Did I have a happy childhood? For me, this is a difficult question to answer. First of all, despite the challenges I faced, I know that I had a life so much better than so many. We were poor but I would not say we lived in poverty. I was not abused. My parents fought but kept the family together. However, I would often go to my room, lay down on my bed and cry. I can recall Mom speaking of this one time to a friend. She shared, “I don’t know why he does it. I only know about all I can do is let him have his cry and then move on.” I cannot say that gender was one of the reasons for my terms. It does however seem likely that the reason behind my tears was a core unhappiness with my life — as in I was livng as a boy and was not happy.
At an early age, I came to be regarded as a very helpful child when it came to housework. Dad worked as a teacher in a small town and made very little money and so Mom worked. I recall her working in Rosalia, my hometown, at a paint store when we first moved to Rosalia. However as we all grew older, she got herself a job in Spokane working for JCPenney. This meant a forty-five minute commute to Spokane and from Spokane whenever she worked. As a result, she needed help around the house and as Keith and Cheir were still quite young, tht help feel on the shoulders of us three older boys, two of whom were not real eager to do much housework. I cannot even quess however times I came home from school and spent the later afternoon doing the dishes etc and receiving an heartfelt thank you when Mom got home. It became something of a family joke that I would make some woman a great wife someday.
I suspect that most cisgender individuals do not spend a great deal of time on reflecting on the reasons they are a man or a woman. For most cisgender men and women, it may be as simple as ‘I have a penis so I am a man’ or ‘I have a vagina so I am a woman.’ One thing for sure they do not have to concern themselves with explaining to others why they are a man or a woman. As a transgender woman, I find myself seeking out answers in my past. Were the times I cried on my bed, a clue to the confusion I felt about my gender? Did I respond to my unhappiness with tears rather than with anger because of a suppressed feminine disposition? Were my tears totally unrelated to the question of gender?
One answer that makes sense to me is that to be transgender does not mean one is different. I begin with the premise that at the moment of our birth we are all essentially the same — socially genderless. Society defines our gender by our gentalia with moments of our birth and then we begin the multi-year project of learning who we are and where we belong in the world. Whether one grows up to be a cisgender man or woman or a transgender man or woman, we all go through a learning process. It is unique for each of us based on our family, our social surroundings and our birth sex. We all uniquely learn who we are. Is it any wonder that some boys are manly and some boys are effeminiate, that some girls are girly and some girls are tomboyish, that some boys are transgender as well as some girls.
However while I do not see myself as different because I am transgender, I have to admit that this blog is largely about the question of why am I different? Hence the word confusion is used a lot when one talks about transgender children. As an adult who has a lot more experience and knowledge and access to information, I can easily reach conclusions about my gender identity that are based on — dare I say — superior knowledge. As a young boy resisting the urge to visit his sister’s bedroom and try on her clothes in the mid 1960s and living in a small conservative community, all I felt was different.
Around the time I started to crossdress, is also the point in the lives of most children that they begin to feel the burdens of peer pressure — the need to conform and fit in. It is a time when I suspect almost every boy and girl in some way or another feel different than other boys and girls their age. Because peer pressure is my its very nature public social pressure, to a greater or a lesser extent it changes our behavior towards that of either conformity or in some cases rebellion. However, I kept my difference private and secret, hidden from the ostracism of peer pressure. I did not conform or rebell. I simply lied and schemed and build walls around myself. It was a secret and private rebellion and in order to keep it secret and private I became just possibly the world’s most boring person. Nothing to see here folks. Move on. I was seen as a studious bookworm when in actuality I often used study and reading as a way of covering what I was really doing — dressing up.