Hints Of My Transgender Childhood

I thought my male identity came out of nowhere. I couldn’t put my finger on any thread of maleness that ran through my whole life. I couldn’t remember ever saying I was a boy. All I remembered was a thick uneasiness, a sense of something wrong, a sense of being different.

This really bothered me at first–I wanted to find the proof, the sign, the memory. I wanted to know I’d been trans my whole life.

It happened slowly. A shadow here, a twinkle there. Onionskin layers of pain and non-comprehension fell away from my life. And it happened. The memories came flooding in to me. One of the sweetest gifts of my transition.

It was nothing I had actually forgotten–more like misfiled. Early hints of my maleness lost in folders labeled Birthday Parties, birth to age 9 and Summer evenings, childhood. I deciphered their secret language, and suddenly they all came rushing out, together for the first time. Only together was their meaning revealed.

Here are two of them.

I was about seven. I was at a friend’s house; it was a hot afternoon. We were playing in an inflatable kiddie pool in her front yard. I had forgotten my bathing suit–I have some dull sense that maybe I wanted to forget it. So I asked if I could swim in the shorts I was wearing. My friend’s mother looked at me kindly, with mild concern. “Sure, if you want to,” she said. I did want to! I remember how I looked and felt, standing in just shorts with the water up to my knees.

“You aren’t embarrassed?” the mother said to me quietly, gesturing at a group of men doing construction across the street. It hadn’t occurred to me to be embarrassed. “No,” I said, with what strength I could muster, but her question made my face feel hot and most of the fun was over.

I was about twelve. It was one those end-of-year camping trips we used to do at my school. I was on a hike with a small a group of students and teachers. Making conversation, I remember that one teacher asked, “If you could live in any historical time period, which would you choose?”

I found the question irritating at first. I don’t remember what anyone else said. But when my turn came, I couldn’t resist answering. An image filled my mind, complete and wonderful. Quickly, with the purity of conviction of early adolescence, I said, “The Renaissance. Then I could live as a man and be a painter!” I was charmed by a vision of myself in fancy, puffy clothing, painting portraits of important people and consorting with women. It was the most comfortable, natural image of myself I had known.

I was so happy with my idea, I barely noticed the moments of silence, the look of confusion on the face of the teacher.


  1. judahtman

    I have several very similar memories from my childhood…it is so interesting to look back at how I reasoned and processed these things throughout my life…when I first accepted that I was trans I couldn’t believe it had taken me that long to open my eyes but now looking back at my life I realize I was almost always on the cusp of getting it…but then I would as you said “misfile” that information and move on. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Meike

    The same thing happened to me, right before I started transitioning. One of my best memories is when I was in early elementary school (probably first or second grade, maybe third grade at the latest). It was summer, and my sister, a friend, and I were participating in an after school park program. Mostly arts and crafts and running around in the park. Anyways, I single-handedly convinced the leader to let the girls run around without shirts! Some of the girls were too embarrassed (or too busty??) to join in, and my friend did it to be socially unacceptable. I just did it to feel comfortable, since my chest was still flat, so what was the difference, really?

  3. kassandwes

    This is how I have been feeling. Everyone seems to have known they were trans when they were little. I don’t remember moments of boldly stating that I was a boy, but I do always remember wanting to be a boy.
    When I was little my mom bought me a two piece swim suit. I always took the top off and ran around like the boys shirtless. I remember being more embarrassed of my belly button than my chest, so I would hike the bikini up as high as I could. My mom would scold me and scold me, and I didn’t learn to feel embarrassed about my body until then. Then I just felt shame.
    It’s amazing the things we remember.

  4. Pingback: Trans Legitimacy & Childhood Memory | Today I Am A Man

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