I was born dead,
and yet here I breathe...
(James Brown, entertainer)
In my earliest memory, I am three years old. Told by everyone that I am a boy, I say no. I ask people to see me as a girl. I'm instructed that's wrong. I plead repeatedly to be viewed as female and nobody accepts that. Those experiences are repeated for the next ten years. Eventually I realize I'm condemned to a life sentence of life as a man. With no hope of parole.
Creating a male identity wasn't natural for me; it conflicted with my basic instincts. I'm gentle, sensitive, empathetic and nurturing. Teachers reported to my parents that I don't act like a boy. My parents disciplined me, repeatedly, with escalating punishments for inappropriate gender-behavior.
Taught I had no choice, I did what I had to do. Through conscious study, I learned how to walk, talk and act like a boy. I consciously suppressed my instincts toward femininity. Pushed into sports by my parents, I learned how to be strong, how to be aggressive and how to win battles over other boys.
Those of us who want to survive do what we must. Society never allowed me to be my true self. From earliest childhood, my parents closely monitored and strictly enforced cultural rules on gender.
For the next fifty years, I lived my life. As a man. In the company of men. Engaging in sports, professional work and other masculine activities. I found that life unfulfilling; it does not feed my natural desires for emotional connection and creative expression. Nor is it authentic -- my masculine identity is a Potemkin village.
Historically, I always engaged in private dress-up. When I was five years old, locked alone in a bathroom, I turned a bath towel into an imaginary skirt. When I was ten, I kept a secret pair of pantyhose hidden in an empty coffee can buried in our backyard. During my adulthood, I always kept a stash of raggy female clothes to touch and fuel my imagination.
Today, things have changed to a degree I never imagined possible. As wonderful as the opportunity to wear pretty clothes is, even better is receiving feedback on my efforts. Your kind, compassionate comments encourage me, teach me and offer me hope. For the first time, I feel a soupcon of respect for a female identity. When you refer to me by a female name and with female pronouns (e.g., she; her), the sight of those words pounds my heart with profound power. It incites a belief that the impossible may, to some extent, become possible. After a half-century of despair and loneliness, I can't adequately describe the potency of that.
I tell you this story to convey some wisdom I've acquired. Distilled to its essence, the wisdom is this: (1) Be true to yourself; and (2) Never give up hope. If you live long enough, you may achieve your dreams. Or at least get close enough to smell their sweet aroma. Time vanquishes most enemies.
I was born dead, and yet here I breathe...
Oh WOW!!!!! This is an amazing peep inside your head dear Ally!!! I am always so happy that you share yourself here with us girls. I a deeply saddened by how your parents treated you as a child however I guess they did the best at that time.ReplyDelete
I love this photo of you ... You look so happy ... And knowing what the rest of this outfit looks like I know that you look super hot in it as well!!!
I am honoured to share this journey with you!
Your friendship and support have been invaluable, Lynn. Thank you.Delete
You held on to your dream, kept your good humor and brought to fruition what was inside you. I find that very inspiring :)ReplyDelete
Beautiful. I honestly became teary-eyes reading this. I am so happy for you, after all you have been through, and how positive and wonderful a person you still are despite all the negativity you've experienced in life.ReplyDelete
It's stories like these that make me truly grateful for my family and friends, who always support me, even knowing I'm strange -my abnormality being a tendency towards hermitude. Especially as the pressure of society only increases as I age, pressure to date, find a partner, start a family -none of which are a part of my identity or who I will ever be (despite the often uttered 'it's just a phase' and 'you only have to meet the right person'). And I know it doesn't remotely compare to the hardships of transgender persons, but it's painful to have the world doubt your ability to know your own identity, even having felt a certain way as long as you can remember.
I'm glad you've found the friends and support you deserve!
I acknowledge and respect your struggle, Aimee. Social pressure to conform to a standard for adulthood is just as strong as the forces I felt. So resisting it -- as you should, since that model doesn't work for you -- is hard, noble work. You are a wonderful individual. Hang on to who you are.Delete
Your story has touched my heart, Ally! You are a sensitive person and deserve that your wishes became real... keep on dreaming!ReplyDelete
Happy to be among your followers...
