As we have seen, during my early childhood I played mostly with girls, and at least some of them did not really consider me to be a boy. It was only natural then that, sooner or later, it would occur to some of them that I should become a girl instead. Gradually, this evolved into a sort of ongoing game amongst some of my female friends; they started chasing me around the schoolyard during recess with the stated intention of turning me into one of them. A childish game, of course, but I made a show of resisting them; I didn’t want anyone to see me giving in to them; I didn’t want my male friends (whom I have downplayed for the purpose of this narrative, but who were still very important to me) thinking that I wanted to be a girl. But more importantly, I suppose that I myself was afraid to entertain the idea of being a girl.
And what’s more, I suppose that there was a very simple reason for this: namely, at some level, I understood that they were right. It was, of course, possible that I was just a boy. But, somehow, I knew that this was not true.
I did not have any real conception of transsexual behaviours at that age. But I recall that when I was around seven or eight years old, my sister started loudly declaring herself to be a ‘Tomboy.’ And at one point, while we were alone, she and I got into a discussion: “If a Tomboy is a girl who acts like a boy, what do you call a boy who acts like a girl?” The term that she came up with was a “Susiegirl.*” I don’t know whether the discussion was specifically aimed at me (years later, my sister claimed not to remember it), but there was one thing of which I was certain; I was a Susiegirl; and this did not seem an enviable position to be in. I slinked away, saying nothing.
Looking back on it, I’m not entirely certain why I reacted with such fear and negativity to the idea of being female. Perhaps, even at that young age, I was responding to cultural attitudes which were dismissive of femininity; perhaps I was afraid that, by being a girl instead of a boy, I would make myself somehow lesser. It’s possible, I suppose; but more than anything else, I suspect that it was just a symptom of a life-long, all-consuming fear of letting anyone know anything about the real me. I am a creature of secrets; even as young as 4 years old, I would deny watching TV shows I liked when asked. Perhaps I felt that I was exposing myself to attack—that, so long as no one knew my weak spots, I was immune to them. By denying the very possibility of girlhood, even to myself, I could avoid showing-off an enormous weak spot to the world.
Chronic secrecy is a good way to survive. It is not, however, a good way to live. To paraphrase the Barenaked Ladies, if you hide yourself wherever you go, you are never really there.
And so I camped-out, turtle like, in the shell of my own self-denial, passing-up one chance for happiness after another, trying to will away my true nature through forced and failed attempts to embrace more masculine friends and interests. But the truth is that one cannot control how an idea will grow, once it has taken root in her mind. And this idea—this basic, simple suggestion that I was in some ineffable sense, really a girl, was always at the back of my consciousness, consuming my thoughts when I was alone and secretly obsessing me. One day, when I was in the school’s library, I saw my friend K. return a novel called “Marvin Redpost: Is He a Girl?” by Louis Sachar to the shelf. The cover art depicted a young boy gaping in shock at a female reflection in bathroom mirror. The image burned itself permanently into my psyche, a perfect metaphor for my present feeling. But I was too afraid to read it, because I didn’t want to be seen touching it**.
I also had dreams. More particularly, I had a series of recurring dreams in which I was watching a ‘lost episode’ of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which the Enterprise passed through some sort of dimensional rift which caused Geordi La Forge (my favourite character, mind you, and one with whom I identified) to turn into a woman. In my dream, I responded with distress (I always hated it whenever bad things happened to Geordi***), but on screen he, or rather she, seemed to be happy enough with the change. Of course, analysis of dreams is not my forte, but I don’t think that it’s all that much of a stretch to suggest that these dreams were related to my gender issues.
I told no one about any of this, of course. Such was the point of having secrets. I tried so hard to will it all away.
*Of course, there is no positively connotative term for such a person; something which should piss off any self-respecting feminist, as it implies the inherent inferiority of girls.
**I finally ordered it off of Amazon, last year. It may well have helped me.
***Which was often.