I have long wanted t do this...but never quite sure how to go about it. A lot of this, I guess, is more for me...but people are free to read and comment and maybe learn from it a bit.
There was never any conscious moment where I said "I want to be a girl" or "Aha! I know what I am feeling..." It was just simply always there. There was a time when I did not have the words to vocalize it..and certainly for much if not all of my youth, it was NOT SAFE to feel as I did...especially not letting anyone know about it.
I guess I mean for this to show that clearly there is NOT A CHOICE in what people like me are...we feel it from our earliest age...and even though we may not be able to vocalize it...for lack of the vocabulary to do so...or fear of the potential fallout of such revelation of these feelings...but just because others did not SEE IT in us as youths it doesn't mean it wasn't there. We just got good at hiding it.
For those paying attention, there were always subtle hints and maybe some not-so-subtle...at least I did not think they were so subtle, looking back. So I guess the best place to start is at the very beginning. May 24, 1971.
It was on that day that the three most horrible words ever to strike my ears were uttered, on my emergence into this world..."IT'S A BOY!!" Thankfully, I have no actual memory of that moment. No, my reliable memories begin, as most people's do...maybe around the age of four. And by this time, all studies say that our gender identity was already firmly seated...and mine was female.
Of course, at four years old...I did not really understand the concepts very well, and I could absorb from the messages around me and the way people interacted with me...that they believed me to be, and expected me to be a boy. I was supposed to like GI Joe and matchbox cars, and so on. Meanwhile, I pined for My Little Pony...and knew better than to ask for it.
At four years old, I was living in a suburb of Orlando, Florida. I remember the Joneses, across the street. One boy my brother's age, Kenny...the constant nemesis of both of us...and a younger boy my age...and two older girls. I liked to hang out with the Jones girls. It was there that I started learning things like spelling and so on, as we would play things like "school" - and I was very good with spelling and vocabulary, even at a young age. Still, the concept of gender and gender identity...was not one for which I had the words to describe...even if I could have...this WAS 1976, and it would not have been very safe or accepted.
As it was, hanging out with the Jones girls...sometimes playing jump rope and hopscotch..occasionally even House - though they always wanted me to be "Dad" which I hated, but I played along anyway, because I wanted to hang with them badly enough to do that. In my own mind, anyway, I was Mommy. A sort of private hell sometimes, but I enjoyed the hopscotch and jump rope, which I was good at...and the spelling and reading. So, mostly nobody said a lot about it.
Now, even at that age, I could clearly see that Mom had something dad did not...but it never even occurred to me that I would ever grow up as anything other than like Mom...even though all the messages I got around me said different, and said I was supposed to feel in a way I did not.
We moved back to Illinois when I was five, about a month after I started kindergarten in Florida...and then we lived in my grandmother's house for two months while we closed on our new house back in Illinois...so I ended up attending three different schools for kindergarten. Not a great start at developing friends my own age, I guess.
One of my earliest memories from kindergarten...was playing "London Bridge." Remember? We'd all walk in a circle singing about how London Bridge was falling down...and in the end someone would be caught and called "my fair lady"? I always tried very hard to time it so that I would be the one caught and called "my fair lady." I remember it as vividly as anything. And if anyone had been paying attention and realized I was deliberately trying to time that...it would have been a not-so-subtle clue. Instead, when I did manage to get caught, it suddenly became "my fair gentleman" - and I never tried to get caught again after that.
Just as I had in Florida, I took to hanging with neighborhood girls. They did activities I enjoyed and played games I was good at. Whenever I WAS forced to be with the boys, I was ALWAYS the last picked for teams, because I was lousy at all sports. Boys were mean. Boys did things I found to be decidedly "not fun." And I wanted no part of it. Likewise, they wanted no part of me, because I was lousy at sports...and an egghead to boot.
So I hung out a lot with neighborhood girls, jump rope, hopscotch, occasionally playing House...still having to be "Daddy" and hating that...but in my own mind, Mommy. I learned to do needlepoint and latch-hook rugs with the girls. I enjoyed things like that. It was not competitive, it was fun and the girls were not mean like boys were. Little did I know!! But I would eventually find out.
I always wanted to be a witch or a princess or an angel for Halloween..and finally, when I was ten, I had the guts to do that once. Before that, I'd always be something like maybe a robot...I remember the robot costume, because I got to wear one of my mom's long sleeve gray blouses to give me "metal arms."
I remember Summer Camp. Every year, we all got blue ribbons. You know, self-esteem and all that, so everyone got one. Mine was always for "Best Vocab" and then I'd have to explain to the other children what that meant, since they did not HAVE a "vocab." Meanwhile, I remember even coming home from kindergarten, as a latch-key kid...and immediately going to mom's bedroom to wear her clothes. They were far too big for me then, but I didn't care. It wasn't like I had a sister closer in size or I would have "borrowed" her things too. That came later.
