Thursday, June 5, 2014

My experience with "Male Socialization"

CW: Abuse, Transmisogyny, Dysphoria

There’s this thing going around right now about Laverne Cox not being a “real” woman because of biological destiny and in a few places I frequent I’ve seen people fighting others over their support of this article. This has blown over into a discussion about whether or not trans women can ever be “real” because they grew up socialized male. I just want to talk about this from my own personal perspective. The attempts of my family to raise me as male and be a socialized through masculinity were destructive to my younger years in life to the point where I’ve blocked out almost everything that happened in my pre-teen and teen years. I seriously cannot tell you how difficult it was knowing you were female and the entire world from parents, schooling, and churches telling you otherwise. I felt it from as young as four years of age and some of my very first memories are of dysphoria. I wanted to be like any other girl when I grew up and everyone was telling me I’d be a man some day. That’s an extremely traumatic thing to deal with at four years of age. I did everything I could to do things other girls around me were doing in secrecy but I knew if I did any of this in the comfort of my own home my father would beat me. He did that a lot whenever I did something he didn’t want me to. I grew up knowing that if I ever did anything feminine I would be at the hands of abuse from my dad. I put on an act in front of him every day just so I wouldn’t make him mad or upset him, but I knew that it was just that, an act. I never picked up on any of the things he was trying to indoctrinate me with because I knew I was a girl from my first memories. I just didn’t know how to vocalize it and I didn’t even know what transgender was at the time. It’s not like transgender people were on television in 1995. 

So all of this was weighing on me when I was a child.  I’d later go into school and I had a hard time making friends. I couldn’t relate to guys and I knew my father didn’t want me only hanging out with girls and becoming their girlfriend. All of my closest friends were girls, but I never had a best friend forever or anything like that. I went through my entire elementary school years being bullied for being “girly” and not tough or liking stereotypical guy things. I faked it a lot of the time just to avoid being pushed or shoved, but I knew it was going to happen almost every single day even if I lied. All of this added up over time to the point where I couldn’t deal with it anymore and I just broke. I was a broken person by the time I was 12 years old. Then puberty started to happen and my body started to mutate into something I found horrifying. They were the most difficult years of my life, and I honestly don’t know how I got through them. 

This all culminated with me dropping out of school when I was 13 years old, and finishing at home. I couldn’t go anymore because I didn’t have the strength to deal with the people bullying me for not acting like a guy, and my body was destroying me every single day with puberty. Every time I tried to go back to school I had panic attacks and intense vomiting. I was hospitalized for months at one point because doctors didn’t know why I couldn’t stop panicking every morning of every day and throwing up. I couldn’t bear to tell them the truth and my story of why I was struggling with everything because it wasn’t safe. I tried to be the person my family and society wanted me to be, but it was killing me. I was self destructing from the inside out and I couldn’t do it. I was crumbling because of society’s pressures to conform to gender roles and it’s own insistence that who you were assigned at birth was locked into place. I never accepted maleness or learned from it and the men in my life were consistently physically abusive to me because I acted feminine. 

So I don’t get how I’m “socialized male” and a Trans Woman. I don’t think those things are necessarily connected. It certainly wasn’t for me. Whenever I hear people saying Trans Women have been socialized male I get uncomfortable because it brings all this back up. I wasn’t socialized as male. I knew that was never me, and I fought back against it the best I could. I wasn’t given a typical girlhood either even though that’s all I wanted when I was younger. I just grew up.  That’s all that happened, and I wish everything had been easier and less lonely. I always latched onto my mom. I just wanted her to think of me as her daughter, and at times it felt that way. Those are the only real memories I cherish from my childhood. Everything else is too hard to deal with, and I just wish I had more memories like that instead of everyone trying to sculpt me into a man. It ruined the first phase of my life. I knew I was a girl all my life, and I was punished for being feminine when I was younger every single time I was ever myself. There was never any part of me that wanted to be a guy. I prayed to an unanswering god and cried about this on so many nights. I just wanted to be myself and the only other option was an act. An act that I never believed in because I was always a girl, even when the men in my life were trying to shape me in their image. I am the person I always wanted to be now, but she wasn’t socialized as a man, and if I or anyone else says that we weren’t then that should be good enough.

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