As much as one can know anything, I know I'm female. I asserted that gender-identity at every turn. I told my parents, playmates and teachers that I am a girl. They disagreed -- and pushed back hard. Given society's failure to grasp trangenderism at the time, my protests had no chance. I was forced to be a boy, present as male, and live a life that wasn't authentic. The experience didn't alter my self-image; it merely caused me to distrust society. If a group doesn't recognize you for who you are, you play along but develop psychological distance from the group's tenets.
When I was a young man thirty years ago, I aspired to a career in law. The profession encouraged me to groom and clothe myself in a particular way. The legal system rewards conformity and punishes deviance from expected norms. I conformed and obtained benefits from a successful legal career.
Twenty years ago I tired of the company of lawyers. Boring conversations with people wedded to Procrustean views left me cold. My relationships with colleagues felt empty and unsatisfying. Propelled by dissatisfaction, I looked outside that circle and found new friends in an activity that offered me another identity -- I became a biker. This new identity supplemented and didn't replace my prime social identification as a lawyer.
Seen by others as a mid-life crisis, I dove into motorcycling for its intrinsic joys. Speed! Physical thrills! But as exciting was the opportunity to socialize with a wider circle. I met riders who are car-mechanics, cable-workers, cops and criminals. When meeting other motorcyclists I learned to downplay my work as a lawyer because that identity often stokes embers of class-hostility; instead, I offer myself as simply another rider and our mutual passion opens the door to friendship. Once I become friends with people, they don't mind that I am a lawyer; they accept it as a facet of someone they trust.
Finally, a decade ago, I revived my long-abandoned effort to be seen as female. I candidly revealed my true nature to friends and strangers. I adopted a female name. I posted pictures of myself online presenting as female. I blog about my life and soul.
Some friends now accept me as female; some cannot. New acquaintances find it easier to view me as I am; older ones struggle to reconcile the new identity with the old. I discovered that young people are also more open to gender-fluidity; older ones cling to the binary understanding they were taught.
I am still the same person I always was, but how I am viewed by others has evolved over time. Valuable lessons can be learned from why people do and don't accept the reality of other people's existence. What those experiences taught me are, first, we exist separate from limited understandings of others; second, conformity and deviance carry rewards and punishments; third, nobody has authority to overrule our own perception of ourselves; and, finally, the path to genuine relationships is embracing, explaining and seeking acceptance for who we truly are. It took me five decades to learn these lessons. Their truth is enlightening.