10 moments that really should have been clues

I keep forgetting that I’m on the fairly young end of the coming out age range for trans guys. You hear all about these six and seven year old little children starting to transition socially with their parents’ approval and tend to forget that the average age for FtMs is closer to mid to late 20s. At the same time, I feel like there were times I should have known. If nothing else, I should have figured out that I was different from all of my budding gay boy friends. Moments like…

When I showed up to the first day of ballet in a danseur uniform instead of the pink leotard and white tights required of girls. I was four. Classes were entirely co-ed at that age and I flat out refused the leotard. After, honest to god, six days of fighting I ended up with a white t-shirt, black (boys) tights, and black ballet slippers. My mother was not pleased.

She was even less pleased when, for the next eight years, I only performed in male roles. I quit after that because all classes went to single sex and the studio refused to let me be with the boys. It probably would have been a bigger deal, but by that point we already knew I was never going to be tall enough to be a dancer.

This was also a year or so after the school found out that I’d been going to class as a boy since I’d transferred over. I had a gender neutral nickname and incredibly uncommon legal name so everyone just went with what I told them. Once again, my mother was not pleased.

I’d imagine she wouldn’t have approved of my continuing to let my friends think of me as a boy after I transferred districts (“for my own good”). Sucks for her. I had a hard enough time making friends as a kid (I was kind of weird), I wasn’t about to lose the ones I had.

Which is probably part of why I started going to groups for gay teens when most of them started coming out. A few of the groups were co-ed, but most were specific to young gay boys and for some reason it didn’t occur to me that having a vagina meant I was considered a straight girl.

To be fair, none of my friends seemed to notice either. At our first Pride I (and everyone else) went in full on glitter drag and no one thought to point out that if I was a girl it wasn’t drag. It was awesome, but Pride is really not an event you want to wear spike heels to.

This was during the years that all of my boyfriends were openly gay. Some from the youth groups I went to, but oddly enough, most from school where I was considered a tomboy. It never occurred to me to come out to the guys who didn’t know me as a girl (something I now realise was at least a little dangerous) because for some reason I hadn’t put that whole vagina = girl thing together yet. Actually, I can’t be sure the ones I’m still friends with now even know I’m trans.

I moved then, which sucked like you wouldn’t believe. I dated a few guys before going into my (very short lived) girly phase, but they all left me for guys. That was probably when I first realised most of the world thought I was a girl. I was in my late teens.

After that I had my girly phase because, well, I was a horny teenager and desperate to get laid. Unfortunately, I hated being considered a girlfriend. Dated, fooled around, had sex, hated every second of it. The sex didn’t suck, but the dynamics drove me insane. I don’t know if it’s because I’d dated only gay guys before or what, but everything from the communication styles to the sexual aspects made me want to crawl into a hole and die.

My depression was at its absolute worst during this time and the only thing that kept me distracted when I was suicidal was putting on a tight sports bra and stuffing a sock in my pants. Honestly, you’d think at this point I would’ve figured it out. I didn’t have words for what was going on though, trans guys were still a new concept to me and the only ones I’d ever heard of were straight. It wasn’t until I found a gay trans guy’s blog that I realised you could like guys and be trans.

Lucky for me, that revelation came before I got any more depressed. if it had been much longer I’m not sure I would have survived. Still, there are times when I wonder if things would have been different if I’d realised sooner. More likely than not my parents would have just sent me to someone like Zucker or tried to have me lobotomised. It’s kind of interesting to think about though.

26 Replies to “10 moments that really should have been clues”

  1. Ok, fun lists 🙂

    I should have known because…

    … when my mother took me to the barber at age 8 or 9, I had a fit because they didn’t get me a male haircut. I’m not talking about short hair, I had a very clear idea of a conservative male haircut, and they didn’t do it. So I started freaking out. I think I was there for over 3 hours, long after closing time, with people standing around me, trying to find a compromise. Variantions of that happened several times during my childhood. The first time I demanded a male haircut and at least got short hair was when I was 3 or 4.

