There’s something I have been pondering, since reading this blog, on Letters:
Mainly I’m pondering the question, how cleverly it wasn’t directly answered, and why.
It’s occurred to me that many people may not realise that many transgender children are not socialised in the exact same way as our non transgender peers. Therefore to assume we were raised the same way as people assigned the same sex as us, is a mistake. As the above article says, beautifully, we *fail* the gendered socialisation.
I cannot speak for anyone else, especially not transgender women. I can say that, anecdotally, my experience seems not that dissimilar to others in terms of the fact that our childhood socialisation is often different to that of our non transgender peers and siblings.
I am not an academic, so this will not be a peer reviewed piece linking evidence. This is a personal anecdote about my experience. No doubt there are proper evidential things within the plethora of gender studies work.
I do not usually discuss my personal life, hence choosing a faceless blog.
Content note for short references to sexualisation and to parental bullying and violence.
As soon as I realised sex existed and gendered ways of doing things, it was clear to me I was a wrong girl.
It was clear because my mother made it very clear that I kept doing it wrong.
Toys are not gender, but pay attention to the behaviour.
The first Christmas I remember, I wanted a football. I was nearly 4. We didn’t own one.
Instead I got a kitchen unit and a tea set. I think a lot of parents aren’t so gendered about toys now, and that’s great. Girls can play with anything.
My mum explained that Santa brought it, because I’m a little girl, my brother is a little boy. So, it was obvious to me that Santa didn’t realise I’m a wrong girl… That secretly I’m a boy and nobody has noticed.
It’s the first time I remember thinking it, as I don’t remember it starting. I remember because I thought Santa knew, as he even knows things our parents don’t. I felt surprised, and a bit sad.
I tried so hard that day to be a good girl, I made so much water tea until they made me stop and told me off. I got the message that I still wasnt getting it right. I felt so anxious and guilty, as I dont want them to know I’m not a girl.
After this, I start trying to pretend to be a girl. When I can remember.
I get told off, and sometimes hit, for a number of gendered misbehaviours not excluding sitting wrong, standing wrong, being to brash, being too loud, talking too much, being too intelligent, not having enough common sense, asking too many questions, being too opinionated, walking wrong, falling over too much, getting too dirty, playing with nature, playing marbles, climbing trees, damaging my clothes, not playing with girls, the list is endless and many of you can list it yourselves.
Did you think, gosh being a girl is pants? Did you think, is a boy being better? Did you think, this is just how it is for girls? Did you ever wonder what being a boy is like? What did you think, as I’m sure I don’t know. Please reply if you like :-).
I just kept thinking, “I’m not a girl and I’m in deep shit when they realise”. I feared being thrown away, as they were clearly angry enough at me, just for being a ‘wrong girl’.
I started to fear puberty. I was convinced that one day I would begin to grow a beard that wouldn’t stop and I didn’t know how to get a razor because I was only 6. Then they would all know.
Maybe some girls do think this, I’d love to know. 😊
Then I had a little sister and she was perfect. A “real girl”. Soon she was a great comparison for our mum.
When you keep getting your gendered behaviour wrong, the training gets more often and tougher. They try to hyper gender you, or give up, or a bit of both.
My little sister got it right from the beginning somehow, and I wondered about it. How did she know?
Any butches (butch women and trans butches) reading will no doubt be familiar with “having to wear a dress” for family / special event / function / school / etc, and I share that horrible experience.
At the same time, sometimes I wanted beautiful sparkly clothes and things, but I would be told I can’t have them, because I would just spoil them. I climbed a tree once in my favourite dress, I got in a lot of trouble. I secretly kept it, and still own it. Can’t win for losing.
Proper girls like my sister have those nice things, but not me.
My interest in all kinds of clothes remains 😊
As you get older, if you are still getting your gendered behaviour wrong, it can get worse.
I have a much hated photograph of myself at 12 years old, still actually trying to “be a girl” so hard that I look ridiculous. I still feel humiliated, just seeing it.
Some of us trans folk may be pushed towards early sexualisation, with whoever people think our ‘correct’ sex, or gender is. I won’t discuss that here, as the consequences are well known to feminism, and extend to most transgender people too (of all backgrounds). In our case just add in a little “It’s to straighten you out”. Like other LGBTQ+ people.
By the time I realised I wasn’t going to grow into a man, I was just in time to dread my actual puberty – and hate that with all the passion of many other transgender people (also well well documented, not going into that here). I seem to have similar dysmorphic view of my body as many other trans folk, although I don’t want to change it. I have a whole different body in my head, so I don’t care.
Around then, puberty, I remember just wanting to tell people to call me “A person”. Wanting all of sex and gender just to leave me the hell alone.
And there I stay.
All of the common ground above we have, but one thing is very different, surely.
I did not experience sex and gender socialisation as a girl. As soon as I was given it, I knew it wasn’t mine. I experienced it knowing I wasn’t a girl. Right from go. Or rather – believing I was other, wrong, and very confused about it all.
I didn’t experience my childhood gender training as a girl. I experienced it as other. Instead of thinking why are girls treated this way, I thought, “I shouldn’t be treated this way because I’m not a girl.”
This means our experiences will differ in important ways. Especially around my ability to understand women’s issues.
I cannot tell you all the differences, only you can tell me, in a way, but maybe if we talk together kindly in a space without judgement, we can find out.
And while we’re doing so, we could consider whether it’s at all fair to assume that any transgender people are raised like other same-sex children, or gender socialised like other children, and especially whether we experience it the same way non transgender people do.
I think this is the basis of many wrong assumptions, which make it hard to even ask the right questions about what is going wrong between us.