One of the difficulties I had when I was coming to acceptance that I am transgender, that I am female in spirit, mind and heart, is why I was able to live so much of my life with that truth buried deep. Looking back, I can see there are many different reasons, many influences in my life which kept me scared and hidden. One of those influences was an early awareness that, in so many ways, being male in this world seems easier. I understand now that it isn’t that simple, that men have some roadblocks to their true selves that come with our culture’s gender roles, but in many ways, it was and still is ‘a man’s world’.
Living as both male and female has given me some insight, I think, into how some of our gender role structure affects our lives.
As a male, I was left on my own a lot. People didn’t worry about me so much, I was expected to be able to take care of myself. This wasn’t the best thing for me, though, as I always felt like I was in over my head, but it did allow me the freedom to move through the world unfettered for the most part. I can’t compare that to what it may have been like if I had grown up living as female, because I didn’t get to do that, but as a woman today, I do sense how different expectations are.
It comes down to this. As a male I was given complicit permission by the society at large, if not my father, to enter the world on my own terms. I was given quite a bit of leeway and open road. I didn’t have to self evaluate all the time.
As a woman, I find that is quite different. There is a larger expectation that I care about my appearance, that I behave in a certain way, that I constantly redefine my self and clarify who I am to the outer world. It feels like more eyes are on me, more judgements are being made. I feel more pressure on me from society and in turn I put myself under more pressure.
None of this surprises me. I have known this to be true since I was a small child and saw how different things were for my girl friends. I remember thinking to myself then that maybe I dodged a bullet, maybe I got lucky, because I was born with a penis and that would make my life simpler. Maybe I should be quiet about how I actually felt about myself, and be glad I could slip through life unnoticed and unmolested. My chances felt better as a male.
I wasn’t brave as a child. I was shy and anxious. When it came time to fly or fight, I flew. Always. So I do have to forgive that scared little girl in her boy shell. It was understandable she would not step up and proclaim “But I AM a girl!”
She was wrong, though. Life wasn’t easier. It’s not easy being male either, especially if you don’t fit the social norms, aren’t able to avail yourself of the tools laid before you. What I could not understand then, was nothing was going to be easy. Living takes brave work. And the more you practice bravery, the easier it becomes, and the richer your life becomes.
That scared little girl with the boy tags was wrong to hide what she knew in her heart to be true. It isn’t worse being female. It’s worse being someone you aren’t, not being true to yourself.
I’ll take that pressure, anytime. Bring it on. I can handle it because I am a woman, and I give myself permission to live fully and completely in this world.