    … because from age 10 to 15, every time I looked in the mirror and imagined how I would look like as an adult, I wanted a receding hairline, big feet, and a big nose and chin… but it never occured to me that this meant I wanted a male body. I just thought I had very original taste.
    I didn’t know that ftm transsexuals existed. I did know though it was somehow not ok to really want to be a boy, while *behaving* like a boy was tolerated. So I think I suppressed that impulse.

    … because my first serious boyfriend wore make up and girl’s lingery. He took me to see a film with a woman who passed as a gay man, saying: “I think this might interest you.” I didn’t know what he meant *lol*

    • Hahaha, I’d have loved to see that film. No one ever bothered to tell me, not even friends whose reaction when I came out was “yeah…duh”. I’m sat there going “why didn’t you say anything?!” and their only response was that they thought I knew. Well clearly I’d missed something!

      • Oh, I didn’t mean that people knew and I missed something. I think this guy was a total exception. But we never discussed this openly, he just made one cryptic remark and I sat through te film with intense shame. At the time I wasn’t certain what part of the film he was referring to, but was too ashamed to ask. It was long ago when nobody knew about ftm transsexuals.

  2. Moments that really should have been clues:
    For Halloween I always went as things like Firemen, pirates, Zorro, Dracula, and Toad (from Super Mario).
    I refused to wear dresses before I could even pronounce the word, I was known for yelling “I will not wear a dwess!”
    My first boyfriend was openly gay.
    When I was in 2nd or 3rd grade I started taking ballet and also refused to wear the pink leotard. I would wear the same things the boys did and danced the boys parts as well.
    I started taking Tae Kwon Do because I wanted to be a Power Ranger, specifically the White Ranger.
    I used to steal my moms eyeliner to draw myself a beard.
    When I found out that a girls period wasn’t a one time deal I seriously thought about suicide.
    I’d only play boys roles in class plays, once I got to play Lewis Braille 🙂
    I went to my friends prom wearing a Kimono… with pants under it.
    When alone in my room as a child I would sometimes stuff a sock in my underwear.

  3. Clues I should’ve gotten:
    My costumes were gender neutral as a kid [a bat, a werewolf, a surgeon]. I was never a princess or anything really stereotypically feminine. [I was a witch but I liked the hat much more than the dress.]

    I always played boys’ roles too. [And none of my stuffed animals were female.]

    In 8th grade Spanish, the girls all wanted to have names like “Margarita” and “Maria” and such. I wanted to be called “Diablo Lobo”-and no, as I told the teacher, the feminine version wouldn’t work. It had to be male.

    • …Wait, you wanted to be “Devil Wolf”? No fair, my language teachers all made us go with whatever our name was in the language we were studying.

  4. Nice to know there’s more people out there like this!

    Me, I’d expected to grow up gay since I was about 10 or 12, though I never dated women. Went to the odd LGB youth meeting (they hadn’t started including the “trans” yet), and it certainly felt far less Always thought it was bizarre when boyfriends I had wouldn’t admit to liking guys – they thought I was trying to “turn” them gay to make them leave me alone, I thought they _had_ to like guys at least a little bit…the least open minded seemed to last the shortest, the most realized he was exclusively gay and I just didn’t fit, for him. Somewhere in the middle of college I realized that I just didn’t like women that way. And then it took a while for it to sink in, the combination of female plumbing and attraction to men, and was like “WTF? I grew up straight??? How’d _that_ happen?”

    I was too busy fighting my parents because I didn’t like being told what to do to make better use of what I was given, in the forms of gender-neutral nickname and their preference for short hair, among others, as a child.

    • I actually didn’t realise any of these moments until a few months ago. I blocked out most of childhood (depression fog) so it wasn’t until I got together with friends I’ve known literally since birth that it all kind of came together.

