I guess that I was not as “aware” as most at an early age. I answered “6-10”, but that was when I first started to realize that I thought, and acted, differently than I was “supposed to”. I always had an affinity for my mother. The way she carried herself. The soft spoken, yet straightforward, character that she was. I would sit and watch her put on her makeup every day, and we would chat. I would get up at 5am (what kid gets up that early without a cattleprod?!) when she was getting ready for work and I would join her at the kitchen table to drink coffee and watch the sun rise. She would chuckle and pour me a cup. It felt so right to emulate her, and not my father. I did not see a difference between us…I didn’t think in terms of male/female…and I wanted to learn from her. To be like her. I was a kid trying to be an adult, and she was my role model.
From my parent’s eyes, that was just a kid trying to act all grown up. The lipstick incident at 5 may have been the first telltale. The stocking incident at 5? 6? was probably the second sign. (Why did I just imagine hearing a man with a country accent say, “There’s yer sign!”?) There were tea parties with my sisters which I absolutely loved btw. Playing house with them I always got shafted into being “Dad” or “Husband” which irritated me to no end. How come I couldn’t play the “Mom”, or the “Wife”? More signs. Still no idea that I was “weird”. My sisters were just unfair, lol. Mom would gently coax me (sometimes with the useful end of a broom) to go outside and play with the boys from across the street. I didn’t want to. They wanted to box which basically meant hurting me and I spent all day with a headache. Or they wanted to play football which meant hurting me and I spent all day with a headache and sore ribs. Or they wanted to play BB gun wars which meant we all went home hurting….lol cuz I was always a crack shot! But I didn’t have any desire to do the things that the boys did. I did enjoy what the girls were in to. So I would always stray back into their world.
Until my father saw. I won’t get into detail about exactly HOW my father explained that my actions had embarrassed him and revolted him but I knew THEN that I was wrong/broken/weird/unwanted/freakish. I still didn’t KNOW that I wanted/needed to BE a girl, a woman, feminine. Just that I didn’t want to be like him or the boys and that I wanted to be like the girls and Mom.
The “Barbie” doll incident was fun. Aunt buys big brother a Barbie camper with “Ken” doll for Christmas, and bought me same Barbie camper with…yep…”Barbie”. (Think maybe Auntie saw the true me?) I LOVED IT! Gawd I thought she was so pretty. She had big blue eyes like mine! Then Dad walked in….BLAM! BOOM!! KeRpOW!!!! “What the (expletive) are you doing with that (expletive) doll?! No (expletive) son of mine is gonna be no (expletive)(expletive)(expletive)!!There were many incidents where my actions brought the wrath of masculinity down upon my head and I began to learn how to camouflage myself in the “mask” of masculinity. I became exceedingly good at hiding her inside. I fought a lot as I grew up…not out of bullying or anger…but out of defense. “Don’t back down, don’t let them see your weakness.” I got good at fighting. I got a reputation as being “tough”, which to me translated into “omg it worked and they don’t realize you’re not like them.” Fake it till you make it, right? Wrong.
Long story short, this went on. I joined the military and got really good at hiding in plain sight. I did my job with empathy and a nurturing methodology that earned me scorn from many other male leaders, but with results that they couldn’t deny. SHE was there every step of the way but acting from the shadows. After 25 years I retired, I had never married, and all of a sudden with nobody around to “prove” myself to…I let her out (or she broke out?). It was THEN that I started to look at everything and realized that I have always been her. That I wasn’t broken/weird/whateverignorantscalledme. I was just me. Feminine, girly, sissy, emotional, sympathetic, empathetic, and fun loving, me. The signs were always here and there, but truly the realization came at 50. The mask is off and it’s never going back on.
I apologize…I’m still so (expletive) emotional and this was just supposed to be a quick note to participate but somehow I told my life story. There is so much more but I think that I went a bit off the deep end already. I so wish I had had the level of insight that some of you have indicated at such early ages. I was oblivious to gender, or sex, until I was a teen. There are many events mentioned in this post that echo, resonate, with me though. Thank you all so very much for opening your hearts and sharing with such courage. It bolsters me to be sure. (As evidenced by this verbose note lol!)
Much love and admiration,