When I was 9, 10, 11, 12, I would go to after school camp at the local YMCA. In the summer, I would go all day. I never really fit in, and I didn’t really like most of the other kids. I was drawn more to the counselors, who were all early-to-mid twenties. There was one in particular that I really respected. I felt like he understood both sides of the fence – young enough to relate to how it felt to be young, and old enough to give good advice. He knew when to break the rules, and which ones to follow.
And I loved his attention. I loved how he made me feel important, and treated me like a friend. We would go hiking and play basketball outside of camp, even though that was against the rules. He saw me get my 2nd degree black belt and I met the girl he would marry. And the whole time I knew him, I tried to make sure he would keep liking me.
I tried to be interested in sports, and when he’d set up a football game, or talk about basketball players, or look at sports cards, I always tried to be involved. I didn’t know anything about sports. I could barely catch a pass. And that bothered me, because all the other boys seemed to get it, but I didn’t. I was good at making beaded bracelets and crafts. But I didn’t fit in with the girls there, either. Both choices make me feel like an intruder, and a lot of the time I would end up just reading alone somewhere.
I didn’t know I was a girl yet. I didn’t know I felt so left out when I was with groups of boys because I didn’t identify with them. I just thought I was doing something wrong. And until recently, I didn’t realize that a large majority of the girls I had crushes on I didn’t really have crushes on. I admired them. I didn’t want to be with them, I wanted to be them. I still have trouble distinguishing that sometimes.
I didn’t realize I was trans because it wasn’t a very familiar concept to me. The only trans people I ever heard about were the ones in jokes or on Jerry Springer. And so when I finally started typing things like “I want to be a girl” and “how to be girly,” into web searches and started coming across definitions of words like transgender and other people’s experiences, it started making sense.
I wish I had known earlier. I wish I realized it when I would pick the girl character when I’d play snowboarding video games with my brother and would identify with these female characters in every book I read and movies I watched. But in a way, maybe I did.
Subconsciously, I started surrounding myself with people who were sympathetic and supportive when I would come out later. I had a gay roommate in college that meet though my first college friend, a girl I found online before school started so I’d have at least one friend 700 miles from home. Me and him did pretty much everything together for a year or two. We shared a dorm, took some of the same classes, and got drunk at least once a week together. And then the last two weeks before the end of our second to last semester we got in a fight, and I said something I still regret. I called my friend a faggot. I knew it would hurt, but I didn’t realize how much. That was the last time we talked. We spent the last two weeks in silence living together, and he blocked me from contacting him on facebook or anywhere else.
And I used to think he was overreacting, but I get it now. If someone I called a friend called me a tranny, I would probably react the same way. And I’m sorry. Just because I didn’t understand then, doesn’t make that okay.
So I’m glad for the friends I have now. I’m glad they try to understand and respect me. I’m glad I don’t have to worry about what name they use for me when I’m not there. I’m glad they’re nicer to me than I’ve known to be to some people.
And as I write this blog week after week, I start to think about how everything in my life is connected. I start seeing the big picture, and things I never thought much about before. For a long time my past was just my past, better left there. I was glad I couldn’t remember a lot of it. But now I realize my past is an important part of my future, too.
I try not to think a lot about the reasons I may be trans. Whether it’s just how I’m wired, or something early on growing up triggered it. It doesn’t really matter why. That’s a whole different topic. But I do think a lot about how came to identify as trans. My path isn’t the straightforward trans narrative that’s popular and known. My narrative is a little more twisted, and that’s okay. You don’t have to be a stereotype to feel like a woman.
All said and done, my history and the people in it are what taught me how to fight like a grrrl.