Beginning in first grade, I was in Special Education. I had an IEP. I was labeled "emotionally disturbed" at the age of five. Damn right I was "disturbed!!" I was being forced to be what I knew in my heart I wasn't!! Had they just let me be the girl I was, back then, the behavioral problems would never have manifested in the way that they did. But, again, I had not the vocabulary (best vocab aside) to articulate what I was feeling...and even if I had, it would not have resulted in what I needed.
I remember dressing up at every possible opportunity. My brother knew about it since we were children. He was only a year and a half older than I was. It led to some unspeakable acts between the ages of nine and fourteen which I endured...and have previously written about in these forums...and others...and I wrote of them even before #metoo ever was a thing.
I remember finding out the awful truth, when I was about eight. Yes, I really was that sheltered...and it was not till I was about eight...that I knew of physical differences downstairs, between boys and girls. And that I would never grow the boobs I always thought I would. Well...I did not know about sexual relations then...so I was like...okay...so I will glue a couple tennis balls to my chest and nobody will ever know. Remember, I WAS eight. And very sheltered.
I knew from my earliest years I wanted no part of being like my dad, or my brother...or boys I encountered...they were all mean and besides, they were also all bigger and stronger than I was. Girls...were - just nice. That was about to change!
Now of course, around this age is when most boys get into the "girl germs" phase of growing up...and I always knew if there was such a thing as "girl germs" then I WANTED to catch them. And tried to. Another subtle hint nobody seemed to notice.
Around ten or so...girls started shunning me..and by this time, boys wanted nothing to do with me...I was thoroughly infected with girl germs and I was a sissy boy. So it was pretty lonesome for me in those years.
Meanwhile, my behavior problems, mostly at school got worse. My father was an alcoholic and an abuser...and the abuse my brother visited on me in our youth had begun...right around when he was eleven. What I was dealing with at home manifested itself in increased acting out in school. Meanwhile, my father's business was going bankrupt, and I did not know it..soon we were to begin the poverty experience that was the rest of my childhood...and most of my adult life, too.
At ten and a half, my behavior problems at school were so bad that I was literally being home schooled, by a tutor supplied by the school district...while my future fate and education were being battled out in the courts of Illinois. I didn't really know much about it, then. Much horrible I could say about my dad...but for all the pain he inflicted on me...he would never let anyone outside the family hurt me. And he and my mom fought literally all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court concerning my education. They used the old P.L. 94-142, the Education For All Handicapped Children Act...which today is now the modern I.D.E.A law...and its' why today I am a strong advocate for disabled students rights. The opportunities afforded me as a child, under PL 94-142 should be available to today's children. At whatever expense it takes...for them to get an appropriate-for-them education.
In the end "appropriate for me" was The Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School...a lab school attached to the University of Chicago, founded by Bruno Bettelheim, a Holocaust survivor of Auschwitz. By the time I want, Jacqui Sanders was running the school...so I never experienced the school under Bettelheim...and a good thing, a few books have been written by former students of the abuses committed against them by Bettelheim....and some of his staff. A few of the Bettelheim-era staff were still there in my early days at the school, but I can say that I never suffered the kinds of abuses I read about in the books I read, as an adult, about Bettelheim and what I came to call The School.
The School...was a residential-only school back then, though I understand they now have a day program, where students go home at night. I did not. I lived at school. In a dormitory. A dormitory of all older and bigger boys. And now there was no opportunity to get at mom's clothes...except on home visits. Though my brother could also only get at me on those home visits...but he did do just that.
I felt totally out of place at The School, in my living arrangements...and one of the boys even molested me there, at The School. The staff tried to not let my parents find out...but I found a way to break out of the school and call my parents to tell them. The offending boy was removed from our dormitory at nights, and was isolated, and watched.
It was around this time I confided my feelings of being really a girl...to my therapist at the school, whom I saw twice a week...as every student at the school did...though there were several therapists, we all stayed with the same ones. My therapist, then, Sandy (female) - was the first to ever use the word "transvestite" on me...when I told her I wanted to dress like a girl and be a girl. Being the precocious youth I was, I looked up the word in the dictionary.
It was then I learned, for the first time in my life, I was not alone. There was a word for it in the dictionary!! And until Sandy...nobody had known about this with me. Yet, there it was...so I knew there must be at least one other person like me out there...my mission in life...FIND HER!!! It wasn't until I was nineteen that I did. So...unlike trans today...I went thru it all alone, my entire teen years...alone. There were no support groups, there was no internet. And my feelings were not encouraged...they were opposed and frustrated at every turn.
I remember, as an adult...reading through the records on me that I got, later, from The School. "...does not know whether he wants to grow up to be a man or a woman" was as far as they would go in my therapy notes, in 1982. Though I clearly stated I wanted to be a girl. I even drew pictures of myself as a girl and told my therapist that they were me. How much more blatant could you get? But - in 1982 - they would not acknowledge what I was or what I needed.
Finally, I confided in a fellow girl student at The School. I owe Michelle so much! She would sneak me girl clothes and makeup...as long as I let her see me in them sometimes. I was more than happy to oblige this. Later I confided in a few other girls. As far as I knew, all of them kept my secrets...it never got out among the general population of the school, anyway. In the end, there were about eight girls that knew...even the one who, on the surface, I was trying to be involved with in what was called "a boy-girl relationship" at The School...which, by the way, was NOT encouraged, either.
