be the last time I heard it. I heard ‘The Story’ so often that by the time I was ten years old I had grown to despice ‘The Story.’ I had simply grown weary of Mom once again telling friends how desperately her and Dad had wanted me to be a girl. I will not say they were disappointed and unhappy when I was born male as I was at the very least an healthy child. I simply fell short as it related to the plans they had for a family.
Gender Constancy, Gender Confusion and Gender Questions
When Mom told ‘The Story,’ I cannot say which was her common opener. Three possiblilties are: Glen should have been a girl. We wanted Glen to be a girl. Glen was suppose to be a girl. Which ever phrase she might have used, as a young child of say three or four years, the distinction between these would have been slight. I can recall thinking “If I was suppose to be a girl, why am I a boy?” “If Mom and Dad wanted me to be a girl, why am I am boy?” “If I should have been a girl, why can’t I simply be a girl?”
The principle of gender constancy suggest that until around the age of five or six a child does not yet understand the permanence of their sex. So when I first heard Mom telling “The Story” I was still at an age where it seem possible that a mistake had been made and that it could be fixed. Considering how often and how easily children turn to the question ‘Why?” it is not unlikely that I often asked my Mom or Dad ‘Why am I a boy?” Why can’t I be a girl?”
To me there can be little doubt that considering the premise on the story I so often heard that I was suppose to be a girl that I might not have given some consideration to whether or not I wanted to be a boy or a girl. At the time, the only real difference I understood about boys and girls was the clothes they wore and their toys as well as girls grew up to be Mommies and boys grew up to be Daddies. Did I ever approach my parents and tell them I was willing to be a girl? Maybe. However, if there was one thing that could be learned from ‘The Story.’ boys were boys and girls were girls. And to be more specific to my case, I was a boy. I was not a girl.