Growing up as a trans kid in Norway, I literally had no idea that's what it was. It just wasn't really spoken about or acknowledged, and when the issue of gender-bending ever did make it to my ears it was usually in the "strange"/comedic fashion (at the time) of men in drag. It comes as no surprise that I didn't identify with it.
My first ever experience with a form of transphobia was when I was made to feel like I had a mental illness at the tender age of 12. It's pretty soul destroying when the words they use to describe you are half-whispered. I'd had years of confusion about clothes and expectations, and "wishes" about waking up being the opposite gender. Spilling my feelings to my parents warranted an urgent appointment with a doctor and being told that "this talk will be on your records forever". I just didn't understand why it was that big a deal. As far as I was aware, people changed their looks, names and clothes all the time. What should have been a happy time of realisation and expressive freedom ended up with me feeling as if my thoughts were corrupted somehow, or that I had to play down how much it meant to me.
I was excited for a few weeks after that conversation, but I found myself quickly stomped. It was like we had to play a kind of game not to talk about it, because it was "too weird right now". It hurts to think that people just thought I was some batty little kid, and that it was just easier for THEM to keep putting me in a box I wasn't happy in. But growing up in a country where gender dysphoria issues just weren't yet acknowledged outside of mental illness is all the social silencing it needed.
Funnily enough, school proved less difficult than home life. I didn't get the expected insults flung at me; just the generic ones any high school kid experiences. In fact, I was teased a hundred times more often for knowing all the answers in class than for how I looked as a non-binary kid with a gender neutral name. It was never because there was any problem with me, it was because nobody my age even knew that gender issues were even a thing.
I moved to England when I was 18 and met some colourful characters at university. A lot of freshly transitioning women let their trans flags fly and even though I never had the courage to speak to them, I was pretty proud of them. I never met a single trans guy though -- was pretty sure they didn't exist -- so I turned to online LGBTQ resources to make friends from all corners of the community. I got largely drowned out, except for some of the older ladies and gents who were lovely to me. See, you'd think there'd be no judgement within the LGBTQ community, but it does exist, and it exists hard, and it's where I began a decline into self-loathing for the first time ever.
I'm gay, and as a gay man who was born biologically female, who still hadn't got his first chest hairs yet, I was made to feel like the least desirable kind of person in the entire world. You know, there are serial killers in prison with higher chances, apparently. It's absolutely heart-breaking to go through a phase of questioning yourself like that, even down to who you feel attracted to, just because of the expectations that were STILL passed onto queer folk in the earlier years of the modern movement (before the rest of the acronym was widely used). I was told that 'gay men want men with penises'. Sure. I have one. I just wasn't born with it. But that particular online community made me feel like a pretender, a fraud, or that I had to be butch and manly to actually BE male. Although I know that LGBTQ communities generally aren't like that, I never went back.
After that I regrettably went into hiding. I couldn't turn the clocks back and be born the way I needed to, so I pretended to be somebody else. An ideal version of myself. An unhealthy desire to be taken seriously. It's taken a long, long time to start believing I'm not a fake, and that I AM worth it. My life outside the internet in England is actually fine, believe it or not. I get misgendered and asked awkward, pointless questions sometimes, but once people know I'm a guy that's usually the end of it. People don't want to ask the important questions, like they think they're weird for asking, or that they don't want to upset me by acknowledging anything is different about me. I appreciate the respect, but I'm also not made of glass. If you're not sure if I have a dick, and if it matters that much to you anyway, it's actually not a massive deal to me to answer you that, yes, actually, I do.
But I also have an interest in space. And a need for cats. And a long-established nerd-boner for manga. And a healthy appetite for chicken nuggets. And other regular people stuff.
The most damaging things to go through as a kid growing up in the wrong box is to be silenced. As a young adult finding their identity, the most damaging thing to be told is things have to "add up" by the community closest to them. 'Be manly. Check out women. You're never gonna convince anyone otherwise'. And in romance? 'You're gay and don't have a real dick, what's the point in you?'
I hope that going forward where trans issues are now truly surfacing for the first time in my life, that people can learn a couple of things from how it's been handled in the past:
1. We are intelligent folk who are in touch with our individuality. We are not mentally ill. Fuck you.
2. We are not some awkward family embarrassment. It's an exciting time in our lives; share it with us or miss out.
3. We are not defined by sexuality. We are defined by what we ourselves say we are, and the lives we lead.
4. People come in all kinds of packaging. And if literally what kind of anatomical fun bits you'll find at the end of our urethras really matters that much to you, go hike.
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Real stories from the World - LGBTQ+Non-Fiction
This collection of stories is an attempt to share stories of how it is to live as a member of the LGBTQ+ community in different parts of the world. The first stories will post the 17th of May, the International day against homophobia and transphobia...