Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Childhood memories of gender dysphoria

While waiting for webmail server to come back up, I uploaded some of my childhood photos to my facebook. One of my friends thought my cousin's kid was me when I was a baby. So while waiting for the agency email server to come back up - I forgot how often it does go down - I got some of my old photos that I had to borrow from my mother years ago and scanned and uploaded them. 

They were mostly my pictures dating from one and a half to five years old. The age when kids learn of sex differences between people, when they obtain self-identification as a boy or as a girl. Which got me thinking, looking and thinking. The first ever time I really thought about my own sex was the day I got my period. Before that I must've somehow assumed that I was a boy. Looking at these pictures I know I looked like a boy, listening to my parents' tales of my childhood, I know I behaved like a boy, a rowdy, wilful boy who always played rough with boys, was accepted as a playmate by boys, but never by girls, not that I tried to play with girls. 

Then suddenly at the age of 10, I went into a deep depression. There were no child psychologists then, I was never diagnosed, but looks like it was a deep depression from the height of what I know now. I remember that it was an early November night when I got the first blood. It wasn't even me who noticed the blood. It was my mother. She took me to the bathroom and said that I had my period. That it was normal, that every month I would now have bloods. I remember standing numbly while she helped me change. That winter I had a number of serious colds, even one food poisoning, which, combied, had me hospitalised twice that winter. Everything was accompanied by this dazed feeling "What is going on?!", "What does it mean?! I AM A GIRL?!?!". 

From that winter on, I stopped playing with my playmates, boys on the block because I was uncomfortable in my own skin, as things were growing all over my chest, plus the bloods. At the age of 12 and a half, I went further into emotional isolation following my suicide attempt. Now among my former playmates and schoolmates I was known as "the one who tried to kill oneself", the stigma that went with it "Ooooh, that one's crazy!" No one really asked why I did what I did. Not even parents. They pretended I didn't do anything. That everything was fine. So it continued: my bewilderment at my own body, increasingly more alien, my increasingly acute awareness of the fact that physically I was a girl, although I never thought myself as one, and I never wanted to be one. When you're aware of the differences between how you look and how you feel, you are not only confused, but you're scared because all you see around you are certain gender-normative behaviours that you never had possessed, never exhibited, which was fine, but when you realise that there is a big gap between what's usual and what's not and that somehow you are not, you start to feel scared. So when I became aware of these matters of who I was, who I discovered myself to be, and the shock that went with it, and other things that I wasn't yet fully articulating to myself, I began trying to be LIKE A GIRL. I grew my hair out from the age of 13 and kept it at below the shoulder level till I was 16. 

But everything was so wrong. The traits you see around you in people you are supposed to identify with, you try them on like clothes. They never fit. I went further into my wordless depression and somehow knew that I was different, especially when the sexual puberty hit. I was actually falling for girls. As if my mind kept telling me that I was a boy. But then I knew that I was a girl now, why couldn't I be like other girls and like boys?! Why, even if I did like a boy, it was always the one and only effeminate one that you can ever dig up?! Why, only when I thought of girls, I felt things physically?! Why did I keep drawing myself as the boy?! I not only hated my body, but also the fact that I was attracted to girls, and some girly boys. And it went on till I found myself in the LGBT group of kids in college outside Mongolia. They were kind to me. They befriended me. But they moulded me into a lesbian. While I was never a lesbian. I don't think I ever even tried to artculate all these feelings to them. But I was a lesbian from that point on. A butch lesbian. And I was supposedly fine with it. Not really. Had I found myself in a different context, I would've already finished my transition. A long, long time ago. 

So yeah, these pictures of my childhood taken during the formative years of sex differentiation and sexual identity formation, I looked and behaved exactly like a boy. And these were happy years because I hadn't yet discovered that which would send me into a deep, background-noise type depression for years.

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