Thank you, pal.Delete
Thanks for the uplifting inspiration. I needed that one. Moving post, my friend. :) xReplyDelete
Oh Ally - if you were my daughter I would have nurtured your soul, let you be you and love you for all of it. Parents forget the gift that a child is and I am hoping that we are more enlightened today than when you were young. I can only imagine the struggles you have been through and how your parents and their peers made you feel , and that truly is a crime. I meet people from all walks of life and the only thing that matters to me is that they are respectful and good decent humans. gender or gender preference matters not a whip. Be you! Love yourself and wear the prettiest frocks that make your heart sing and be true to yourself.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Dar. My parents' generation believed that their children were a reflection of them; the focus was not on the welfare of the kids themselves. My parents, who were immigrants, wanted desperately to be accepted in society as normal, so shaping their boys into that was more important than our personal wishes.Delete
You are such a beautiful and inspiring person. Thank you so much for sharing this story and the struggles you have overcome. I am so incredibly happy for you that you have been able to start being you, who you really are, and sharing it with all of us. We are so honored to call you a friend. xoxoxo.ReplyDelete
And you are equally lovely. I'm lucky to be your friend.Delete
You are a beautiful lady!xReplyDelete
You are gorgeous, both inside and out. You are courageous, and an inspiration. I wish you the joy of continuing to become more of who you are meant to be.ReplyDelete
Thank you, buddy.Delete
What an inspiring, heartfelt post, Ally ! You are a sensitive person, and have a way with words. I am glad you can express yourself and that the blog is helpful in smelling that aroma you talked about. Most of people do not have the courage of even try to be their own self. The empowering sensation of finding our inner voice and our real self is something we should all experience in life. Thank you for sharing this. I am so glad to know you, even if only virtually, at least for now, you know never know ;). I do not feel more woman compared to you, not at all my friend <3 Oh, and sorry when my english is not too good, hope I make sense !. I wish you smiles, laughters and beautiful dresses and shoes ! KissesReplyDelete
Fashion and Cookies
Nice words, Vale. Thank you for them.Delete
I'm so glad you are getting to be you. Things were very different in the past and I really believe that it's gotten so much better <3 <3ReplyDelete
What a powerful post.ReplyDelete
I have to say that I didn't understand the full extent of how one must suffer through living a "false" life until I saw Transparent. It was a big lightbulb moment for me, understanding you and just how difficult your life must be. When I met you I got a fuller sense of that.
I'm so happy that blogging is making things a bit easier for you and giving you an opportunity to be your authentic self...which is a beautiful, generous, shy, sensitive woman.
Hugs back. You're being a good friend.Delete
Wow what a fabulous post and I love what you share. You are also an amazing writer. Ever consider writing a book about your experiences? That would be amazing! Thanks again for such generous sharing!!ReplyDelete
You are so inspirational, Ally! I wonder...in Vancouver...will you dress as you, Ally, for a dinner? Would that feel too weird for you? Vancouver is a very small-L liberal city; we are very chill about that sort of thing on the west coast. But of course no pressure! I would love to help you shop for your real self, regardless! :)ReplyDelete
Thank you for encouraging me, Sheila. I'm always eager to present as female in private settings, such as a friend's house. I'm much more anxious about going out in public that way, especially in a foreign country where I don't know what the laws and customs are. As much as I want to be myself, I also don't want to cause a disturbance or be arrested.Delete
That's totally cool, I understand. I think you will like the laid-back vibe we have out here. The Gay Pride parade will be that weekend, so there should be some rockin' fun fashion going on! Canada's just like the US, only no one carries guns, lol.Delete
You rock Ally! Be who you are! Shout it out loud and louder for every year that you weren't able to!ReplyDelete
Thanks, buddy. I'm trying. :-)Delete
What absolutely striking words, they really make you stop and think. I am happy for the freedom you must feel now!!ReplyDelete
This is so beautiful, and brought tears to my eyes. I'm sorry for all you have gone through, but it has obviously helped form you into the inspiring, courageous woman you are today. It makes me happy to know you are getting to share your true self with all of us - it's such a beautiful self!ReplyDelete
How kind of you, Lana. Thanks.Delete
It was harsher times, being brought up in the 50's ... it was important for our parents, as you say, to present an image of a perfect family to the world. I don't miss those days much myself. ❤ReplyDelete
This was beautifully written. Have you ever considered writing a memoir? I think that your story is interesting, and so many people out there could really relate.ReplyDelete
This is a beautiful honest post and I can feel every word pouring out from your soul. I am so glad you came to visit my page which led me here. Our parents' generation was not as open and as accepting as ours today. When today some still think certain subjects are taboo, many embrace them with open heart, mind and arms. You have finally arrived and I can only imagine how liberating the feeling must be.. sending a hug your way!ReplyDelete
I'm glad that you are feeling more like the person you really are. I hope you get the place where you feel content with your inside and out!ReplyDelete
Me, too. Thanks, friend.Delete
Ally, you are so beautiful, inside and out. This brought tears to my eyes, so beautitfully written and so raw and powerful. I wish only wonderful things for you and am sure you deserve them. You bring hope to many of us who although we are safe in our gender identities, still find ourselves on a journey of some kind towards letting our true selves shine. I was born knowing who I was and then I lost myself, slowly, gradually, in a marriage that looked fine from the outside but was rotten at the core. I am recovering well but it is still a journey. For twenty five years I was taught that I was flawed, not good enough, that I needed to apologise for who I am. I think your experience was more deeply wounding than mine but I also think that on some level I can relate to you because of mine. Someone who was supposed to love me could not actually accept me as I truly was and worked hard to change me. Sending you hugs, Ally. I am excited at the possibility of meeting you this summer if you come to Vancouver. xoxoReplyDelete
We all have wounds, we all have struggles. I don't compare mine to other people's. You have my sympathy for your marital difficulties and their effect on your psyche. See you in Vancouver.Delete
You're amazing! I agree; always true to your self :) xxReplyDelete
Oh dear! Reading your story (and knowing some parts already) I am so happy to see how you bloom with your true self Ally. I imagine how Ally was sad having only minutes for being herself. I am so happy for you.ReplyDelete
Ally, you are such a beautiful person, inside and out. Your post brought a tear to my eye and it makes me so happy to know that you find fulfillment, compassion and understanding here on the blog. You will always be a lovely lady to me :)ReplyDelete
This is a beautiful story...from a beautiful person: youReplyDelete
What really stood out to me about your story was this quote: "Teachers reported to my parents that I don't act like a boy."
