Part of the autobiography of a transsexual psychology graduate student.

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Gender Identity Disorder (GID) Case Study: an Autobiography of a Transsexual Psychology Graduate Student

Practicing Gender Roles

By fifth grade I decided I should try harder to be a boy. It really made sense at the time. It's like, I was very good at math but some people weren't. Those who aren't good at math are told to work harder at it. I wasn't very good at boyhood so I should have worked harder at it. I used to stay up late at night trying to memorize facts I felt would make me a successful boy, like reading sports things from books I found. But it was so incredibly boring!

I even tried playing sports. I actually was on a wrestling team in middle school! How much more boyish could I be? It was a terrible feeling being trapped in the weird world of male-bonding. You might think I felt bad losing every time but once? But I never felt worse than the one time I won! I don't even know how it happened. All I remember was holding this boy on the mat while I watched the grownups shouting at us. One guy was counting to see if I'd win. My dad and coach were shouting at me to move the kid into some other position where I would win faster. This boy's dad was yelling at him to do something. And I just felt so bad for my 'opponent'. Like, how can I hurt him in the eyes of his dad? But how could I not do what would make my dad happy? I just completely froze up and didn't try to change the position. Even though I eventually won, I felt miserable about it. How can anyone be a part of all this? It wasn't so much winning or losing but that somebody had to be a disappointment to their dad? The experience was so disturbing I never tried another macho activity again.

I feel like there's something that's being lost in my past right now. You might get the impression that I really understood in middle school that there were different perspectives on how to relate to people, one that's characteristically male and another that's characteristically female. And you might also get the impression that I really knew I had the female-gendered perspective and so that's why I wouldn't ever try really male-gender oriented activities again. But I only know that now because I'm studying developmental psychology! At the time, all I knew was that doing really competitive things would make me fit in and fitting in made me feel good. I didn't think this had anything to do with not being allowed to have girl friends anymore. And I didn't realize boys and girls were "supposed" to feel different about these sort of things. All I knew was that I felt worse having these competitive sorts of relationships than I ever felt not having many relationships. So I really didn't have this great insight into my gender issues even if I understood my feelings.

And I still felt like there is this incredibly bizarre thing about me and I had no idea how to fix myself. I had no idea there was such a thing as a transsexual. Even in my liberal sex-ed class they never mentioned it. The internet only became big (where this is now discussed extensively) after I already figured it out and I'm way too young to have heard the big media hype over how the 'ex-GI becomes blond knock-out'. I didn't watch much talk-show television and it never dawned on me that I had any similarity to the few people I occasionally saw. What does "woman trapped in a man's body" mean? I still don't understand that cliche. I never even learned the word "transsexual." I felt like I must be completely alone in the world as this crazy thing that should be 'put away'.

My only hope was something my middle school sex-ed teachers said as an off-hand comment. There was some village somewhere where there are girls who become boys at puberty! That's was it! I'm obviously going to become a girl at puberty! I didn't happen. And It's kind of amazing that I actually believed that. For years I've wondered if I was so crazy that I made the whole comment up? But just this year I was reading the Developmental Psychology book for my teaching assistantship and I discovered that in four villages in the Dominican Republic (Imperato-McGinlet et al, 1979) and among the Sambia of Papua New Guinea (Herdt & Davidson, 1988) there are girls (really intersexed infants) who become boys at puberty.

Puberty destroyed my fantasy that I would just 'become' a girl. It was so horrible. My face starting growing the itchy hair and nobody accidentally called me "miss" anymore. For awhile I just denied the facial hair was growing until some kids made fun of me for long sideburns. Even then I was too embarrassed to ask my dad for help shaving. I just figured it out myself. And I tried so hard to get it all to disappear that my face always bled constantly. My face broke out with acne and I remember going to a dermatologist with mom. They had a sign that said for "electrolysis patient to use the back entrance." I asked my mom what electrolysis was. She said it was to remove facial hair. Wow! A solution! But my mom told me it was just for woman with a little facial hair. Well, I guess that's another solution that wouldn't work?

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