Truthfully, there was a boy I liked...I dared not let that be known. Meanwhile, two other girls were interested in me (neither of them actually knew my secret) and I was very much not interested in them.
I left The School at age fourteen, after 3 1/2 years, when my family moved to Texas. The Austin School District predictably would not continue my education at the facility in Chicago, and thought they had a program down there that would work for me. I was interviewed by representatives of AISD while still in Chicago. Later, I asked my therapist if they had been told about my desires to be a girl. They had been.
So there's a lot of record from my earliest youth of feeling the way I do. My gender dysphoria from a very young age is well-established.
I ended up, at the age of fourteen...a day student at The Settlement Home...which also had residential students, but I was not in the residential program this time. I went home at nights. And the abuse from my father and my brother started up again, as though it ever had stopped. At least I had the ability to get at my mom's closet again...and NOW..her stuff just about fit me perfectly!
The only times I was happy in those years...was when I was being a girl. My dad's employment was sporadic, so home was not always a safe place to dress up...and so I took to taking a duffel bag of girl clothes out of the house and finding somewhere to change (and ditch the boy stuff) and then I would walk around town, mostly at night...never knowing the kind of danger I was placing myself in. By this time, I had been "mainstreamed" out of The Settlement Home and into regular high school, first at Lanier, then Anderson...and finally, Crockett...where I graduated from in 1989. Until 1987 I always had one class a day in the Special Ed room, after that, I no longer did, but I was monitored by the Special Ed Department my entire school career.
Fortunately, I got a medical exemption from P.E. requirements..so was not forced into boy locker rooms...a good thing too, as I wore girl underwear every single day of my high school career...I even walked across the graduation stage that way. I had a small circle of friends in high school, four of them, all girls. One of them, Cindy, I smothered...trying to be what everyone expected me to be and which I never was and I knew I wasn't. But I tried anyway.
More subtle hints, of course, if anyone had figured out what it meant that all my school friends were girls...but nobody bothered me much. I ended up "waterboy" on the football team...that was how I earned MY P.E. credit...and so I had to be in the locker room...but not when they were there! But the football team protected me in high school, so people left me alone. First nice boys I knew.
Of course the highlight of my school career then was the annual Powder Puff Football Game. That was when the cheerleaders played and the players became the cheerleaders. And, as "waterboy" I got to dress like a girl that day too! God what a wonderful day that was! Of course, nobody actually knew I was loving the hell out of it!
I remember, on some of my nights out...running across people I knew...and holding my breath...but I do not think I was ever really recognized...though, on occasion, I'd hear whispers just out of earshot...at school, even when I was a "guy" and a few girls would tell me stories about boys and men they knew that they saw dressed like girls. I think they were trying to get it out of me...suspected but never really knew for sure.
Once, after my dad abused me terribly, I left home for a month, and ended up in a halfway house run by the United Way. My stuff was inventoried when I came in and so of course they found all my girl stuff, so carefully hidden under all the boy stuff, LOL. Of course I was asked about it and I was truthful with them about it. And I actually was given some other girl clothes when I left, plus some makeup and other things I asked for. Truth, so help me.
We ended up moving to New Jersey right after I graduated high school. And I took to walking around my new town, Phillipsburg, NJ...at night as a girl. It led to my being accosted by eight cops one night, and having my dress pulled up right there in the public street. Nobody helped me. I never reported it, either, because I wasn't out..and if I reported it, it would have been in the newspapers bigtime and I would have been outed in a huge way. Too bad, too...I still think if I had reported it...it would have been the equivalent of winning the NJ State Lottery!
I ended up dating a girl - trying again, to be what was expected of me. We even were engaged. We never got married. Good thing. For both of us. She ended up marrying a man who had been a friend of mine as a guy, and he treated her well, so that was good. And she stood by my side for two years, in my early transition phase...helping acclimate me to my rightful role as a female. She ws the angel I had needed, but did not know it then.
Our engagement ended with my second and final suicide attempt. Kim gave me back my ring right there in the hospital. She told me she knew why I did it...and what we both knew I really needed...and of course she was right. Within three months of that time, I was living full time as a female, in my own place...only still going to work as a man.
Kim set me up on my first date, as a woman, with a man. I began therapy and then hormones...and, at age 25, fully transitioned and never looked back. January 21, 1997 was the date I became Angela full-time, every day, everywhere...and Angela, and only Angela...I have been ever since. But the transition started in 1995.
I guess the takeaway I want from this...is to totally establish that, from my earliest years....long before I knew of physical differences or sexual relations, I always felt like a female. This was NOT A CHOICE. And there are records, dating back on me to at least 1982...which indicate same...when I was eleven years old. And these records exist across several institutions, in several states. My legal change of name was executed in 1999, in Louisville, Kentucky...where I moved in 1997, shortly after my full transition...and the accompanying job loss.
So that is the brief history of me...and of what it was, in the 1970's and 1980's...to grow up trans...as I did.