My name—my name was the first to go. I was staring wistfully out the window, driving to school. As I watched the trees cruise by, unchanging in their roots, I wondered about myself and my life up until then. I was discovering that I didn’t feel content with myself, especially my name. My name: the name that was always too long and culturally complex for most everyone to understand, the name that made me the butt of all the jeers and mockeries I’d experience for the rest of my life. I wanted a new name, one that was normal, one that blended in with the rest of society. A name that didn’t feel like trying to swallow a bag of dice, that clinked and crumbled down your throat and choked you into a forced moniker, a deadly gamble. I realized I wasn’t like the other girls; I didn’t like dresses, I hated the onslaught of pink and glitter. I’d rather play with the boys, but they didn’t want to play with me. I felt left out, that no one wanted me around. I was in kindergarten, and I was already wishing that I wasn’t me.
Fast forward to second or third grade. That same name was being called, over and over when my teachers took roll. And over and over, louder and louder, my name was being mocked and parroted maliciously back into my head by my peers. They cut and pasted what should have been an honorable bookmark of heritage and culture into an abomination of a pun. I begged them through tears to stop defacing my identity, to just leave me alone with what dignity I had left. They didn’t listen, and the bullying just got worse. It didn’t help that I was overweight, which augmented my hell of an academic life.
The bullying wasn’t just restricted to the school halls. No matter what I tried to do to make me feel better about myself, I could never escape the pain and torment my family put me through. My behavior was unacceptable for a “young lady” like me. I had to be dainty, yet dignified. I was looked down upon when I wore pants instead of skirts; anything that wasn’t bought in the girl’s aisle in stores was bought with hesitant hands, as if my family were holding a ticking time bomb in the shape of a dinosaur toy. I was swept under with wave upon wave of jewelry and cosmetics; Mother didn’t expect a daughter and saw me as a blessing, perhaps as a way for her to live her dreams through me. She nagged about, as mothers do, but this time her crowing became louder and louder, circling me like a misandrist buzzard. She kept complaining to me about the men in her life, and men in general. Once again, I felt pressured into my prison of femininity.
Several years later, I sought out a social renaissance. Middle school was my transition period. I was free to dress how I liked, to say what I wanted to, and to even have a few male comrades on my side. The bullying stopped, although I was buffeted with its aftermath: depression and anxiety. Although I was coming out of my shell of predestined identity, I was digging myself deeper into confusion. Now that I was free from authoritative decisions, I didn’t know who—or what—I was. All I knew was that I didn’t like the old me, and I wanted to find out what the new me would be called. In my freshman year of high school, I finally found my word: transgender.
This term has been the epicenter of confusion and mockery, often forgotten and ignored entirely by supporters of the LGBTQ community. Transgender is an umbrella term used for individuals who do not conform to traditional gender roles and will usually make the changes necessary to achieve their ideal identity. Often, it is confused with the term
transvestite, or the more derogatory term, “tranny.” Contrary to popular belief, they are not synonymous. Transvestites, on the other hand, are simply more on the side of cross-dressers and drag queens. This is something more recreational compared to something life-changing, something that can literally change your physique.
A blog thread discussing the LGBTQ community explained that one of the reasons behind an individual being transgender is their brain chemistry and early brain development. Studies have shown unusual hormone “imbalances,” where the most ubiquitous hormone does not correspond to the individual’s sex. It is also shown that the brains of transgender individuals do not share characteristics with brains of cisgender individuals, or people who identify with the sex they were given at birth. Many other factors come into play, including influence from the environment and society, but the basis behind the concept is that the chemical makeup of the brain and its development are the driving force of these changes.
Upon registering this newfound data, I began to piece myself together, having more clarity in my life. This certainly explained why I acted differently around my peers, how my thoughts and interests conflicted with those of everyone else. I had always acted masculine for my sex and age, which I thought was normal; therefore, I did things I thought boys liked to do. However, I soon learned that society didn’t like masculine figures that spoke in high-pitched voices and wore glitter-spackled shirts with pink kittens on them. They had to be tougher, and manlier than that. Society also didn’t like feminine figures who wore shorts and dug around for bugs. Women are too dainty and couldn’t possibly want to get dirty. And when society saw something it didn’t like, it lashed out, and it was relentless.
Despite the rough path of discovering who I was going to be, I pushed on. I disregarded the negativity and replaced it with opportunity, finding new doors to open and adding attributes to become who I am today. I sought out advice from other transgender friends on how to be safe while transitioning, and how to break the news to friends and family. With this new radiance and confidence, I feel connected to the world again. I feel less alone with the friends who have stuck with me despite my changes. Which brings about the question, if my friends can accept the way I present myself, why not everyone else? Our world is constantly changing, and to keep up with it, we are also changing. Even if my struggles are unorthodox to others, it is still a journey of finding myself, something just about everyone goes through.