  5. I just remembered this last night, thanks to this thread.

    In 8th grade, I took Home Economics, where you learn to sew and cook and do generally girly things. Besides mostly getting in trouble with the teacher for not paying attention (cause it was girl stuff), I vividly remember the day we made boxer shorts. The teacher explained that we could give them to someone if we didn’t want to wear them, which most of the girls in my class did. I, however, tried them on over my pants, pranced around the room and fell in love. I wore those shorts under my pants until they fell apart (it took about 3 months) and cried like a baby when they did. At the time, I had no idea why it was so upsetting or why I kept them a secret, but it makes sense now.

    • Did girls not wear boxer shorts to bed where you grew up? It was huge fad at my middle and high school, to the point where they had to specify “no underwear as outerwear” for pyjama day.

      • The girls I knew didn’t wear boxer shorts. All of the girls seemed embarrassed that we even had to make them. Also, I don’t think that fad had taken place yet. This was around the time Nirvana was really big and the eighties weren’t completely over yet.

      • We wore them here, too. I only like them for bed since they ride up (but hey, lots of people on this planet can apparently tolerate thongs, so maybe I’m just weird for being picky about that sort of stuff…), but what *else* are you supposed to wear when it’s hot out and it’s somewhere inappropriate to sleep naked? I buy silk ones with funny or obnoxious things on them for my dad for Christmas, knowing full well he’ll never wear them and I’ll get them right back!

        For my mandatory “home ec” class in high school I took “Food”. Really, that’s what it was called, though I suppose it could have been entitled “Remedial Cooking” or “How Not To Starve In College If Your Mom Couldn’t Teach You” – it was nearly all guys in the class. I guess there was other cooking classes for the girls who were actually interested in it, because the food for the little school restaurant had to come from one of the classes, and it certainly wasn’t ours! (I was making rock cakes to rival Hagrid’s)

  6. When I was fourteen I wrote a love letter to Leonard Cohen. I loved him and I assumed we would be compatible. I also firmly believed he was gay. I remember when someone told me he was not, being quite devastated. My friend laughed and said “I thought you’d be happy; if he weren’t in his sixties, you could still get married because he’s straight.” I just remember feeling crushed and bereft.

    It never EVER ocurred to me that there was something weird about all of that. Well, except anyone calling Leonard Cohen straight which I still believe is blasphemous.

    That particular phenomenon happened a lot for me. It’s like my brain just never picked up the message.

    P.S. Mr Cohen, if you’re reading this, let’s get married when you turn eighty.

    • I’m like that when I find out someone’s gay, or at least someone famous. (as opposed to finding out that it’s why someone I know isn’t at all interested in me, because of my too-female body and it’s an exclusively guys thing) “Ooooh, and he’s gay, too! Yay! Oh, wait…”

      I suppose if I ever manage to meet them, and get that close to them, maybe there’s a chance that somehow it’ll have become less of a problem, by then. (the magic booby fairy coming back to get them, going “Sorry, my mistake, they’re not yours”?)

  7. I also have some unfortunate stories about being really really young (maybe 7 or 8?) and trying to figure out how to fuck things. like tying pens and strings around my waist and trying to figure out how to stick it into other stuff.

    That’s one of those things I’m really actually quite surprised about since I am not really sure that cis guys ever go through that at that age….anyone? validate? I feel really freaky for this one! Hah!

    • I watched too much Discovery Channel – I didn’t really know the mechanics of it at that age, as in what sort of parts you needed to do it (All I knew then about penises, since this was before sex ed, was they were for peeing standing up, which I could only do outside in my swimsuit behind the big tree by the pool – I wonder now if my female friends squatted? I always assumed they stood, too, not having pants around their ankles to worry about if you’d just jumped out of the pool, makes me wonder now!), but I certainly thought that sex involved jumping on things and taking them from behind!

      Not sure when I learned that humans typically do it face to face, but I know when I was that age, I certainly never imagined myself as the one *being* taken like that!

