The other day I had my fourth meeting with my gender therapist. Because he asked, I brought childhood pictures (falsely portraying a happy and normal girl’s life) and we looked at them together. It was awkward, to say the least. These pictures in no way show who I really was. They’re snapshots of the happy, girly girl I was supposed to be.
Looking at those pictures no one would ever be able to tell I was well and truly miserable on the inside. “A timid girl”, which was the label my gender therapist put on the child in those pictures, doesn’t even begin to describe the agony of that little person.
Dolls, pretty dresses, petticoats, silver necklaces, silken ribbons in her hair… this little “girl” had it all. I can still smell and feel the cream my mum used to smear on my face before I left home for school in the morning. It was perfectly dreadful.
Worst of all, nobody ever stopped to think why I was so unhappy. Oh wait. That’s not entirely true. Mum did at times notice my gloom. At those times she’d start asking questions.
“But I can see something’s bothering you.”
“No, it’s nothing.”
Then came the leading questions. Is it this? Is it that? In the end I would just say, yes, it’s this. It was never what she assumed it might be. But I knew if I gave her a reason – any reason, really – she’d at least shut up and leave me alone.
I didn’t know what was wrong. Just that I was somehow wrong. That I was playing at being a person that wasn’t me. But I was too young to be able to put words to those instincts. Too scared too, most like. Too much embedded in an oppressive religious system.
After the photo session we still had time left to continue discussing my life story. We covered my early years last time, so now we embarked upon the journey through my teens. The worst years of my life.
When I wrote my life story, I never gave it much thought. It was no different from any of my other stories, the ones I make up. Not essentially different. The fact that I happened to be the main character did not influence my feelings when writing my story. It was just a story.
Now I had to talk about it, and that made all the difference. Suddenly, it wasn’t just another character anymore. It was me who’d gone through all the bullying. It was me whose mind was filled with suicidal ideations. Me who couldn’t go to school anymore for fear I’d throw myself in front of a train.
Oh, I know. There was much more to it than just my being transgender. In fact, my being transgender might not even have been the main reason for the bullying. I was good at hiding that part of myself. I knew how to look, talk, walk and behave like a girl and I tried very hard to make it look real. Problem is, people see through that kind of behaviour. They might not know exactly what you’re hiding, but most do recognise fake when they see it.
My playing at being a girl definitely was one of the reasons for the bullying, but like I said, there was more. I was small for my age. In fact, I was tiny. At age twelve I was no taller than your average 8-year old girl. I was also quite thin. Not surprisingly, I entered puberty late. There were the EDS-related problems: chronic fatigue, chronic pain, debilitating headaches, frequent luxations and subluxations, my skin always covered in bruises, defective proprioception and bad balance. Let’s face it: if you can’t even catch a ball when it’s played right into your hands, you’re not going to be very popular.
But wait! There’s still more.
I am gifted. Actually, I’m more than just gifted. With a general IQ score of 146 I’m in the genius range. Sounds like fun?
No, I’m not complaining and I wouldn’t want to have this any different, but being a genius makes life complicated. Even more so when you’re still in school and cannot understand your peers – and nor can they understand you.
I cannot stress this enough. For the life of me, I can’t conceive how the average person’s mind works. I can’t fathom why they have so much difficulty understanding matters that shouldn’t even need an explanation. I’m baffled by the glassy looks in their eyes when I talk about the simplest of things. I often feel like an alien.
And yet, I’d hate to be average. The lives of average people seem dull and empty to me. I often wonder, do they even know what they miss out on? Have they ever experienced the joy of delving deeply into a seemingly complicated matter only to find out – after many sleep deprived nights – that the solution to the problem is actually far simpler than you initially thought?
Drat! I should have become a scientist after all.
But I digress. I was really only going to say that my giftedness might well have been the main reason for the bullying. Because my intelligence, more than anything else, makes me stand out from other people. It made me into a misfit at school. Add to that my physical problems and my being transgender and you have a recipe for disaster.
So yes, my having to talk about those blasted teenage years was rough. Extremely rough. Unsettling enough to make my gender therapist ask, “is that hard for you to talk about?” Now I’m not the kind of person to show my emotions easily. But obviously, my face showed the remembered pain.
When I got back home, I was drained. We had leftovers for supper.