Not Your Usual Trans Childhood Narrative


When I was little, my grandmother made me a pink princess costume for Halloween: a little petal pink shift, a darker pink cape that tied with a white grosgrain ribbon and was trimmed with sequins, and a pale pink satin tiara, also trimmed with sequins. I loved it. After Halloween, that costume ended up in my dress up box (a purple box with white hearts), and I played with it all the time.

Until I joined theatre in high school, all of my friends were girls. I played on the playground at recess with girls. I played jump rope. I played with dolls; I even owned a American Girl doll (Addy — at the time, she was the only American Girl doll of color). I wasn’t a tomboy. I’m still one of the least athletic people I know.

I’ve always had rather a little girl persona — bouncy and bubbly, sometimes shy and uncertain, hesitant, giggly. I’ve now barely over five feet tall; with big smiles and lots of dimples, people always thought I was a cute little girl. And, as I grew older, holding onto the cute little girl image was an easy way to get by. I was never particularly talented or charismatic, but I escaped middle school and high school relatively unscathed because I was so inoffensive. The sweet, happy girls generally don’t get picked on, at least not where I went to school.

I even chose to attend a women’s college. I’ve always had strongly feminist beliefs, which, unfortunately, have possibly added to originally seeing the world in a rather strictly binarily gendered sense. My parents gave me subscriptions to magazines like New Moon when I was young, which was a magazine “created for girls, by girls” and “dedicated to helping girls discover and honor their true selves.” Because there’s such emphasis on women versus men, and empowering women because the patriarchal structure has oppressed them, I never really questioned my gender. Not until the past year or so, at least.

In the essay “Mutilating Gender,” Dean Spade writes about not having the type of childhood narrative that those in the medical profession typically expect of trans people. When I read “Mutilating Gender,” the truth of it immediately resonated with me. Despite our very different backgrounds, I could see myself in that essay. Medical professionals are assumed to know more about my gender, and what I want to do with my body, than I do. There is this assumption that the only people who are “really” transgender have spent their entire lives knowing and insisting that they are the “opposite” sex and gender from what they were determined at birth and raised as. Somehow, if I haven’t spent my childhood wearing exclusively “boy clothes,” only playing boy games with boys, and completely rejecting anything that society deems girly, I cannot possibly be trans and must be a woman.

Where is my agency? I deserve the right to self-determine my gender.

There are so many different paths and ways of realizing and understanding and having a trans identity. There is no universal trans experience. Accepting that I happily spent my childhood as a girl, accepting I never really was a tomboy, accepting that I’m not what most people think of when they hear the word “trans,” accepting that most people read me as a woman — none of that should delegitimize who I am and how I view myself. Gender is not static.


Spade, Dean. “Mutilating Gender.” Readings for Diversity and Social Justice. Ed. Maurianne Adams, Warren J. Blumenfeld, Carmelita (Rosie) Castañeda, Heather W. Hackman, Madeline L. Peters, and Ximena Zúñiga, eds. New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis, 2010. 435-441.

4 responses to “Not Your Usual Trans Childhood Narrative

  1. This post really resonates with me because I had a rather similar experience. I loved sports and was considered a jock by many. When I was very young all my friends were basically boys, and I also had many people (basically all of society) reinforce that I was in fact a boy since that was how I was born, so I just always identified as a boy. That thinking is probably why I always suppressed, ignored, and didn’t understand for a long time many of my trans feelings which began to surface eventually.

    Not having that typical trans story definitely makes me question myself all the time. It is good to see others have had similar experiences and that I am not in fact alone in such a situation heh.

  2. I disagree that you were never particularly talented or charismatic… 🙂

  3. And then ironically I grew up and played with and spent most of my time with boys and men. Did all the stuff guys in Belize do, including the kind of work that men are associated with, didnt wear a bra or shave my armpits until I was 21 (sports bras before then). I just wish we could put on whatever body we wanted when we got up, because Id love to be able to be a man when I want and a woman when I want and no one is going to give that to me unless my body sends the right signals. Unfortunately this is not an option. And I think it would probably frustrate people a lot if you kept switching your pronouns depending on the day. gender-flake. Is that a term?

  4. I agree with your argument btw. I think the required trans narrative, while easier for people to follow, is not the only option, and should not BE the only option, especially when medical decisions are being made based on how convincing your narrative is. We need to be more flexible when it comes to sex and gender.

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