My past of gender struggles is tough for me to figure out. But every once in a while I learn something new that clarifies my own disorderedness in my body and soul. Most of my young life was very difficult in that I did not fit in with other boys, and felt extremely shy and self-conscious. In addition, at some points in my very young life, many of my friends were girls. But even when I had friends who were other boys, there was still a big part of me that yearned to be different. I would fall asleep at night thinking about being turned into a girl.
Did I feel true transgender desires? It’s tough to say. I used to think, “yes” I did. But I know now they were not as strong as the feelings and yearnings and struggles that some other transgender people face.
More and more I am thinking that it was largely about confusion about what gender means more than yearning to have a different body. I was trying to figure out what things are masculine and feminine, and wondering how I can be myself without crossing the gender lines which seemed so terribly important. Then again, perhaps, as I have argued elsewhere, this is what is really at the root of all transgender yearnings whether people realize it or not. What I mean is that people realize they don’t fit the gender stereotypes and they consciously or unconsciously come to the conclusion that they were born in the wrong body, the wrong sex.
Anyway, I remember playing with Barbies as a young child, especially with my sister. Although it was so long ago, I know that I enjoyed it. But at the time, I also knew that it was somehow not quite appropriate for boys. Even with my shyness, I managed to buy Barbie toys at stores by myself. I am not sure how I had such courage. But then eventually as I got older, I realized more and more that my other male friends did not play with Barbies and would be extremely ashamed to have done so. After that realization, that playtime activity stopped abruptly and I never went back, nor did I tell my friends what I had done. When my sister or others told people that I used to play with them, I would try to deny it, or say my sister forced me (which wasn’t true). That’s the history. Now only some 5 years ago, my sister and I were talking about differences between boys and girls. She mentioned that when I played Barbies with her, she was commonly frustrated because I kept having my Barbies fight in a war.
So what does this piece of information tell me? It tells me I was more like other stereotypical boys than I realized, and with that, maybe it confirms that there are some general differences mostly common to all boys versus girls (while we have to avoid rigid stereotypes because there are many exceptions with each specific trait). And perhaps this tells me that I was really pretty well balanced as a child, being true to myself, being willing to play army games and also being willing to play with Barbies. Yet somehow, even with that balance, I struggled continually with shame, not fitting in, and questioning my sex. Perhaps this is due to the unfair and unhelpful gender stereotypes in our culture which would shame boys for playing with dolls. I can’t help but wonder that if those cultural pressures would have been different, I would not have felt shame in playing with Barbies, and I would have developed in a healthy way as a man, not struggling with my gender, which ultimately manifested in a warped sexuality, being addicted to crossdressing. Perhaps those who struggle with much stronger transgender yearnings experienced similar things. They felt the powerful pressures of gender stereotypes in our culture and ultimately went further along than I did in their confusion, thinking that they must have been born in the wrong body.
I am still processing all of this. Please give your thoughts, and your own stories. Don’t be afraid to point out to me if I am understanding something wrong here. I know that I felt relief to hear from my sister that I sent Barbies out to war. But why? Is it because I am still so influenced by stereotypes, that subconsciously I still don’t think it is okay to play with Barbies in the same way that girls do? Or is it simply relief to know that my personality as a child was balanced, similar in some ways to other boys, as it was also similar in some ways to girls, (rather than only relating with girls which I would indeed view as problematic)? Thankfully, today through prayer, through exploring myself using this blog, through God working in my life, through being transformed by God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, I am very secure in my identity as a man. I am not ashamed of my appearance as a man and can take pride in dressing as a man. But also, I feel free to be myself. I don’t feel great pressure to conform to rigid personality gender stereotypes in our culture. I am who I am. Yet I also recognize ways that I am different from the average woman, and how I am similar to most men. And I strive to conform my manhood to the way in which it is supposed to be according to God’s Word. I am now very content in who God made me to be.