The date was June 9, 1953. It was a Tuesday and the city was Spokane, Washington; the hospital Deaconness. Donna Broyles gave birth to her second son on this date and in this place. While Mom and Dad, Donna and Fred, had been hopeful of having a girl, a daughter, it is also most likely that their joy at the birth of a healthy baby far exceeded any disappointment they had that the newborn was male. The proud parents had not yet celebrated their second anniversary and their plan was to have a large family so it should come as no surprise that sixteen months later they had a third child, another boy.
There is no way for me to know what dreams the parents of these three boys had for their sons. It was however the Fifties and it was an optismistic time in America. It is not unlikely that the childhood they pictured for their sons was not unlike that seen on the television screen and best illustrated with The Beaver, Opie of Mayberry and the three sons of Fred McMurray. Because it was Spokane and because it was the 1950’s it is also likely that the lives they envisoned for their sons would have been totally consistent with social norms of the time including those regarding gender and gender roles.
Flash forward ten years and I am standing in the stairwell of our family home with one of my brothers. He shares a secret. “He was being scolded because they caught him wearing a dress.” Something awakened in me at that time. Allow me to suggest that it was not anything perverse or deviant. There are some that might argue against that position. However we are talking about a ten year old boy who has yet to reach puberty or heard the ‘facts of life’ or developed any real understanding of the differences between boys and girls beyond the clothes they wear and the games they play. Nor will I go so far as to suggest that at that moment I knew I was really a girl. To used a phrase all too commonly heard, it was not at tht moment that I came to realize that I was a ‘girl trapped inside a boy’s body.’
So what happened at that moment. At that moment. I developed a compelling desire to explore how life might have been if I had been born a girl. When I reflect back on the intensity of this desire, when I consider all of the apprenhesions I had regarding my desires, it has to be unquestionably accepted that it was not simply idle curiosity. If it had been nothing more than curiosity, what would have held me back? It would have been no biggie trying on my sister’s clothes once even if I got caught. If if had been nothing more than curiosity, the worse possible outcome of trying on her clothes might have been a scolding from my parents. But it was more, so much more.
I grew up in a time when gender roles were quite defined. The last one hundred years of US History had seen significant changes in roles of men and women relative to voting, career and education. However, the most part men were still seen as being providers and women were seen as nurturers and society went to great lenghts to ensure that boys and girls understood their places in society and conformed to their expectations. And yet somehow, between the moment of my birth when I was put into the blue boy box because I had a penis and the conversation I had with my brother at the age of ten, something happened. Something happened that had me convinced at the age of ten that maybe, just maybe, I would be much happier as a girl.
I will never discount the genetic, psychological and physical/hormonal reasons behind our indiviudal sense of identity. We are all born unique and it is in my opinion infinitestibly unlikely that with billions of unique personalities and identities on this planet that each and every one of them would fall neatly into the binary boxes of being a boy or being a girl. However when it comes to gender, social norms can be very unyielding. So something happened. Something happened that would late in life bring me to accept that I am a transgender woman. Something happened that had we wanting to explore life as a girl at the age of ten. Somethiing happened that had me convinced that I would discover in the life of a girl a better life for myself. I did not fear a scolding. My greatest fear was that if I was ever caught it would mean the end of my explorations into a better life.
I have never been blessed with a child to raise. However, from everything I have seen and experienced, my general sense is that a child often wants what a child wants and will accept nothing less. I suspect there are thousands if not millions of faters who have stopped off at a toy store to buy their son a toy truck on his way home because he does not like seeing his son play with dolls. His son has not yet learned that ‘only girls’ play with dolls so the father has to give his son a ‘boy toy’ and another lesson on who he should be. I will go onto to suggest that boys who develop a fondness for wearing dresses at a young age are not expressing their gender but merely showing a preference for dresses over pants. I truly believe that ultimately the transgender trigger for children pivots around what makes them happy or happiest. If a young male child prefers wearing a dress and playing with dolls, when they are three years old and learn the distinctions between boys and girls that is referred to as gender labeling it is any wonder that they might approach their parents and assert, “I am not a boy. I am a girl.’
I will not attempt to explain the root cause of being transgender. However, I will assert that in their youngest years every transgender person begins to see two options. Regardless of their birth gender, as they do not yet see gender as permanent and unchanging, they see life as the opposite gender as preferable to their brith gender. I am not saying this is always a conscious decision. In my case, I feel it was a subconscious preference. They may not declare their preference. My best guess is that most do not. However, there will always be this underlying unhappiness with the norms of their birth gender and an underlying presumption that life would be better as the opposite gender.
For me my transgender trigger had to be the often-shared preference my parents had once they learned my mom was pregnant with a second child. They wanted a girl and every time I heard them share that story I had to have asked myself ‘Why am I a boy? If my parents wanted a girl, why me?’ Children love to ask ‘Why?’ They are often an endless stream of questions. How often did I ask myself, “What if I were a girl?” I have little doubt that as a young boy I developed something of a certainty that if I had been born a girl, my parents would have loved me more. I am not saying that they loved me less or I felt less love but they had really wanted me to be a girl. And when Mom finally gave birth to a girl, she was seen as quite special and my Dad doted on her beyond the attention he gave to us boys.
None of this resulted in any immediate impact on my behavior. I was the middle child of a family with three sons and my life was not unlike that of my older brother and of my younger brother. We often shared the same clothes and played with each other toys. The games we played were the games boys played and we all three developed a crush on the same neighborhood girl. However a trigger had been planted. At the age of nine, it clicked. Once it clicked I knew I had to explore the life of a girl. I was also convinced I would love knowing that life. In a life filled with change and growth and turmoil, exploring life as a girl and later as a woman was the one constant. We tend to favor that which gives us pleasure over that which gives us pain. While I will not say that crossdressing and explorations of my feminine preference did not cause me pain at time, the pain never exceeded the pleasure I found in being a girl or being a woman.
Each of us leads unique lives. There is no single path to any defined destination. If you are transgender, it is a given that your path was not my path. If you have any explanation for being transgender, it is quite likely it is not the same as my explanation. I cannot know how you came to be who you are. And all I really know about how I came to be transgender is that at an age when I had no understanding of gender, I repeatedly heard the words, “We really wanted Glen to be a girl” and then one day I developed this unquenchable desire to explore life as a girl.