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...