Pre-5 years old, there is no awareness of “gender”. There probably is no conscious wish to be a little girl either. Up until Mum spoke those words, “You are not a little girl” there were no questions or reservations. I was being… just me.
As far back as I remember – 3-4 years old – I would clip clop around the family home in Mum’s high heels. When my sister was in school, I dress up in some of her clothes, including a Brownie uniform! Her dollies were my babies, as I played all the girls/mummy games. Especially “Susan” she was my favourite. Unfortunately, after an incident involving Susan’s face and ink, I had threats of life and limb if I ever touched the dollies again. I would secretly brush her hair and rub the long eyelashes against my cheek.
I remember visiting our Aunt and Uncle just after Christmas, 1967. I am 5 years old. One of our cousins has the best present ever – a pair of bright red Cinderella high-heels! The silver glitter sparkling in the light with the transparent long pointed heels. I was in awe. How could a little girl not love them?
We go out to play, the Cinderella shoes are firmly on my feet. They attract considerable attention from adults and other kids on the street. Undoubtedly, it is not a “normal” sight and perhaps there is ridicule on their lips, but I have absolutely no awareness. I was being… just me.
Studies suggest that gender identity issues originate from complex – often hidden – problems within the family unit. Unhealthy relationships between mother and father, parents and child, can all contribute.
There is definitely parallel with these theories and my own family dysfunctions, but it does not really explain the full extent of how I was feeling. It was more than behavioural, much deeper than psychological. It was in my veins, my heart and my soul. It was… just me.
I hated the company of boy’s. I tried to befriend classmates, but there was always awkwardness and a general feeling of being out of my depth. It invariably led to spending large amounts of time alone, playing in the adjoining fields and feeling somewhat dissociated from my sense of self.
I was coping with a mentally unstable Mother, who was very difficult to please and regularly swore, “I wish I never had you”.
At a crucial time when I should be developing and identifying as a boy, I am completely lost – the canvas is blank. My sister and I were subject to violence and intimidation from both parents from within “a loving home”, and mixed with the growing stereotyped attitudes; it was all a recipe for disaster.
It sets me apart from everyone and everything. There should be little surprise; it left me vulnerable to years of sexual abuse…
I was being….just me.