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Revisionist History: The Trans Desire To Make It All Add Up


We all make mistakes when we begin to transition or at least become aware of our identity. It’s impossible not to really; after so many decades of doing our best to make the social programming of one gender fit for us, albeit unsuccessfully, trying to catch up is a real bear. I’m no stranger to this at all, and have managed to step in it every six ways to Sunday, whatever that means. From flubbing social mores to making ridiculous fashion faux pas, I have plenty of stories, and I have no doubt that more are just waiting to be born. So many, many more… Today though I want to talk about the nearly overwhelming urge to engage in revisionist history.

Revisionist history, insofar as it pertains to us, is reaching a certain life vantage point and looking back at the past as a path that almost knowingly brought us right here, right now. It’s oh, so easy to immediately go from having the perspective of personal history of ‘Mike’ to suddenly have the personal history of ‘Michelle pretending to be Mike’. So easy, but so wrong. It starts with statements like, “I have known I was really a girl since I was 4 or even younger”. From there every defining life moment is now painted with a broad trans brush that explains every action, every idiosyncrasy, and every relationship. It feels really good to do this, but I’m not so sure it’s quite as accurate as all that.

I think we do this because it is enormously validating. Every single bit of evidence we can bring forward, no matter how farfetched, reinforces our core identities to both ourselves, and those who we share them with. It’s a mountain of irrefutable proof that I’m not just making this up, or had a fancy whim one day and decided to change genders. It’s a laundry list of symptoms to show the doctor that treatment is needed urgently and without further delay. We are who we say we are, and have always been; the signs were all there, you just had to know how to look.

We, or at least I, tell lots of stories centered around the experience of being really a girl, but thrust into boy culture and the problems I had dealing with it. This is all true, but with the caveat that the vast majority of time I was completely unaware of why I was having these difficulties. Truth – I only liked camping with the Boy Scouts if my dad went along because I didn’t want to be stuck alone with all the boys. The temptation is to tweak that statement to something like – I only liked camping with the Boy Scouts if my dad went along because honestly, what girl would feel safe with that pack of animals by herself? The difference was that at that time I didn’t understand my real gender as a reason and really just chalked it up to a vague and hard to pin down feeling of discomfort and uneasiness I couldn’t really explain. I think it is very easy to couch many other such situations and happenings the same way.

While I do honestly think that many things from my past can be pegged tightly to the trans condition without reservation, there may be others where I really have no idea. I confessed a while back that there was a period in my youth that I liked to sit in a rabbit cage. It is beautifully symbolic in the light of transition to liken it to the reality of being trapped in my own body. I really don’t know why I did it, and so it can conceivably have been simply that I was a weird kid in addition to my trans-ness. Instead of running away from fist fights because I was a girl, maybe I was just a wuss? Um, yeah, on that one I have to go with the girl things because, you know?

The truth is that looking back on things as they actually happened in no way detracts from our identities. I personally had enough moments of clarity in realizing what I was and reacted in such a typical manner that there has been no doubt in my mind since my most recent coming out to myself a little over 2 years ago. Many of my experiences were probably not trans related at all, even though they seem like they might have been or because I want them to be. Others may or may not be and impossible to tell. Other still were without question. At the end of the day, our histories are only that and not much more. We are who we are right now, no matter what winding path we took to get there, and that is really all that matters now, isn’t it?

About michellelianna

I'm a transgender woman now in the maintenance stages of transition having all the electrolysis and surgery one can reasonably be expected to undertake. While busy exploring my new world, I took to blogging about it with dubiously popular results. I don't have quite as much to say as I used to, but I'm not quite done yet either.

2 responses »

  1. I wonder. I have a personal thing against the “Born That Way” slogan that ultimately is the logical conclusion to that revisionism. I think rather, that most of us “develop that way” instead, but you can’t always remember detail for detail everyday life let alone “landmark” events.

    I have no memories of before I was 4-5 years old, and I don’t think I noticed gender at all until i was about 6-8. But – and this is the odd thing – I can remember exactly the event when I realised I was Trans, and that was when I was 13 years old. I read a chapter of a book I found in a bookcase in the lounge room, next to a dictionary, a book on gardening, and what-not. The book was called “Everything You wanted to Know about Sex, but were too Afraid to ask”. I knew – somehow- from the description in the chapter on transsexuals, that that was me. But I spent the 23 years pretending it wasn’t, until I finally did something about it.

    Another odd thing was that I recall hearing my mother say many times that “when she had me she’d wanted a girl”. After I started my transition I ask Mum about that, but she couldn’t remember saying it at all. Funny about that.

  2. I believe that whether or not we are transgender, all human memories are made up and cannot be trusted as accurate recordings of past events as they are always in the process of being revised and compressed with other similar memories over time. Just saying!


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