      • Oh I had no idea about the mechanics either. I actually thought for a short time that the man peed in the woman’s belly button. I couldn’t figure out why or what the junk would be desireable about that.

        LOL at “jumping on things and taking them from behind.”

        It wasn’t until much, much much later (like early 20s) that it occurred to me that *i* could get “took” in that way from an anatomical standpoint, too.

        I’m curious about sexual development for cis gendered folks – do girls frequently take that long to figure that out? Do cis guys mount stuff at 8? I’m fascinated but afraid to google because I’m afraid I’ll get a boat load of kiddie porn. Anyone know of any good psychological/behavioural web resources?

        • You can Google “sexual development in children” and not get a ton of porn sites-that is if you have safe search turned on. 🙂

          And psychology books should have a chapter or two on it as well.

          [As a kid I never though much about sex at all.Though I always wanted to pee standing up.]

  8. I think my fav “moment” was after watching a Discovery Channel show on Transexuals and thinking, “Wow, they’re SO lucky!”

  9. Pingback: 10 Moments that really WEREN’T clues | Not Another Aiden

  10. Aged three and under I would change my outfit as many times as my parents let me and then would opt for nudity. I’ve always liled the IDEA of feminine clothing, but not the practical application of it. So uncomfortable!

    Aged 8, playing kung fu with my younger (male) cousin. I took my shirt off for the game, and it was so much fun, and then my Uncle gave me this look, like I was making him uncomfortable … I’m homestly still not over this. I felt so ashamed.

    Trying in vain to explain to my girlfriends at recess that I was different from them, and lacking the language to do so: when being a normal girly-girl failed, I attempted to be a classic tomboy and sucked at that, too. So I tried to say I liked boy things better, knowing full well that was a lie: I just liked girl things and some guy things, and did so differently than the other girls

    The only boys I crush on are either bi or gay, and when I was 13 my sister asked if I was a lesbian based on my preference for wearing my father’s XL t-shirts. (I’m bi. It took me eight more years to figure out I like girls. How the hell did she know?!)

    • I never will understand people freaking out about little girls not wearing shirts. It’s not like there’s anything to see. Little girl chests look exactly like little boy chests.

  11. I’m a bit late on this but I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who tried to pee standing up. When I was younger I didn’t really connect the genital organ situation between sexes so I just assumed that if I tried hard enough I could stand up like guys do too. It almost seems a bit weird that it took me so long to finally realize it wasn’t going to happen.
    And as for other events, I’ve never been very outspoken but I remember already being uncomfortable with my body even before I got a chest just because I’d have to wear a leotard for ballet lessons, therefore making going to the bathroom a bit awkward. Just totally forgot how awkward I felt in a girl’s body when I was little.
    And I wasn’t a girly-girl (I hated all things feminine) but I couldn’t be a tomboy, it was too much work, hence ending up reading or just talking with one guy during recess. When ballet got old for me I switched over to Irish dancing and I remember being so jealous of the guys because they were treated so differently (the dances were different, they got to wear pants in January when the girls were stuck in shorts) and I really wanted to lead, not follow, and wow, why couldn’t I wear one of the suits? But then, again, I’m not one to speak out or complain so I’m just trying to remember what I was thinking back then.
    As for relationships, I always had that feeling I was gay and I would ponder how I’d come out to my mum as gay until I’d remember, wait, I’m female, I’m technically straight, what am I going on about? Though I did still attempt to do such a thing as come out in 8th grade, in a very round about way, and that’s why it took a while to correct my brothers in that no, I’m not a lesbian, stop. And the guys I’ve always been interested are smaller and more feminine than I am.
    But the memories do serve some purpose since going through the Not Trans Enough phase. It’s like a back-up knowledge for reminding myself that this isn’t a cry for attention or trying to be different or anything but something there as far back as I remember.
    And thanks so much for this post, Not Aiden, because it actually helped me dig up a few memories, and the blog itself is great.

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