In May of 1952, my mother gave birth to a son, the first child of Fred and Donna Broyles. They had been married for less than two years. Mom was nineteen old and Dad was three years older. I do not know when or how they met. However both families attended the same church — Hilllyard Methodist Church — so considering the age difference, even though they both attended the same high school, it is most likely they met through church. Dad was an only child and Mom was the second oldest of a family of five siblings and the only girl. When they spoke of raising a family, my Dad had two strong preferences. He wanted a large family and he wanted a daughter. After the birth of their first child, a son, it was not long before Mom became pregnant with a second child. They had a son. Now it was time for a daughter. Once they became aware that Mom was pregnant, their singular hope as related to my gender is that Mom would give birth to a daughter. My parents were disappointed.
In fairness to my parents, I have no doubt their first prayer was that I would be born a healthy child with all my fingers and toes. However I am equally convinced that if any of my mother’s friends showed up to see the newborn, they would have learned that Mom was a bit disappointed. ‘We had really been hoping for a girl. ” Why do I say this? Over the next ten years of my life, whenever anyone made any reference to the struggles of raising a family of four boys and only the one girl, Mom would tell ‘The Story.” Admittedly the story would evolve over the years as the first time it was told there were only my older brother and myself. As the family grew the story would change in terms of details but not so much in terms of substance. I grew to detest “The Story.” It is notable that even after Mom gave birth to a daughter — their fourth child — she still felt it was important for people to know that they had wanted me to be a girl.
I have titled this blog ‘My Transgender Life.” I prefer such a title over something such as ‘The Life Of A Transgender Woman.” Given a choice between labeling my life ‘transgender’ or labeling myself ‘transgender’, I am more comfortable with the latter and very uncomfortable with the former. I am male. I was born with a penis. These are indisputable facts. Because I was born with a penis, I was placed inside a blue box and onto the ‘boy’ assembly line. In the early 1950s, here in the United States and throughout most of the world, the tyranny of the binary gender model allowed for only one path for a male child — the path of boy leading to manhood. I consider this gender model to be totally arbitrary and allow no room for me to myself, an unique human being and identity. To label myself as ‘transgender,’ it to define myself using this arbitrary gender model.
At the same time, however, I must acknowledge that the world for the most part totally embraces and accepts this gender model. As I was born male, in my childhood they saw me as a boy. In later years they came to see me as a man. I did not truly see myself as a boy and even more so when I was older did I see myself as a man. Most of my life has been one of inner turmoil as I dealt with gender issues that made no sense to me. My behaviors were not consistent with that of a man. They were the behaviors of a woman. In the eyes of others I was not a woman and I was a poor excuse for a man. At different times, different labels have been assigned to males such as myself. However in recent years ‘transgender’ has become the accepted label for a male or female who identities as a member of the opposite gender as determined by social norms and customs.
I am not comfortable labeling myself as a ‘transgender woman’ because to do so is to say that when it comes to social norms I am different,. However, my life is not about who I am. A life is spent in the social arena. Society binds us together and gives us rules and customs that add order and security to our lives. While my life is consistent with who I am, it is not consistent with social norms and customs. So I prefer seeing myself as having lived and living a transgender life.
On this blog I will advance my understanding of my life, of who I am, of my gender identity. I am speaking of myself and myself only. I am not challenging how others interpret their life, understand who they are, explore their own gender identity. I am an unique human being. What makes me truly unique is a product of a million different factors. I will touch of many of these factors on these pages. Some would argue that genetics is the best explanation for why transgender individuals are transgender. While I fully acknowledge that genetics is extremely impactful, I see gender identity — conformity to or lack of conformity to gender norms — as larger a social construct. [Allow me to stress one more time that I am speaking of my life and my life alone.]
I first heard ‘The Story’ to my recollection when I was four years old. I would hear it dozens of times over the next six years. I am certain I heard it often in my younger years when so much of it was just gibberish to my years. I cannot separate my parent’s disappointment that I was not born female from a awakening I had at the age of ten that I wanted to be a girl. The story of my transgender life does not begin with my birth in the early summer months of 1953. Nor it is a story that will end whenever I should happen to take my last breath. But it is not the story of a transgender woman. It is the story of Veronica Glenne Broyles.