Some people may be shocked by what I write here, in this blog, but it’s better to have that happen than anyone judge me by what is written in the tabloids or on certain chat shows. Trying to explain this to people as an adult isn’t easy, so imagine how I felt as a child.
Childhood should be about absolutes, the constants in a child’s life that they can depend on. To a certain extent I had mine: The certain knowledge that my parents loved me, and I loved them. The absolute fact that my brother was a real pain in the arse but, despite this, I loved him, (and still do), and the absolute knowledge that I was a girl. It was this that shattered my childhood, not that anyone knew. I became very good at hiding it.
To look at me, you probably wouldn’t have thought that there was a titanic internal struggle going on, but there was. A conflict between what I was expected to be and what I was. I didn’t have the words to describe what I was or why I felt the way I did. I felt more at home in female company, but most of the girls rejected me. To them I was a boy. Those that didn’t became my friends but then the boys started bullying me for being ‘girly’, a poofter, queer. It seemed I didn’t fit in either side so I was in a kind of limbo, a nowhere land.
I was the girl from nowhere.
There were many times I came close to telling my parents what I was and maybe I should have done, but this was the late ’70’s and boys were meant to be boys and unfortunately I looked like one. Maybe if I had been strong enough things may have been somewhat different.
As I grew, so did my knowledge. Learning is a wonderful thing. It opens up the world, shows you new things, some good, some bad. Despite the often used saying, ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is the purveyor of fear which, in turn, is the creator of bigotry, the sibling of hatred. So, I learned. Not just at school but at home as well. I learned how televisions worked by taking them apart, how rockets worked by building them, (models of course), how chemistry worked by blowing things up, (and redecorating my bedroom in the process) and electronics, by building and experimenting. I also learned about myself. Quite by accident, aged 12, I came across the word ‘transsexual’ in a newspaper. Upon being asked, my cousin told me that it meant a man who had become a woman, (somewhat inaccurate but, hey, we were kids). This set me on a path to find out more. In my local library, (remember the WWW didn’t exist then, just the internet), I researched further, eventually coming across books such as April Ashley’s Odyssey, Conundrum by Jan Morris, Second Serve by Renee Richards. This amazed me. Not only did I have the words to describe how I felt, I also now knew I was not alone in this. There were others like me. I could become the girl I really was. Reading the books I began to realise what would happen, the sacrifices I may be required to make, the hideous bigotry I would have to face, and I became a little less certain of myself and my ability to put myself through this.
By the time I turned seventeen, my shattered childhood remained shattered and became a shattered adulthood. The optimism remained, the hope that I could overcome the crippling fear of what the world would say about me and just become that which I was. The frustration of that fear battling against the need to become my true self led me down a darker path than I could ever have anticipated.
But that’s for next time.