When I was seven I stopped participating in class, stopped doing homework. Stopped talking to people at home. This was the height of my years of selective mutism.
I finally believed what my parents were telling me. That I could never, ever be a girl. And so, in my childlike mind, I instead wanted to not exist. I didn’t understand death or dying. I didn’t know what it meant. But I wanted, from the depth of my soul, to no longer continue to be.
Most of my attempts to correct that feeling, to find meaning, just made things worse and worse.
Now I know what I need, I know that I can be, have always been, a girl.
But in my moments of dysphoria, when I am called ‘he’ and ‘sir’ – I don’t get offended. I simply fall back into the decades old habit of trying to disappear. To pretending, to wishing for, my own non-existence.
My parents saw all of this, but even as I pushed them away, as I pushed literally everyone away, all they could think to do was punish me for it. And so the more distant I became with them the more distant they became with me. To the point where I would ask over and over if I was adopted. What my real parents were like. Because I felt like I was living with strangers. Before I was even out of elementary school.
Once in a while I would work up the courage to tell them that I am a girl. They told me not to ‘lie’ to them. They gave me an unending list of chores to break me, ‘if you’re a girl you have to do my laundry, and do all the dishes, and clean the bathroom, and mop and sweep,’ until my head was spinning and all I wanted was to collapse into my bed and sleep.
They did worry, after years passed and I became more an more isolated from everyone. My mother tried to force me to ‘socialise’… rather than taking five minutes to talk to me, perhaps too scared about what I would say… she forced me into ‘activities’. But they were boys-only activities. And it made things worse, it made me hate basketball and then baseball, and then pretty much everything else. Sad events where I tried to keep to myself but that always ended up surrounded by boys, yelling at me for not trying. For not caring. For just wanting to go home and hide under my blankets.
Because I didn’t want to get to know boys. Boys were weird and mean and smelly and were frowning all the time. Like most girls my age I had no interest in getting to know them, and likewise other girls had no interest in getting to know me.
So I did everything I could to hide from everyone when I could. During breaks from school, I tried corners, I tried under the playground equipment, I tried the swings. I soon discovered that if I stayed in one place it made me a target. A sitting duck. So I took to walking around the playground alone, trying to never be still. To never let them predict where I would be.
A lot of days I came home with bruises from being thrown to the ground. Swollen bite marks from the boys anger. More days I came home hurting from the things that were said to the lonely kid too good to talk to anyone. From the teachers sometimes as much as from the children.
My place became the Quiet one. The kid who follows the smallest of rules but who never talks to anyone. Sometimes daycares were hell, with forced activities that put me with the kids who tormented me. Not always even by being mean – all it took was for them to treat me like a boy and I was soon convinced that everyone hated me. With boys harassing me, with girls avoiding me. I was the pariah and I couldn’t understand any of it. Couldn’t process why I was treated that way. Even when no one was even trying to hurt me.
For years I thought I was developing an interest in girls. Until my transition I was convinced that I was madly attracted to them. But I was underestimating my need for friends, for community. All the repressed years of being avoided, of being feared and shunned by other women, came to a head and I thought the mad joy I felt when I was dating was love and lust and need.
But it was simply the ecstasy I felt in finally having another girl to spend time with. In having a friend.
My relationships with women always started off strong, spending time together, getting to know one another. But they always dissolved when they started trying to push me into a Boyfriend role. Excluding me as ‘the boy’. Pushing me away. Only one of the girls I ever dated never did that, continuing to be my friend until the very end – but otherwise my failed attempts at dating always ended after a few months. After I realized that I wasn’t really their friend. And the ‘attraction’ then wore off and I started seeking new partners. For a few more of those few getting-to-know you weeks where I could finally feel what it was to be liked, to be a part of a community of more than one.
In order to date, in order to experience those few precious weeks or months, I learned what it was to act like a guy. At first I was known as a ‘poser’, obviously pretending to be something that I was not. But then what else was I to do, when acting like myself resulted in nothing more than countless hours sitting alone in my room, in the basement. Avoiding the gaze of the parents who had nothing to say to me. Who only ever spoke a word to me to punish, to tell me how I was failing.
And, after a decade, I became good at it. I became better at it than the actual boys. Known at various points to be hot and charming and sexy. It was still an act, but it wasn’t one that people could see through any longer. I had mastered it, though on a very real level I had no idea what was behind the behaviors that I was imitating. Why boys did the things that I was doing. I only knew that this was what boys were supposed to do, and I practiced until I was very, very good at the imitation. With a few slip ups here and there, bound to happen just for the shear lack of understanding of the subtleties, the meaning, behind why these things were done.
But after some years of it, by my late twenties, it had become abundantly clear that I was never going to find someone I could be happy with. What I was looking for in a ‘relationship’ always, almost without fail, wore off after the first few weeks. Never to be seen again. And, like in my childhood, I started walling myself off once again. Collapsing further and further into my own, separate world. This time with video games instead of just books and tv. This time with real people online to speak with in my own chosen isolation.
And I rediscovered something about myself that I thought was amazing. As long as the people online thought I was a girl, I could talk to them and it would make me happy. The way they spoke to me, the way they interacted with me, it was the most profound ecstasy I ever experienced. Not in being attractive, for I admitted that I was not, but simply in being known as female. At being related to as a woman.
It was that feeling online, the profound joy of Catfishing, that I soon became addicted to. I felt fear at the thought of being deployed, not desire. As the pain of being away from my friends soon began to outweigh the desire for a glorious end in combat – In a guiltless, winsome end that would finally free me from the pain of existence.
For the first time in my entire life since the second grade, I found that I truly, honestly wanted to live. Even if for no reason greater than to pretend to be female on-line. To have friends that could see me and interact with me this way, a way that I had never really experienced. I had never before known.
But there was a pain that was getting in my way. The pain that came with the fact that, the closer I became to people in that digital world, the more I loved and cared for them, the more guilt I felt for lying to them. And so I would stop. For months at a time. Simply to spare them from my lies. My deceit.
I wonder if, when I started this transition, it was less to be known as a girl than it was to simply to stop lying to my friends online. If all I really wanted was to be able to say ‘I’m a girl’ and know in my heart of hearts, that I was telling them the truth.