I knew that I was different and it was hard for me to figure out why. I was, after all, only five years old and was trying to figure things out for myself. My life was very complicated and I had a feeling that it is not supposed to be complicated for a little kid or maybe it was and I was just in some way broken. No, I was pretty certain that I was probably broken. There was no one to really talk to and the feelings I was having needed to stay inside.
I desperately wanted to understand what was happening and why I felt so wrong in my own skin. I couldn’t tell my parents; I didn’t trust adults and I was terrified of my father. My father was scary and he hurt me in ways I did’t want to talk about; in ways he warned me to never talk about. My mom seemed okay but she was with him so I could not take the chance to trust her. I could not take the chance to trust anyone.
When I was three, some cousins dressed me up in girl’s clothes and I felt better. I felt like I was safe, like I was right. I never understood why or the significance of this event until I was much older and five year old me was still trying to work it all out. I was not thinking about that first moment at all and most likely didn’t yet have the reasoning skills to piece it into the puzzle that was me.
School was something new for me and it added another complexity to the confusion that was my world. The boys were very quick to realize I was not right. They instinctively knew that there was something just not boy-like about me. This was when I got to learn about a little something called bullying. I would become very well acquainted with bullying through all of my school years. However, I didn’t really care when I was five as I was too busy in my head trying to work out why I was different and what exactly the nature of this difference was.
The full realization of what I actually was happened one weekend at my grandparents. I was sitting in the front yard watching a little girl walking on the narrow road in front of the house. I felt an overwhelming feeling of jealousy towards her and I realized that I wanted her life so much. Why did I want this girl’s life? Maybe she was happier and maybe it was less confusing in her world. No, that was not it. I knew what it was and I needed to put it into thoughts and words in my head. I didn’t want to trade places with her. I was that girl.
I, a confused little broken boy, was actually a girl and for the first time in my life something actually made sense. I was initially so happy to finally understand what I was, to know that I was a girl. However, I soon remembered one detail. I was living in a boy’s world. People saw me as a boy and there was no way I could ever be me. I knew right away if I told anyone that I was a girl, I would be shamed, beaten, maybe even locked away. I was utterly trapped.
I learned what depression was pretty quickly and accepted that my life was hopeless. I accepted the horrors that came from my Dad and the bullying that came from almost everybody who met me. Basically, I just went through the motions. I was utterly, hopelessly trapped. I was alone and no one would ever be able to help me. I hated my body so much and yet to survive I had to pretend that everything was fine. I had to learn to be a boy even if I was terrible at it. I was devestated and I truly believed that I was the only girl stuck in this predicament in the entire world. This was a belief I carried until I was ten and overheard a conversation about a distant cousin who had had a sex change.
At five I was still a long ways from that tiny glimmer of hope that would come when I was ten. I had to learn to play with toys as a boy and I adapted a two-prong play approach. When people were around it was all action and fighting and then when I was alone, the playing was more stories and relationship based. It was one of the reasons that I was drawn to action figures because they were kind like little dolls though not as fun.
I started staying at my grandparents a lot and this was one of my safe havens growing up. My grandmother let me do things that I wanted to do like making pies. She always treated me with respect and I think she knew I was special though I am not sure if she knew exactly what it was. They encouraged me all the time and their support meant the world to me. Their house was safe from my father and at night when I would lie on my grandmother and watch television, I felt protected. I really do regret that my grandmother never got to know Candace because I know she would be proud of me and love me unconditionally.