When people told me I was different, I just accepted it. Some were being mean, others rather matter of fact. I learned to be ok with being different when I was young. I didn’t really understand why I was different or how. I just tried to own it and I was lucky enough to have people around me who enjoyed my brand of flamboyance. I never really felt like a full outsider since I gravitated socially to odd people in general.
When I look back at my past, at least the past I can remember, I would often be questioned for my differences. Sometimes those questions got a little weird when it came to sexuality.
One of the earliest instances was when my mom cornered me in her room and asked me if I was gay. I couldn’t have been older than 11. I didn’t really understand sex yet. I had barely started puberty. While I knew what being gay meant it wasn’t something I even could have identified with even if I was. Also at that point in my life “gay” had only ever been used as more of an insult than an identity. I just said no, but no didn’t end the discussion. The whole situation resulted in me having a panic attack (or meltdown IDK I’m starting to think it was a ADHD thing). At that time of my life I didn’t know what a panic attack (or whatever) was, nor did my family recognise it. To them it was me just being overemotional. Anyways, I don’t even remember how that was resolved. But I came out of it with a strong feeling that something was wrong with me.
I didn’t know what I was doing to make them think I was gay. I don’t have the best recollection of my childhood so I still don’t really know.
When I got older and started finally dating things did not get more clear. I sort of fell into my first girlfriend. She sought me out. When I started dating her, I fell hard. She broke up with me after 6 months. She lost interest, and part of her reasoning was that I wasn’t manly enough, possessive enough. She wanted to be friends. Lots of girls just wanted to be friends. And honestly I didn’t mind just being friends.
I remember hanging out with queer friends of friends at a Halloween event by Church Street in Toronto. It was chill, but again I got asked “hey what are you?”, meaning how do I identify. I said straight, and I got a funny look. “No you're not,” said one of my new acquaintances. I laughed awkwardly and asked what they meant. They didn’t have a good answer, they just looked at me and said “I don’t believe you. You’re something else.” with this sense that I’d figure it out later. Almost wish they pushed the thought more now…
I started my first career job in my industry, and a coworker asked me if I was dating. I said no. She pushed further, unsatisfied with my lack of dating history asked if I was gay. To which I also said no, and then she got defensive. Saying she didn't mean to assume. Just got a vibe and asked about it. It was a queer positive workplace so I didn't really think too hard about it. But there again was the same assumption.
Lastly, and this one really bugged me, was at my sister's wedding about a year before I started my journey. My cousin who was a few drinks in stopped me to talk. He said he and others were worried about me when I was younger, and that more or less they were proud of what I became. Which doesn’t sound bad, but it was just the way he said it. It felt like there was an implication. IDK if it was about my general vibe or my mental health struggles in my teens. Either way that interaction bugged the shit out of me. He was trying to give me a complement yet it felt like a stab in the heart. What do they think I am now? What was wrong with me back then? Are you talking about the fact that I have a lovely lady with me? Are you talking about how I’m not presenting like the eccentric emo kid I left as?
I’m left wondering if everyone is happy that I learned to mask myself so well that I no longer recognise myself in the mirror. I am now left wondering when I peel off the mask will I go back to being a freak in their eyes? How will they react when I unveil who I really am? This time with total self awareness.
I think I gave off a vibe that I just wasn’t really aware of. Just being weird was enough for my mind until it started to become clear what it actually was. Now I know it was at least one part of my transness, and one part my (then) undiagnosed ADHD.
I spent my late teens self harming and not being able to look in the mirror. I thought I must just hate myself. Spent college partying and running away from my emotions. Goddamn why must I hate myself. I think I confused every prospective sexual partner I have ever even been with. I don’t think I acted like the man they expected of me to be. It seems silly but until my current partner my sex life felt so cold and distant. A total lack of sexual intimacy. I didn't know what was wrong. But I think it was because I’m goddamn queer and these people only had been in straight relationships.
I attribute a lot of my growth to my partner. When I wanted to try things out, she worked with me. I could be 100% myself around her. Even if in hindsight I wasn’t allowing myself to reveal 100% of me. The only person I was lying to was myself. But I wasn’t thinking about it. I could so easily convince myself I was just a weird and kinky guy. Because I didn’t have a way to frame what I was feeling. Which was disconnected from myself. Like my mind and body were too separate.
I started writing this expecting to say I am worried I still don’t belong. But with the acceptance of all my friends and most of my family I know for a fact I do. And in the end it’s fine that I didn’t figure all this stuff back that. Because while part of me grieves for a adolescence that could have been. But the majority of me recognises that what I have, here and now, is a product of all the things I’ve been through.
If I wasn’t a closed off child would I have been obsessed with computers and media? If I wasn’t an angsty teen filled with trauma would I have made the persona that got me all the way through college up-to the job that kick started my career?
And if I didn’t do that.
I wouldn’t have found my chosen family. I wouldn’t have 18+ awesome people in my life who are always there for you when you need it. I would not have met the partner that has taught me so much and helped me grow.
I would never give these things up. If it was a choice between them and being cis. I choose them.