So When Did You Know You Were a Girl?

That’s the way I usually get asked.  It’s a bit in your face, but at least it doesn’t beat around while people struggle to find the right words to ask what they are dying to know and too polite to ask.

Unlike the way a lot of younger people answer this in today’s world, there wasn’t a moment when the light just flicked on.  No little voice came out of the darkness and whispered, “Deni, you know you are really a girl.” And I didn’t always know, at least not in the sense I could say, “Yep, that’s it.  I am really a female no matter what my anatomy looks like.”

Little hints popped up along the way, long before anybody started using the word transgender.  I was always known as being quick on the emotions, prone to cry at sadness.  I don’t mean to say that men shouldn’t or don’t cry; I mean I was emotionally a wreck right out of the gate.  But that’s not enough.  I did all the boy stuff in a family with no female interaction except with my mother, but I was fascinated with so-called “female” crafts like knitting.  Not enough either. Flower gardens? Only the vaguest sort of hint.

The one inadvertent trigger happened when I discovered that girls were more than mysterious and behold, there was a Sears catalogue full of pictures of women half-dressed.  (Yes, this was a repressed society then in more ways than one).  It was more than just the arousal factor.  It was the niggling wonderment about a wide-open window into a female world unexplained and I wondered half-consciously if that was where I was supposed to be and just as quickly banish the thought.  As pubescent luck would have it, I was caught red-handed perusing the latest seasonal selection of lingerie.

The reaction?  “Do you want me to dress you like that?”

I know it was inadvertent on her part and of course, I stammered my way through a denial.  And in my shame I slammed the door shut.  It opened once or twice through many years.  My first wife laughed at me and I slammed the door shut again for even longer.  In an awful, stressful time in my second marriage, I worked up the courage to buy lingerie for a while, but I couldn’t keep up the secrecy.

So with some help and well along into life, I asked a therapist, “So, what’s the verdict? Am I transgender or not?”

He laughed.  “Of course you are.  Are you surprised?”

And I knew then that I was much more a woman than man.


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