Trans Legitimacy & Childhood Memory

Somebody recently found this blog searching for answers to the following question.

how can i be transgender if i don’t remember much from my childhood?

The question jumped out at me, a familiar confusion. Answers immediately began to bubble up in my mind. I thought I would share them in case they could be of help to anyone who’s wondering about this.

How can you be transgender if you don’t remember much from your childhood? Being trans is something you are now. If you experience gender dysphoria now, if you just can’t fit into the role of your assigned gender now, if you know yourself to be some other gender now–you are probably trans.

There is still a powerful narrative in our community that says some trans people are “real” while others are… what? Illegitimate? Imaginary? Imposters? The truth is, there are no true and false transsexuals. There are just transsexuals. Another other trans people. And cis people.

This narrative is a relic of the gatekeepers, cisgender “experts” who policed (and sometimes still police) our access to life-saving care. They policed us based on how (un)comfortable we made them. People who seemed likely to fit invisibly into cisheteronormative society were allowed to live. People who didn’t were left to die.

One of their favorite games was scrutinizing our childhood memories. They believed that “real” trans people are only those exceptional, precocious few who, before the age of 5, are able to cast off the weight of a whole society and proclaim their true gender for all to hear, in language that makes sense to adults. Those who didn’t–or didn’t remember–such dramatic, perfectly-worded proclamations were, again, left to die. This standard is strange and cruel and shows a reckless disregard for child development.

We don’t have to live and die like that. We can be more humane to ourselves than these death-doctors were, and indeed, we must.

So again, how can you be trans if you don’t remember much from your childhood? Easily. Their is no age requirement determining the value of an insight. Whether you were able to articulate your gender at 5, 15, 50 or 100 does not matter. You were taught that your existence is impossible. Cut yourself some slack.

That said, I suspect there is a deeper connection between being trans and this lack of memory. It is possible that you’ve got it backwards. It’s not that the fact you don’t remember much from childhood means you aren’t really trans; it’s that you don’t remember much precisely because you are trans, and a great violence was done to your psyche. As you continue on your path, you may find yourself remembering a great deal more than you thought.

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8 comments

  1. georgiakevin

    Your post is written in such a heart felt way that it was very easy to read it. i knew i was a girl when i was 5 but wasn’t sure what the difference was between boys and girls before i was 5. Shoot i wasn’t sure what the different plumbing that both had until i was 18 and then only because i took a good look at Playboy and another magazine like that, even then i wasn’t entirely clear. In our hearts we know. No one would go through the pain that we do if they weren’t truly trans.

  2. Joyful Girl

    I love this post and I think your last paragraph hits it on the head. My wife didn’t figure out she was trans until she was in her 30’s and finally remembered a few instances of bing a gender non-conforming child. Prior she could only tell you she grew up in an unsafe home and always felt like there was something wrong with her. But she couldn’t pinpoint the source of her depression as gender dysphoria for a long time because she’d buried it so deep in shame and alcohol for most of her life.

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