I recently read this inspiring Twitter thread by Huffington Post journalist Kimberly Yam. She talks about growing up hating her racial heritage as the child of Chinese immigrants due to cultural racism, and only learning to embrace her identity in adulthood when she realised how much she lost as a result. Give it a read here: https://twitter.com/kimmythepooh/status/1030606408365027334
Reading this, I felt so much empathy. Growing up as a closeted trans girl, I experienced similar feelings of self-hatred and attempted to suppress them. I’ve talked a bit about my own personal experience in my web series, but I’ve not gone into full detail. Reading Yam’s thread, I felt inspired to do something similar.
I originally wrote this to be a Twitter thread…and then realised it was way too long. So here it is on my blog. I’ve spared more specific details like names and places, but otherwise this is the truncated truth…
I’m mostly friends with boys. I make one female friend. All my guy friends now won’t hang out with me. They say boys don’t play with girls. I’m forced to disown my friend. I hate being a boy.
I get a new winter coat. It’s silver and shiny. I think it looks cool. I go to school wearing it. Turns out a girl in my class has the same coat. I’m made fun of for wearing “a girls’ coat”. I never wear it to school again. I hate being a boy.
I struggle to fit in with the boys. I’m delicate, I’m naïve, I’m effeminate. I do my best to be one of them, but I hate it. I prefer hanging out with my sister’s friends, though I’ll never admit it. I wish I was a girl.
I’m sent off to boarding school. The boys there are meaner. The bullying gets worse. One time, the girls notice me forced to sit alone at breakfast by the boys. They sit with me. They comfort me. They get the teachers involved. It helps, but not much. I still feel alone. I wish I was a girl.
A couple of friends decide to dress in drag for a school disco. I decide to help, along with several girls. The girls offer to dress me up too, but I refuse. Deep down, I really want to, but I’m afraid I’ll be made fun of. I wish I was a girl.
The torment continues. I’m made to believe that I’m weak, that I’m worthless, that all the girls think I’m disgusting. Other students rarely intervene. Any attempt to seek help from teachers is usually met with a variation on “man up”. Far worse happens, but there are some things I won’t share; those wounds haven’t healed yet.
I ponder if my life would be easier if I was born a girl. It feels so right, but I dismiss it. That can’t happen. I’m a boy, and so I have to be one.
I reach a tipping point. After one bad day, I attempt to strangle myself with a tie. I don’t intend to kill myself. This is a desperate cry for help. I hate being a boy, but I can’t be a girl. Why can’t I be me? Someone finally notices. Things get better, but not for long. I wish I was a girl.
Puberty rears its head. I egg it on. I’m often picked on because I look young and effeminate. Maybe if I look like a man, that’ll finally stop. Maybe I’ll even feel like a man.
That doesn’t happen. I just hate myself more. I wish I was a girl.
My only friend gets expelled. The bullying stops being so blatant. Now, I’m just isolated. I don’t fit in anywhere. With no other options, I commit to being a boy to survive. I don’t care about trying to fit in. I don’t care what anyone else thinks. I just want out of here.
My drama teacher mentions the concept of the gender spectrum. I immediately relate. Could that be me? Could I have been a girl all along? I dismiss it. “I’m normal”, I convince myself. “That happens to other people.”
I’m alone in the house. I end up in my sister’s room for some reason. I see her clothes lying out. I get the sudden temptation to try them on. I resist. What if someone came in and saw me?
I start researching the trans community. I see how mistreated and isolated they are by society. I relate so much, but I deny it. I already feel mistreated and isolated. I don’t want to make my pain any worse.
I finally get away from high school and head off to uni. I find myself surrounded by generally nice people. I begin to rebuild my self-confidence, but I still feel empty. Being a boy has been so knocked into me, I struggle to break free. I’m afraid of what will happen if these people I’ve grown to love see the real me.
I decide I want to be a writer. I find that my protagonists more often than not end up being women. I don’t know why. I just intrinsically feel more comfortable writing from their perspective. I wish I was more like one of my characters.
I volunteer at my local film festival. Most of my fellow volunteers are women. I allow myself to socialise exclusively with women for the first time since childhood. I feel comfortable. I feel like I belong. I wish I was a woman.
I’ve been living with my parents since finishing my BA. They go off on holiday, and I’m left alone in the house. I’ve been watching Sense8. I relate to Nomi so much; she’s the first trans person I’ve seen who isn’t someone to be pitied, laughed at or worse. I want to be like her.
I find myself in my sister’s room again. I search through her clothes and make-up. This time, I know nobody will suddenly walk in. I give in to the temptation.
