“Children who see themselves as ‘neither’ will often speak of how regardless of whether they’re with a group of boys or girls, they feel like they don’t fit. This is not necessarily a sad feeling. They just see the kids around them and know that they are not ‘that’.”
I remember when I was about the age of 7 or 8 - yes, that young! - that I thought to myself “I don’t think I should have been born a girl. It doesn’t feel like me, it seems wrong. …But boys are gross, I am definitely not a boy. I’m not a tomgirl either, because I hate sports. So I guess I’ll just try to be a girl anyway.” Even then, I knew the two options were both wrong. I simply had no others available.
I couldn’t make friends with girls because trying to be “one of the girls” made me painfully aware of just how not one of them I really was. And I was still too girly to fit in with the guys, so I ended up being a loner. My first-grade teacher said something to my mother about it, she was so concerned, but what was she supposed to do? Really, there was nothing to be done.
A few years later, I landed the leading roll in a production of Oliver Twist as the boy Oliver. I was so happy! It didn’t seem like a cross-gender role, it simply seemed like me being another facet of myself. I wanted to play more roles as a boy, but by the next year I had already grown breasts and was deemed too developed. I gave up on acting.
In middle school, I still didn’t have many girl friends to speak of. I would eat lunch with a group of guys that generally accepted me, and I would be teased about all “my boyfriends”. Well, they weren’t my boyfriends, they were just companionship, people I could actually relate to. All the girls were off on their own table talking about girl things, whatever those things were, I couldn’t relate and didn’t care to. Sometimes when picking me up from school, my mom would point out how they all dressed and acted alike, and how I was different and unique. That was one of the few times I could feel proud that I was me.
In high school, I started becoming more sure that I didn’t really think like a girl was supposed to think, and wasn’t necessarily the straightest arrow in the quiver either. It was rather conflicting, because I was super-Christian and loved to learn as much about the Bible and theology as I could. I wrote my feelings off as being of the flesh, and thought that God could cure me of my transgender feelings and of my attractions to girls. After all, I sometimes felt girly, and I sometimes liked boys, so that made me normal, right?
But no matter what I did, it wouldn’t go away. Yes, I was attracted to my husband, but sometimes I was attracted to him in a very explicitly gay way… it’s difficult to explain if you haven’t experienced it for yourself. Yes, I gave birth to a child, but immediately I knew something was “wrong”: I had (and still have) no maternal instinct, and instead of growing a desire to nurture and interact, I grew a desire to work harder and provide for his well-being. I attempted to adopt a style of dress that was sexier and more feminine, but it felt more like playing dress-up for attention than like just embracing my own personal style; a style which, my ex husband would lament, was tragic and he had “rescued” me from it - a style that I’ve completely reverted to now that I’m free of his BS.
It was so obvious that I’m not really a woman that when I first got with my current boyfriend two years ago, he had doubts about whether he could really be with me, because of my gender identity. I was still of the opinion that I could live as a woman and that my non-womanly parts were just personality quirks. But the funny thing about nagging truths is that they just won’t go away, no matter how hard we try to ignore them. ”People won’t believe me”, I thought. ”They’ll think I’m making it up for attention.” ”I’ll never be able to actually live life as my non-woman self, so I might as well stop trying to hog attention away from real transgender people.”
Unfortunately (or perhaps very fortunately), the harder I tried to suppress my gender, the more it refused to be pushed away, until finally the nagging truth was keeping me up at night and I was a physical mess. Something had to give, and that something was my stubbornness. I finally told everyone the simple truth: I’m not a woman, I’m genderqueer, and you may not understand, but I’m willing to explain as much as you need to know.
Is it easy? No. Some people don’t believe me. Some people think they can ignore me and act like I’ve said nothing. Some people even get angry and tell me that I know what my real gender is and I’d better start acting like it too! Except… I am acting like my real gender. And I know that I’m doing the right thing, because I’m starting to finally feel like I’m not lying to everyone anymore when I tell them that I’m a woman. I’m starting to forget what it’s like to fret and worry about how to know if I’m really a woman. The cognitive dissonance has melted away and been replaced by a quiet cohesion of the self. I’m happier, I’m freer, I’m me-er!
So yeah… give your kids the benefit of a doubt. Forcing them to live as a particular gender won’t make them actually turn out to be that gender. Trust me, I’ve been there. ;)