How awful! Teachers can be so judgmental.
After reading this, I am inspired to share my own story. But I'm always so hesitant because I feel insecure about my struggles. That's why I admire bloggers like you, Ally. You put yourself out there and show us why it's okay to be who we truly are. Thank you <3
I hope you summon the courage to tell your own story, Azu. We all deserve respect and compassion.Delete
Ally, this is so well-written and powerful! I feel very fortunate to get to read about your experiences and perspective. I know this is a very personal thing, but would you consider writing a piece for The Toast? They pay, and have an ongoing call for work by trans writers (whether the work is about being trans or something else altogether). I think the editors there would be very interested in your writing!ReplyDelete
Either way, thanks for writing, and I hope that it is as beneficial for you to write as it is for everyone to read.
Thanks for the lead. I'll look into it.Delete
What stands out from your post for me is the compassion you show the people who could not/would not recognize your true self. I'm sure you suffered greatly, but you didn't let it harden you or make it bitter. I think you took those tribulations and drew on them to become a person who accepts and encourages others.ReplyDelete
Speaking of teachers ... one of my colleagues had a student who was biologically female but wanted to be seen as male. It always puzzled me that my colleague would say that this child is very nurturing and categorized this as a feminine trait. I have never thought of nurturing as an exclusively female trait. It makes me a little sad that some folks think that nurturing is displayed by only half of the population! The world needs more sensitive, caring people, not less.
Urgh ... I meant "make you bitter" in the first paragraph. I don't know why I always reread my post _after_ I hit the publish button!Delete
I agree (about sensitivity and nurturing). I also moan when I find mistakes in my comments.Delete
You are a brave and beautiful soul, and we are richer with you here, breathing in and out, and sharing!ReplyDelete
Those photos are so bittersweet...
interesting that gentle, sensitive, empathetic and nurturing is only seen as female character signs.... i would´t be with my man if he were aggressive instead. and i would´t be me if i were not strong and had no interest in technic and adventures.
i´m all for a less restrictive society in which EVERYONE can live how he/she feels - as long as they hurt nobody of cause.
and you are one who helps changing - thank you for this!
I agree with you. Everyone should be nice.Delete
Ally, this post brought tears to my eyes. It's so raw, so moving, and such an immense testimony to how you've been able to gradually come closer and closer to creating the identity and life that you've always wanted for yourself. I am as proud as proud could ever be for you, my friend, and know that your story will inspire and touch countless lives (not just with this beautiful post, but in all that you do).ReplyDelete
I love your words of wisdom, your beautiful spirit, your ability to forgive, your positivity, and most of all the fact that you're finding greater happiness and fulfillment as you spend time closer to your true self. xo, AllyReplyDelete
Getting to know you and understand your story has changed my life. I've always been more open and accepting of alternative lifestyles than my peers because one of my best friends in high school was gay. Getting to know him and the challenges he faced, and traveling among a gay crowd at times, was very enlightening. But I never really understood transgender until I met you. Your openness and honesty is impressive. I'm honored to be able to share your journey a bit, and I can't help but imagine how many other lives you have touched. Keep up the good work!ReplyDelete
I think we're all a product of the times we live in and I'm so grateful to live in more liberal times. I was born in the fifties and it seems such a 'confined' era - after a world war and before the 'swinging' sixties! http://review31.co.uk/article/view/189/this-is-what-i%E2%80%99m-capable-of-when-i-let-myself-goReplyDelete
I'm so sorry you've had to keep so much of yourself hidden Ally - but it is such a privilege to see/read about your blooming. Thank you for choosing to share - it is so great to see you claim your time. Bless you, darling xx
Your compassion and forgiveness toward your parents is a true testament to the kind of person you are. I know it wasn't always easy. But still. To have been stifled for so long and forced to conform...I don't know that I'd have been so forgiving.ReplyDelete
The coffee can again. Really?! You know what that story does to my heart!!! But, in all seriousness, it's important for people to know how children can have that knowledge inside them at such a very young age.
You've blossomed so much so fast...I hope you take a step back sometimes and fully acknowledge how far you've come in your journey and how far you're still going. The others are right when they say it's an honor and a privilege to have a glimpse into such a wonderful and beautiful thing.
NOTHING is impossible.
Thank you, dear. I always think of you now when I tell the coffee can story. I repeat the tale because it perfectly expresses how I was forced to act in secret despite being so young and undeveloped. That's a fact most people probably don't grasp about me and my life.Delete
Ally this was such an honest, heartfelt post you brought tears to my eyes.ReplyDelete
Its incredible how you hold no grudges (and perfectly could) and have little by little achieved your dreams. I bet that 10 years ago you would have never imagined this. This makes me smile, what could I be doing in 10 years :)