Everything suddenly feels right. Then I look at myself. I cry. All I can hear in my head are the judgement of others. The ridicule, the rejection, the hatred. I give up. I tear off the clothes, wash off the make-up, and vow to never give in to that feeling again.
I break that promise almost immediately.
I’ve been raiding my mother and sister’s wardrobes on and off for a year. The temptation comes and goes. Gaps between these indulgences are sometimes mere days, sometimes months. Every time I finish, I tell myself it will be the last. I don’t believe I’m trans, but only because I’m afraid of what might happen if I’m wrong. I feel like I need someone to tell me I am trans, but I’m too afraid to talk to anyone about it.
I get accepted onto a master’s course. I leave behind all my feminine possessions. I vow to be a man again. I am basically putting myself to the test. If I can survive this without temptation surrounding me, maybe I’ll be rid of these thoughts.
I quickly find myself socialising almost exclusively with women again. My self-confidence takes another boost. Maybe I can be happy being one of the girls without going that far? This feeling doesn’t last long.
One of my friends slowly drifts away. Eventually, she won’t even talk to me. Much later, I would find out it was because she thought I had a crush on her. I had suspected as much. I feel rejected. I am reminded everyone sees me as a man. My self-confidence dives as low as it has been since I was a teenager. I wish I was a woman.
I begin jumping back into old habits in private. I really begin to hate myself. I feel like nobody sees me, but I’m still too afraid to break the façade. I am trapped in the fortress I built myself, and now it’s beginning to starve me.
I cry myself to sleep every night. I dream about finally having the courage to be myself. But every morning, I wake up back in my body. The body I hate more and more every day. I can’t stand to look at myself in the mirror. I feel a great pang of pain every time I hear, say or even see my own name. Everything is a reminder.
Again, it takes one bad day for me to break down. But this time, I don’t try to hurt myself. I stop denying feelings in the attempt to make things easier. I take a look myself internally and make a decision. If I so badly wish I were a woman, I should pursue that. I jump back into research with earnest and start making arrangements to see a counsellor.
I finish my master’s. I decide to move in with a friend from uni. Before I do, I come out to him in a fit of tears after hours on the phone unable to spit it out. He accepts me immediately. A few weeks later, I come out to my family. They are quick to remind me they love me no matter what.
I move in with my friend. I meet his new girlfriend; the first person to only know the real me. She accepts me without question. I come out publically on Facebook. I am met with nothing but encouragement and support from close friends and those I haven’t seen in years.
My friend gets me a temp job at his work. For a variety of reasons, I present male. The dysphoria is more obvious than ever. Every day, I just want to go home and be myself. After calling in sick after an intense anxiety attack the previous day, I am amicably let go. I can’t go on pretending any longer.
I struggle to find a new job at first. I decide to be myself in interviews; after all, that’s who they’re hiring in the long run. I’m constantly afraid of what other people think of me. A lot of my prospective employers clearly have no idea what to make of me.
I begin presenting female full time in public and legally change my name. Soon after, I secure a job. I enter my first major social group as myself. The usual anxieties of fitting in rear their head. To my relief, I am welcomed with open arms. For the first time in my life, I feel like I belong.
My job involves a lot of public interaction. As a result, I’m met with a lot of misgendering. It upsets me, but I soldier on, and my co-workers are there to console me when it gets particularly bad.
After a few months of back-and-forth with counsellors and doctors, I get prescribed HRT. Within mere weeks of starting, I feel so much better. The fog of self-hatred begins to lift. Slowly, the misgendering grows less and less frequent. My body has begun to synch up with my mind, and it feels so right.
I’ve been out publically for nearly a year now and on HRT for six months. My job is simple but I don’t mind; I’m slowly working on my writing ambitions whenever I can. Right now, I’m just trying to be me. I still have my dark days, but I can control those feelings better now. I now know I have people around me I can trust whenever I’m in trouble. I’ve still got a way to go in my transition aspirations, but I’m in no rush. These things take time, and I’ve already come so much further than I could have imagined when I started.
I write this to show the journey I have been on. To show how this confused and lonely child grew to love herself when no one else could see her. To inspire those young trans kids who are struggling themselves, to remind my trans brothers and sisters that every trans story is unique, and to educate everyone else on what it feels like to grow up not knowing who you are.
This is my story. You can’t take it away from me. You can’t tell me how to live my life anymore, because I’ve spent most of mine living for others already. I’m ready to forge my own path as the woman I deep down have always wanted to be. I’ll tell you all about where I’m going when I get there.