This is another short excerpt from my memoir about going to Thailand for SRS surgery. This section tells just a tiny bit about my childhood and past, what led up to my decision to eventually transition.
My story begins around the fourth of July, 1969. I was still a fetus, safely ensconced within my mother’s uterus. I would not be born until late February of 1970. Early July 1969, I was about six weeks post conception.
This is an important turning point in the life of every transgender person even though none of us remember it. Somewhere around this time the fetus is faced with the all important tasks of deciding what sex it will be. Informed by genetics and hormonal fluctuations, the fetus begins to make subtle and not so subtle changes.
For most people the subtle changes in the nervous system and the not so subtle changes in the genitals go in the same direction. However, the blood brain barrier prevents the passage of hormones and in rare cases the brain and the body take divergent paths. Or so claims the leading theory of transgender people. MRI studies of trans women show that some of us are quite literally women trapped in male bodies.
Of course, neither me nor my parent’s had any awareness that something had slipped. I was born the following February and was declared a boy. I was raised a boy and for much of my life I accepted this definition as the only possible one.
A “boy” named Rickey
It’s 1978 and what appears to be a typical boy is taking his bath. I had a full complement of plastic army men lined up along the side of the tub, along with numerous plastic animals. These particular army men had just been involved in the daring rescue of the animals from a flood of biblical proportions. But the water was growing cold and bedtime was nearing.
I climbed out of the tub and found a towel. After a quick dry off, I rifled through the vanity drawers and found a brush, not a comb. I used a comb at school, but in private I preferred a brush.
Wet hair is one the greatest toys I have. I brush my hair up into poindexter spikes and then make faces at myself in the mirror. I slick it back, then slick it forward. Sometimes I would give myself a duckbill. After awhile I get bored of this and part my hair carefully in the middle.
I don’t really have enough hair to work with. Forget what you may have heard about the seventies and long hair, this is small town Iowa. I had recently spent a week with my best friend in the town of Harcourt, Iowa. The entire town had been buzzing with gossip that week. A local high school boy had let his hair grow out over the summer, so long it nearly touched his shoulders. Why did his parents tolerate such disregard for social convention? Was he a hippy now? Was he on drugs? Or, and this was barely spoken above a whisper, was he one of them queers?
When I was very young, Dad would give my four brothers and me buzz cuts using an old pair of what I believed were sheep shears. Mom would line us up and wash our hair in the kitchen with a washcloth.
Later on, I went to a barber who gave boys two options, just above the top of the ear or just below the top of the ear. You had to hold perfectly still while he worked. He told me, and I never realized until years later that he was joking, that he had a whole closet full of ears he had accidentally cut off of boys who squirmed.
So I had short hair. Still, I would part it in the middle and draw the sides together as best I could. I would use rubber bands that my sister stored in one of the drawers, to pull the sides into pigtails.
With the pigtails in place, the towel wrapped around my hips would become a skirt. I would curtsey to the mirror and then spin for an invisible audience. Sometimes a wind would come up and threaten to blow my “skirt” up. I would pause and make the classic Marilyn Monroe pose.
Later, in my pajamas, I would lay in bed and stare at the stucco wall. In my mind, I was a famous singer. The stucco bumps were the crowd of adoring fans. I would sing to them, shimmying my body as I danced. Eventually I would get too close and kick the wall. Even years later my mom would complain of “all that infernal racket, the constant thump, thump” as I tried to get to sleep.
That was a boy named Rickey. Adults used phrases like “special,” “an odd duck” and “a little different” to describe the boy named Rickey.
Kids my own age were more blunt. The first day of kindergarten a boy on the bus called me gay.
“What’s that mean?” I asked.
“Umm,” he fumbled, “umm, you’re gay.” He didn’t know. He only knew it was a bad thing to be called and it applied to kids like me. Sissy was another common term for me on the playground. “You walk like a girl,” the other boys would sneer.
Another memory stands out. I was fourteen. A buzz cut, a perpetual scowl and more than a dozen fist fights on the playground have banished the “sissy” moniker. I was currently trying to shinny into a cheerleading outfit. It barely fit. It shouldn’t have. It had belonged to one of my sister’s friends and I stole it out of her rag pile after she had outgrown in. With my narrow hips I managed to get it on.
I looked in the mirror and it wasn’t a pretty sight. I had narrow hips, no chest and short hair. Somehow, I had expected more. I had expected that donning female clothes would make me look and feel more feminine. They didn’t.
I removed the outfit and hid it under a loose ceiling tile in my bedroom. I wouldn’t cross dress again for many years.
I returned to the bed and found a paperback book. It was a fantasy novel I had read several times already, the pages dogeared. There is one chapter where the main character is magically transferred into his girlfriend’s body. The author, writing for titillation’s sake, describes the experience in great detail, the feel of having soft skin, breasts and womanly curves. If only there was some magic for me, some way to experience that for myself. But there isn’t.
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