Growing up, I acted very feminine. I wore feminine clothes and played with dolls. In middle and high school, I started wearing makeup to fit in with other presumed teenage girls.
But I was never truly happy. In elementary school, I had meltdowns and outbursts. In middle school, I became very depressed. In high school, I began to self-harm. All of this was because I wasn’t allowed to express my gender the way I wanted to.
I wasn’t allowed to express myself the way I wanted to because I was in special education programs from preschool all the way thru 12th grade, and all of those special ed programs were ABA (applied behavioral analysis) based. In ABA, you have to comply to the all educators’ standards or there will be consequences such as loss of privileges. ABA is intended to break nonconforming children down to the point where they hate themselves for who they are so that the’ll try to become what is considered “acceptable” to society. It’s an abusive behavioral method.
Although I’m AFAB (assigned female at birth), I never felt female. I never really liked people calling me a girl or people using she/her pronouns for me. To be perfectly honest, I always felt my gender identity fluctuated between neutral and masculine. I always preferred they/them or even he/him pronouns.
Also, it was the little things that I did or liked growing up that now that I look back might be seen as gender nonconforming. One of those signs was that I always secretly wanted a penis. I can’t explain why—it’s complicated. Also, I never found any of the Disney princesses interesting—even Tiana, the first Black Disney princess from The Princess and the Frog. I was always much more into Disney characters who kicked butt, such as Mulan. I also found Merida from Brave to be very inspiring.
I started puberty when I was 10 years old. I was starting to develop breasts and I started wearing a bra. I always hated it because I didn’t feel like a girl, so getting breasts felt incompatible with my gender identity (although I still dressed very feminine). Also, no other presumed girls in my grade had breasts yet, so it made me feel like a freak.
Also when I was 10, the pressure to behave in a way according to my assigned gender was much more apparent. I was told by another girl that my clothes were babyish and that other people were going to laugh at me, so from then on, I tried to wear more “trendy” clothes. Once when I was 11, I even had a major conflict with my mom at JCPenney over what kind of clothes were “cool”.
And until I was 10, I was really into science and technology. I even did science experiments, such as which is the lightest: oil, water or chocolate syrup. But then my mom and grandma discouraged me from doing them because I was making messes.
I managed to (barely) survive the next few years by shoving my gender identity to the very back of my mind and trying to forget all about it, and by observing how all the other presumed girls my age were acting and mimicking them. It was exhausting and very stressful, but I figured I had to do it to fit in and not be a total outsider.
But when I was 16, I started to feel very dysphoric about my breasts. I was telling my mom about how I didn’t like them. She just said, “Your boobs aren’t that big.” So I shoved that in the back of my mind too.
I don’t know how I managed to survive the next three years until high school graduation, but I did. Once I graduated, I bust into tears because I was finally free from all those restrictions others put on me, and I would never have to see any of those people again.
After graduation, I really started to question my identity. I met people who were trans and nonbinary. I knew about trans people, but I figured that I couldn’t be trans at first because I was a very girly kid. I figured that you had to grow up gender nonconforming to be trans, which I now know isn’t true.
Then came the really hard part: figuring out my identity. At first I identified as an androgynous/butch lesbian, then genderfluid, then agender. Then I found an identity that I feel fits me the the most: a nonbinary trans man.
Another term that I like to use to describe my gender identity is gendervague. Gendervague is a term that means my neurodivergence—in my case, being autistic—affects the way I experience and perceive gender, although my neurodivergence doesn’t cause me to be trans.
Even after my revelation, I shoved myself back in the closet because I’m very devoted to my Christian faith as well as my gender identity, and religious fundamentalists have said that the two couldn’t coexist, which isn’t true either.
Now I’ve decided that I want to start testosterone therapy, and I want to save money for top surgery. Life is short. You might as well live it to the fullest!