In case anyone cares, which is admittedly a pretty slim chance, this post is a quick sketch of how I came to realize (after so many years) that I was a transsexual woman.
This has turned out to be a very hard post to write. That's partly because I'm not that proud of the process, the mistaken beliefs, the stubborn denial - it's sort of like the history of a lost battle, or perhaps of a scientist's dogged pursuit of one wrong theory after another. It's also partly because it's so hard to put it into a few paragraphs in any meaningful way, and in some ways it's hard to be sure that what I remember is the truth. Be that as it may, I believe everyone needs a story make sense of things and this is mine.
So Why Didn't I Know Sooner?
In retrospect I can see that there were signs of gender incongruence as far back as I can remember. As a very small child I tended to be more interested in girl things and what the women in the family were doing. I know I got a firetruck for Christmas when I was very small, and it was darned cool, but what I remember more was wanting a girl doll to keep the lonely boy doll company in the toy box. (To everyone's credit I got and was allowed to keep that girl doll.) I also was never really that interested in the rough and wild stuff that my boy cousins or the boys in school loved. More often than not I was the scaredy-cat and the cry-baby. And as that was pointed out to me by family and friends I began to learn society's expectations.
I adapted to those expectations, but I was never all that good at being a boy - at best, I did it well enough to get by. As I got older I did the things that males in my family did - I learned how to shoot, hike, hunt and fish. I even learned to fly, which while it wasn't really that masculine, counted as such. Those things were enjoyable enough, but interestingly, once I was away from the influence of family and on my own, I stopped doing all of them. On the other hand I never got into sports nor most of the testosterone laced posturing that adolescent boys enjoy.
In any case, I really wasn't clearly aware of my gender issues until about the age of 10. From that point on the subject was close to an obsession. I would fantasize about being a girl, think about the clothes, dream about every aspect of being a girl, every single day. In all of the fantasies and daydreams becoming a girl or being transformed into a girl was always the most compelling theme.
But of course, I wasn't a girl, and boys didn't just become girls. That's just the way it was, and I accepted that. In part I accepted my lot because almost immediately with the realization of my gender identity came the realization that everyone around me, literally everyone - family, friends, teachers, the community in general - would consider it sick and wrong. Back in those days, the late 60's, in spite of free love and the counter culture in some places (or maybe because of it) there was no tolerance for such things in a tiny central Nebraska farm town. The teachers and other adults I loved and admired were quite open with pretty harsh homophobia, leaving me to just speculate how they would deal with something as freakish as a transsexual.
Not Qualified to be Transsexual?
To make matters worse, what I did learn about transsexuals lead me to belive that unfortunately I didn't qualify - the emerging trans narrative back then was that transsexuals were women trapped in male bodies, so desperate that they openly acted femimine from the age of 4 or 5 despite the pressures of society, and/or considered suicide, self mutilation or worse. And the best they could expect was to get the rare and expensive operation and go stealth, leaving their old identities behind and entering a weird sort of trans witness protection program.
That was't me, much as I wished it was. I just wasn't "qualified" to be transsexual - I didn't have the courage to be openly feminine in the face of society, my body felt wrong but not alien, I never seriously considered suicide, I would never have the money for the operation, amd I could never leave behind my entire life. Since I couldn't be transsexual I figured I must be something else, and there didn't seem to be many choices. I thought maybe I was a cross dresser - ridiculous, slightly perverted, but mostly harmless (such was the best spin I could put on that, at the time). I knew that wearing girl's things made me feel good, so while it didn't feel quite right, that seemed like the only option I had.
And if boys couldn't become girls, I could at least think about it, and I could dress like a girl sometimes. As I grew older I assumed this was some sort of fetish, but in fact it wasn't the objects themselves that I cared for, so much as the seeing myself appear feminine. It was heartbreaking to look it the mirror an know it wasn't true, that it was a temporary illusion, but it was also all I had.
And so it continued for years. I would dress when I could, increasingly enjoying the feeling of "being" a girl. And the rest of the time I would think about being a girl. I knew it wasn't right, but that's the way it was. I continued to try to make sense of it, to figure out what I was and why I was, but with little success. I didn't feel like a crossdresser, but by then I had convinced myself that I couldn't be a transsexual. I truly felt like I was stuck in the middle, lost in (literally) no man's land.
The rise of the web actually helped me (and many of us) enormously. Before that I could occasionally find books in libraries (which had to be quickly scanned there, since I wasn't bold enough to even check them out) but once the web became available I could find much more, including the personal narratives of people at least vaguely like me. I could even chat with others, and in and amongst some truly creepy encounters were some gems of insight and friendship. But more important I started to realize that there were others, many more than I'd imagined, like me, and that our stories were both similar and widely divergent. There were many ways to be transsexual and many theories (almost all by non-transsexuals at first) of how and why that might happen. There were even other "crossdressers" who had finally figured out that they had been transsexual all along.
So getting more contact with others opened the way for me to reconsider who I was. That was not a quick or an easy process - I had gotten used to my life as it was, I had even told myself that I could be happy continuing that way forever. And yet... the more I considered the possiblities, the more I wondered.
And when I finally decided to face myself, I it was clear which I had to choose. In fact, I think it always had been clear, but I was finally ready to accept it.