“The doctors told me that you would be a boy. Imagine my surprise when you were born! We had already picked out boy clothes and a boy name for you and had to change everything last minute…”
For my mom this was just a funny anecdote that she joked with her kid about. For me this was one of the earliest pieces of “proof” I used to justify to myself that I was supposed to be a boy – but some horrible biological mistake forced me to be a stupid girl instead. A female. A woman. Terms I loathed for a long time.
My mom picked out my clothes for me every morning for most of my childhood. Colorful skirts, glittery shirts, pretty shoes. I got them dirty a lot by kicking around trash, climbing trees and tripping while playing catch. My toys were mostly animal figurines and stuffies and I made them fight wars and kill each other. My mom bought me a baby doll to play with but I didn’t want to touch it. I was easy to provoke and got into a lot of fights. I drew dragons and monsters and lots of blood.
My best friend at the time wanted me to try out her “make up” – some glittery lip gloss and purple eye shadow in a pink butterfly shaped container. I refused and she threatened to break off our friendship until I gave in. She did that a lot. I despised the feeling on my lips and eyes, but keeping my only friend was more important to me. I was 7.
When I got older it became more and more obvious that my mom was still picking out my clothes for me. Girls in my school would dress in stylish outfits, do their hair and wear makeup according to the latest trends. I still wore pink sweaters and refused to even touch make up. I still had the same awkward bangs right above my eyebrows that my mom would cut every so often with the kitchen scissors. And I began noticing how little I actually fit in with the other girls in my school.
A substitute teacher referred to me as a boy one day. I protested vehemently, everyone laughed, but something in me clicked. Even though I had shoulder length hair and wore clothes with “girly” colours some people would actually mistake me for a boy. The more it happened, the prouder I felt about it.
I don’t remember when I got my period for the first time, but I remember absolutely hating it. I cried a lot when I found out that I would have to go through this every month for the majority of my life. I hated the pain, I hated the feeling of pads in my panties and the blood coming out of me. I hated lying awake in agony for multiple nights. I hated the weird lumps of meat that were growing on my chest and I hated suddenly having to pay attention “if my nipples were showing” or if I had blood on my pants. I didn’t shave until I got made fun of in swim class.
“But it’s all worth it! Now you’re growing into a woman and you’ll even be a mother someday!” I didn’t want kids, though. In fact, I didn’t want to be a woman either. I wanted to keep catching lizards and climbing trees like the kid I still felt like, not grow old and have babies like a woman.
When I was around 12 years old I got a smartphone with internet access. I mainly used Instagram to access my favourite fandoms at the time and came across the occasional “LGBT” post. I already kind of knew what gay and trans people were from television, but the exposure to more and more LGBT related content really cemented the whole thing into my brain. Posts detailing the experience of “transguys” were especially intriguing: they hated “girl toys” and “girl clothes” as children, they hated their breasts and periods and female puberty and they hated being referred to as girls. I felt enlightened.
THIS was what was wrong with me, and I finally found out! Every tiny detail from my past began falling into place: of course the doctors thought I would be a boy because I was actually supposed to be one! Of course I didn’t play with dolls and played war instead, because that’s what boys do! Of course I hated female puberty, because I was not supposed to experience it! Of course I was happy about being “mistaken” for a boy all the time, because I really was a boy! Of course…
I began reading more and more about trans experiences because I finally found people I could relate to. They talked a lot about hating their high voices, their feminine hips, their names and I began hating mine too. Everything about me was so disgusting FEMALE, from my ridiculously feminine name to my dainty figure. I started wearing baggy clothes and slouch to hide the body I was more and more disgusted about. I strained my voice to try and sound more masculine and I wore multiple sports bras at once to simulate the effect of a binder. I shaved off the tiny hairs above my lip in hopes they would grow back more noticeable. I avoided swimming and any activity that would “expose” me. I picked exclusively male roles in theatre class, and after the show my mom would always tell me how obvious it was that I was just a girl pretending to be a boy, which absolutely broke me.
I was constantly worried about how people perceived me, if they could see my breasts and if they could tell I wasn’t really a boy by the tone of my voice or the way I walked. I had dreams about getting top surgery and testosterone and how transitioning instantly made everything better. I would visibly cringe if someone referred to me as a girl, a female, a she, or my deadname. The thought of getting pregnant and having children made me nauseous and I wanted to rip out my uterus so these things would never ever happen to me. I was sad, tired and angry all the time and harmed myself every so often.
I did all that privately and never came out to anyone, though. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I did.
I identified as a transman for most of my teen years and it kind of faded away before I turned 18. I can’t pinpoint an exact cause, but I think it had something to do with gaining a bit more confidence in the later years, working harder for school and actually seeing good results, making new friends and being responsible for “important” things like our class yearbook and designing the T-shirts that we would wear on our last trip together. I spent less time being active in online communities and just passively watched YouTube videos while studying, drawing or working on something else. I grew out my hair a bit, then chopped it off once it became annoying. I wore a steampunk-inspired dress to a convention, just for fun. I experimented with clothes and just settled on the ones I was comfortable with – without worrying if I “looked masculine enough” with them. I stopped caring about how people perceived me and I’ve never felt so free before in my life.
I’m now 20. I have a buzzcut, hairy legs, a closet full of comfy clothes and a loving boyfriend. I don’t wear makeup or dresses, I go by a masculine sounding nickname (think something like Tony, short for Anthonia) and I do all this without wasting a single thought about how other people see me. After all, why should I live to please others, perform for them like a circus animal or be something nice to look at for them? This is my life.
In the end I don’t “feel” female, I don’t “identify” as a woman, hell, sometimes I don’t even WANT to be a woman, but I simply am. It’s an objective reality, but it means nothing to me anymore in terms of how I should behave, dress and look like. There is so much comfort in knowing that I don’t need to do anything other than exist in this world.
I’m a woman – now probably even more “masculine” than ever – and I’m finally at peace about it.
– by “Tony”, desisted female, 20, Germany