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

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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?

I Was One Of The ‘Joe’s Boys’

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To my current knowledge, I was the only girl to graduate from St Joseph’s Collegiate Institute. Granted, no one knew that at the time, so the statement is just a little bit of a stretch. My friend Dan claims there was another, in a later class, but I’m OK just having been the first. You might think, given my earlier complaints of being uncomfortably shoved into all male environments, that my attendance was a forced issue. It wasn’t; I wanted to go there for years and was overjoyed to be admitted.

I’ve related often enough that as a child I was a social introvert. No, not someone socially introverted, but an introvert who was social. I know, I know, that sounds totally contradictory, but let me explain. I was an introvert by nature, but learned young that I would be left alone more by attempting to be social when given an opportunity that wasn’t too overwhelming. Left to my own devices, however, I would have sat in that cage all day and read. I found it particularly amusing last year when I caught an episode of ‘The Simpson’s’ where Bart does pretty much the same thing, sans reading of course. I guess I’m in bad company, but nevertheless. Anyway, I had a strong focus on academic achievement as well, as I had discovered that good grades also meant being left alone. St Joe’s really seemed to be my ticket to keep that going.

I was both relieved and nervous about attending an all-boy’s school. I had already had my big personal revelation in front of the mirror, but was doing a dynamite job of actively repressing it. I knew for certain I didn’t like all male environments from my experience at sleep away camp and any Boy Scout trip my dad didn’t come along on. The lads were a bit more on the rough side than I cared for, and I had not yet developed the defense mechanism to give it back. This was supposed to be a more refined set of blokes; so I was led to believe. On the plus side, I would be shielded from the sexual politics I had no clue how to navigate. In grammar school I just nursed the same ‘from a distance’ crush for years, which was fine for our age group, but I was reasonably certain that I would be expected to pick up my game. Talking to girls was no problem. It was pursuing them that left me frustrated and confused.

To my dismay, I learned that the image in my head, much resembling Glee’s own Warblers, was totally, totally wrong. I knew snappy blazers and posh  surroundings were a big forget it, but I was stuck wearing a tie everyday. With no care what I ever looked like male, I wore the same black one all four years, along with the soup stain sustained in the early part of my freshman year. It was split pea, and that’s one of the one’s you actually have to wash to get out. In addition, there was the ubiquitous bully, one guaranteed at every bus stop, who wanted to fight me for no reason I could gather. I refused every time, so he finally punched me in the chest one day and knocked my wind out. When that didn’t do it, he finally gave up or I had discovered I could easily walk the 2.5 miles home. I can’t remember which. I also found that locker room shenanigans were standardized throughout the country and this was no different. I pulled my usual schtick of wearing shorts under my pants and avoided the showers at all cost. You could not have paid me enough to wear a jock strap. Ew!

On the super bright side, I found a relatively large community of boys who were probably sent there for their own protection. This was brilliant and we glommed on together quickly. I brought to the table an appreciable level of quirkiness as well as size and strength well above that of the average geek. I loved my geek friends because they didn’t ask too many questions, most of them didn’t have girlfriends, and we could all relate to being otherized. I helped found and lead the Wargames club in spite of my absolute loathing for Dungeons’ and Dragons.  We discovered as a bonus that without girls around to try to impress, the rougher jock crowd could not be bothered labeling us and did not feel obligated to make big shows of force. In any case, we had a deterrent in my friend Paul who using a nonsensically effective formula could break into any locker and demonstrated whenever displeased.

All things considered, it was a true sanctuary, protecting me from much of what made me uncomfortable about my surroundings and myself. Without girls around for me to focus on with a weird mixture of interest and envy, I was able to focus on my game and graduate as what I thought was a man, dammit.  My 25 year reunion is in 2015. Should be interesting…

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