June 9, 2008

Gender Development

As transfolk, I believe it's important for us to allow ourselves to recreate another childhood and adolescence in which we are our true genders. I believe that by allowing ourselves to grow up all over again, we come out the other end as more balanced individuals.

I don't mean getting into infantilism (but hey, if that works for you, do it). I mean allowing ourselves time to explore without judging ourselves, and I mean allowing ourselves to make mistakes and be rebellious, and forgive ourselves later.

Because that's what transition can be like. We have to stop being scared, we have to let ourselves have a childhood where we explore ourselves and get to know ourselves. It's good to have a parent (who can come in many forms; a friend, a mentor, etc) who will hold our hand and make sure that when we skin our knees we get a kiss and a bandaid.

Our gender childhood can go a lot of ways. Some of us have great childhoods with great parents - I had a wonderful "parent" who encouraged me to explore myself, never judged me no matter what I came up with, and was patient with me while I figured out who I was. She was everything a good parent should be, and she parented my gender childhood perfectly.

Of course, I was the other parent of this gender childhood, and I believe I was a good one. I let myself make mistakes. I let myself get excited about things when I knew they might change. I let myself be overconfident and I let myself cry a little when I fell from that overconfidence and skinned my knees. But I never stopped exploring, even when I thought I had the answers.

I moved into gender adolescence, where I continued to be overconfident (and continued to fall over), I rebelled against everything I could (so girls wear dresses? I won't wear them then! Oh wait, ftms are really manly and butch? OH YEAH? WELL I WEAR DRESSES!) I explored my new sexuality with some glee (I can call myself a gay boy! teehee!) and I thought I knew everything when of course I didn't know much at all. I discovered who I was.

I think I was a good parent to my gender adolescent. He was never given a curfew or scolded for drinking too much. He was cared for and I waited patiently for him to grow up.

As I moved into gender adulthood, I began to finally understand things. Now that I knew who I was, I could examine it further and develop it. I stopped worrying so much about what people thought, I did what was right for me. I started to "eat right" and "exercise".

The strange thing I suppose that comes out of being a gender adult is that you start to slowly become a gender parent, even if you don't intent to. I don't go looking for transfolks who need help or advice or anything like that... but I make it clear that I'm always here to listen if people need a sympathetic ear.

The result of doing that is that people DO want a sympathetic ear, and gender children need gender parents. So I try to do the right thing by them, as any parent should - I listen and I don't judge them, I help them when I can, and I make sure they know that when they skin their knees it's okay, I'll give them a hug and a bandaid.

But while all of this is fantastic and has let me become a healthy man with a healthy gender, there's someone who has been forgotten in all of this.

Her name was Erin, and she died when I turned around sixteen years old. Because that's when my gender childhood began (although obviously not the first signs of being transgendered), and it was the end of her life.

I think as transfolks we often forget to grieve over the girls or boys who we were before. We come to hate them, we treat them as weak or evil creatures that we're so glad are dead. But is that really fair on those children?

As transfolk we spend so much of our lives hating ourselves and rejecting parts of ourselves. Is it really healthy to reject another part of ourselves and hate them just as much? Is it really good to replace one rejection with another?

I rejected my girlhood and the girl I was. I rejected her damn good. But now I regret it, because it wasn't her fault. She was a good girl, and she did her best at life. She didn't give up, she didn't given into depression or suicide or self-hatred, when she could have easily ended my life before it began.

I shouldn't hate her so much - and I don't anymore - because if it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be here.

I'm still in the process of greiving over that girl. She deserves to be remembered lovingly, and she deserves to be a part of me forever. Her gender does not have to be a part of me forever, but it's not fair that I should reject my entire childhood and early teen years just because of a gender. That girl was still very brave and she lived really well consider all she was up against.

I'm not that girl anymore. But I still remember her and honour her, and she is still a part of me. She has her place, next to my boyhood and my adolescences.

I am a man, yes. But I am more than that. I am a man who has lived in so many ways and has experienced life from so many angles. That does not make me less of a man. It makes me a man who is complete, and who accepts himself. It makes me a man at peace, and it makes me a man who can be a father to those who need one.

I'm still growing and I'm still learning and figuring myself out. But who isn't?

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