My earliest memories are of hyper awareness I had to manage the world’s relationship to me. I was thinking of myself as a toddler playing pleasantly with a toy while dressed in comfortable clothes for example, but eventually, one of the following would happen:
- someone was going to address me as a boy, and my mum would tell them otherwise
- they would ask my name, I told them, and they would be thrown off it was a girl’s
- a relative called out my name, a stranger would look disturbed when I answered
However we got to there, inevitably I would be asked to justify myself. Regardless of what I answered, and I tried everything to prevent what came next over the years, I was blamed for their wrongful assumption, confusion, embarrassment and/or anger. Thus the gaslighting began. I wasn’t an asexual, gender whatever toddler. I was a girl. And I needed to behave like one immediately for the reassurance of adults and to not bring on confusion to other kids.
Except everyone else’s gender expression wasn’t confusing me. How could my existence cause others so much distress? Were they not thinking for and being themselves as I was? Why were my genitals so important to adults?
The constant reproach and redirecting accumulated. I started off sure I knew myself, but over time, with every additional insistence I couldn’t, because I was too young, not spending enough time doing girl things, didn’t understand what was to come, according to various authority figures in my life, I started to hope they were right. That come adolescence, I would “grow out” of me. I loved myself but I was worn down from the constant criticism. As long as I would come to no longer enjoy the expression and toys I did, I was down with becoming more feminine, if that came to pass. I was fairly certain it wouldn’t, but I was waiting to genuinely want to be feminine the way I genuinely felt okay with my gender. In the mean time, the seed of my self-doubt was carefully nurtured by everyone around me until it blossomed.
Ironically, my saving grace of sorts was my steadily increasing dysphoria. The world kept chipping away at me, and by the end of high school, I occasionally interrupted my wearing of baggy pants and shorts in favour of a skirt. Sometimes I traded a baggy top for a crop top or spaghetti strap shirt. Every time my mind became utter chaos, I could scarcely process a word people were saying to me from how overwhelmed I was with dysphoria-anxiety. No amount of praise overrode the immense distress. I tried to value other people’s opinions over mine, there’s more of them than me, collectively you have a lot more power over my life than I do, and we can wax poetics about how this shouldn’t be, it is reality.
rant\If I had more power over me than the rest of the world, I never would have gone to live in a reparative institution because according to the adults in my life, I lacked “proper” social skills as evidenced by my refusal to conform to gender norms. If I had more power over me than the rest of the world, I wouldn’t have relocated so often through out my life, been tossed from one home to another, one school to another, been explicitly told I was passed up a job or promotion because of my gender. If I had more power over my life than the rest of the world, I wouldn’t have had to sit through too many psych evaluations to prove:
a) I’m a man
b) I was distressed enough about the state of my body
c) but not so much that I would harm myself while delaying medically necessary care
I’m insulted when people propose I shouldn’t do certain things in my life “just because” it’s what the rest of the world wants of me. I’ve damn well demonstrated with literal blood, sweat and tears through out my life that I will do what I want if I feel that I must. But I don’t have an endless supply of resilience against microaggressions, gaslightining and systemic barriers. Sometimes something doesn’t matter as much or enough to me to do it another way, so I’ll do it as someone else wants because I’m human, flaws and all./
Imagine a cis guy who’s been shot in his groin, having to go blue in the face arguing it was distressing not to have a dick and balls. Imagine him doing that amidst a sea of rhetoric saying he was confused, and had too low a self-esteem to know he already was a guy and thus doesn’t need genitals reconstruction.
Of course I have a hard time trusting myself. Of course I exhibit signs of someone who’s been gaslit most of his life.
I’m seriously contemplating abandoning my career dreams and hoping this time when I settle for a job I can already get, I will manage to endure the lack of interest in the work. I attempted many times to pursue the career I’ve wanted since my childhood. But I’m alternatively told I’m too old, not culturally me/local enough, didn’t study enough of X that every professional in said career agrees bares no relevance to the necessary knowledge and future practice, or not confident enough.
I won the battle over my body. I don’t know that I can piece back together much more of my mind. I don’t know how much more I can expect of myself regarding my work life.