Sunday, July 28, 2013

Childhood Habits

I have several advantages among trans* people, due almost entirely to things that I did nothing to earn. One such advantage is this: Prior to puberty, my gender expression was entirely culturally acceptable.

I do not mean that my gender was culturally acceptable. Tolerance predates acceptance, but acknowledgement must predate even tolerance, and I don't have that. Or, to put it less prettily: Most people can't accept me because to do that, they'd have to accept that they can't call me a man or a woman. I am sometimes one, sometimes the other, sometimes both, sometimes neither, sometimes a mix of those four. And, on top of all that, sometimes I crossdress.

Even that isn't really describing me. That's the closest I can come in so thoroughly sexed a language, but if you can only think in male and female and blends defined by the two, then I am incomprehensible. You can know where I am, or where I've been, or where I'm going, but not even two of the three, and certainly not who I am. (Some people do not consider their gender integral to their sense of self, and so you could know them truly without knowing their gender. I am not one of those people.)

But many--perhaps most--of the issues trans* people face are for our gender expression, and my gender expression is: Sometimes I wear men's clothes. Sometimes I wear women's clothes. Sometimes I wear androgynous clothes. Sometimes I wear a combination in one outfit. Since I am consistently read female, this is fine. If I were consistently read male, or ever read male while wearing a skirt, it would be more of an issue, but I am not. Before puberty, I kept my hair long. Even in a baggy "unisex" (that is, male-cut) shirt and jeans from the boys' section, I looked like a girl. A tomboy perhaps, but that wasn't anything that was going to get me bullied worse than anyone else.

The adults rarely commented except for a few who called me "sloppy", and my classmates did not care beyond one boy's honest curiosity of why I was wearing boy clothes. In retrospect, I wonder if he had tried to buy something girly. I have no illusions of what sort of bullying I would have dealt with if I'd been thought a little boy sometimes wearing pretty dresses, rather than a little girl who occasionally dressed boyishly.

The advantage this gave me before puberty is obvious, and I continue to have it after puberty. Though I was not consistently comfortable with my body, and still am not, it was never odd for me to wear boy clothes. It was never odd for me to shop in the men's section. It was odd for me to want a breast binder, a hip binder, and other things, but even being read female--which I am, even while binding and packing and walking as well as I can and wearing men's clothes--I can buy the basics for myself without even getting odd looks. I have to use the women's dressing room, which is uncomfortable, but no one looks twice at me wearing men's clothes, even if I'm using a shared mirror in the women's dressing room.

That's not the most important part.

The important part is: I know how I am supposed to feel. I remember the little "girly girl" and "tomboy" who was sometimes a girl and sometimes a tomboy and sometimes something she--should I say she?--didn't even know existed until junior or senior year of high school. I remember when I did not understand gender enough to be hurt by it, did not understand fashion enough to care in the right way. I do not have to imagine how it feels to be dressing for my right gender and then fumble for it; I know what I would be if no one pressed me to be other than my gender. Because, for the first years of my life, no one did.

If I am as happy with my gender as I was when I was seven, then I am where I am supposed to be.

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