Was I Born In the Wrong Body? Musings From the Land of Gender Confusion
I spent a lot of my childhood wondering when I was going to turn into a boy.
Because I felt at odds (to say the least) with traditional notions of what a girl was supposed to act like, I just assumed I wasn’t meant to be a girl. When puberty came, it’s not that I hated my body or the changes that were coming with it, I was just indifferent towards it. I didn’t have the same language that I do now to explain my gender or my body. But even as a kid, I knew that my physicality was limited and that people wouldn’t understand me as long as they focused on my body alone.
Present day, I still reject many traditional notions of so-called femininity and masculinity. But when I get dressed — binding my chest, pulling my hair back, clothing my body in as neutral clothes as possible — only to be called a “lady” by wait staff at the local restaurant, I do notice my heart sinking in my chest.
When I leave the house confident that I will be read the way I want to be, nothing bothers me more than when I’m not.
And then the daily spinning begins: “Should I cut off my locks? I wonder if there’s a way to reduce chest size without top surgery? Could I afford it? Does it bother me more when people call me she, or he? How am I going to have a child without people seeing me as a woman?”
I grapple almost daily with the question of bodily transition, and about whether it will improve my image of myself. Most often, I arrive at an unresolved, accepting, “I don’t know.”
Because I don’t. I’m in the familiar, normal place of being scared — scared that I’ll immediately regret any changes I make to my body, but also scared that making no changes will mean that I’m never seen the way I need to be seen by the outside world.
But then more questions come to mind: “Even with transition, would people actually see me as I want to be seen? What is there to transition to? How will I feel if I’m never seen on the outside as I feel on the inside?”
They’re challenging thoughts, but I have to remember to hold myself with love and compassion while I muddle through this gray area.
Self-love and awareness is incredibly important with the knowledge that we live in a binary society — as long as there are only two options for gender in most places of the world, I (and many people in the trans and gender non-conforming spectrum) will be misunderstood at best, and targeted at worst.
It’s also important for me to be able to decipher between pressures to “pass” (from mainstream, binary society as well as within queer and trans communities) and my own desires. It is hard, but what I most often conclude is that I must remain patient and open. My body will let me know if and when it desires change — or it will not. And until then, and always, I know who I am and and the challenges (and beauty) that it can bring.
For all of those who transition and those of us who do not: transness encompasses more than our bodies. For some of us, physical changes are important, and for others it is not. All is beautiful. As for me — well, we’ll see.