Due to a demographic anomaly, after Grade Three there were only five girls (not including myself) in my elementary school class (which numbered, in total, between twenty-five and thirty students through to the end of my time in elementary school). I’m not sure precisely how this statistical scarcity affected my development; perhaps, if there had been a more even ratio of boys to girls, I would have come to terms with my femininity faster, or in a different way.
In any case, when more than 80% of your classmates are boys, it is a simple fact of mathematics that most of your social interaction will be with boys. I never stopped playing with girls entirely, mind you: two out of five of the girls continued to chase me at least once a week until the end of grade five, and one of them (whom we shall call Z.) attended the same high school as me, where she continued to insist, all the way through graduation, that I was a girl*. But by and large, most of my friends from that point onwards were male—a fact that was only compounded by the first whiffs of puberty. During adolescence, the differences between genders seemed mostly behavioural—while children are aware of the existence of certain physiological differences (this being a polite way of saying that “boys have penises, girls have vaginas”), most children never actually saw this difference first hand and it therefore seemed trivial. Had I worn my hair long, as a child, and dressed in girl’s clothing, it would have been easy for me to ‘pass’ as a girl. Secondary sex characteristics, however, are rather harder to overlook**. Thus, there were those among my friends who gradually ceased to accept me as being one of their own.
It goes without saying that I, now essentially relegated to the status of boyhood by statistics, puberty, and my own denialism, did not ‘fit in’ with the upper echelons of the male social hierarchy. I was (in addition to being ‘really a girl’) autistic, nerdy and extremely unathletic***. I did eventually find my circle of friends only amongst similar outcasts: In addition to the aforementioned T. (shunned due to his emotional immaturity, and also the poverty of his family), there was J. (shunned for nerdiness, as well as for being a “98 pound weakling” who was tragically convinced that he was the world’s most rugged individualist), J2. (shunned for autism and violent mood swings), and A. (shunned for overall creepiness; he was, however, a very good friend when you wanted someone to help you imagine someone’s violent demise****).
While I did have fun with my merry band of outcasts (some more so than others), in my private moments I still contemplated what it would mean to be a girl—musings which, in fact, only gathered in intensity as I noted, with dismay, the progress of the physical divergences which were rapidly carrying me away from my former peer group.
Puberty was an unpleasant time for me; so it is for virtually everyone, I suppose. But, being transgender, I had the added misfortune of having to watch while my body was swept off in a direction which was diametrically opposed from the one in which I wanted it to go—I felt, in short, like some sort of wizard was slowly turning me into a gorilla against my will. I started covering up my body in shame and disgust; even on the hottest days in summer, I would wear pants and a long-sleeved shirt. My parents would berate me for my apparent conservatism, demanding to know why I couldn’t dress for the weather: I could never articulate a reason that wouldn’t have shocked and appalled them. I practically my vocal range constantly, never wanting to lose my access to the higher octaves of speech.
At the same time, though, I could look across the aisle and see how the (other) girls were developing; for the first time, I began to seriously contemplate the differences between boys and girls in a physiological sense. And so, for the first time, I started to envy girls bodily. That’s not to say, mind you, that female puberty looks like a picnic in comparison; indeed, from a purely pain-based standpoint, it looks considerably worse (I can honestly say that I have never envied a woman her period*****). But at least I would have felt that these changes were consistent with the person I conceptualized myself to be. At least I would have been able to look at myself in a mirror and recognize the person I was becoming as being me.
A few months later, I would do precisely that.
*I’m not sure whether or not she knows of my transition. If she does, I can only assume that her reaction, upon learning about it, was to roll her eyes theatrically and say “well it’s about time!”
**Which is why I find society`s obsession with Sexual Reassignment Surgery to be so bizarrely unconnected with the realities of transgendered experience.
***That is not, by the way, to say that I equated being unathletic with being a girl—one of my parents’ more inane suggested explanations of my transgenderism.
****Which was often.
*****Although, if someone came-up to me and offered to turn me into a complete, biological and genetic woman, I would jump at the chance—periods and all.