It’s strange to look back on things, memories from my younger self. Sometimes a memory is crystal clear, every detail can be remembered perfectly; other times it’s a murky image like a faded and yellowing photograph. But the strangest thing of all is not knowing how accurate these memories actually are. How much is my memory distorted by my current experience, and how much is stuff I was told and have incorporated into my mental filing cabinet?
Recently I’ve been spending a lot of time questioning my identity, but I don’t think I’ve never really felt comfortable- I just didn’t have a word for what was wrong. It might sound cliche, but I’ve always found it hard to fit in. I spent a lot of time reading, my favourite books were by Roald Dahl (who doesn’t love his books!?) and James Herriot- I loved imagining myself in that setting, as a man in the 1930s. I still do, mostly for the aesthetic value. I didn’t have many friends, and all I wanted to do was to have the flat stomach and dead straight hair that all the Pretty Girls at school had. But at the same time, although I wanted to look the part, I hated dressing feminine- outside of school uniform I lived in jeans and t-shirts. I was called a lesbian at school, a joke started and spread by my ‘friends’. I was miserable but accepted it as normal school bullying, just something that happened.
So when I got new friends it was good. I mean, the girls still wore make up and jewellery and pretty dresses; told me I should too because I look so pretty when I do. My standard response was that I go for comfort over looking good- why would I freeze in the winter wearing a thin dress when I could wear a hoody and jeans? (Something one of my friends was horrified by). It was around this time that I got a pair of maroon jeans- they were what everybody was wearing, but I think the main factor drawing me to them was that they looked good, and guys were wearing them too. They looked good with t-shirts, so why not? [This is one of those memories that I’m not entirely sure about- when I think about this time all I remember is what the guys looked like wearing them even though people of all genders were wearing coloured jeans]. It was around this time that we covered Freud in psychology class and I was genuinely surprised that other people hadn’t experienced penis envy- I was confused by the idea that other girls hadn’t wondered what it would be like to have a penis.
Fast forward a few years, I’m in my first year at uni. I started the year wearing nice clothes, trying to fit in and make friends; I think I only lasted a month and a half before slipping back into my trusty t-shirts. Over the next couple of years I started collecting plaid shirts, (something I had done when I was younger before I was persuaded out of it by my parents) with my collection being built up to about 15 by the end of second year.
That takes us to around July 2015. I was starting to experiment with my presentation, wondering more and more what it would be like to be a guy, or be seen as one. Ambiguous presentation became more and more what I aimed to achieve with my clothing choices, but it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. Come December, my mental health started to really play up and my friends dragged me to the doctor for something to regulate it despite me claiming I was fine. Hello, medication.
I feel like that was actually the best thing that could have happened to me; my head was suddenly clear and I could organise my thoughts far better. Suddenly it was obvious to me that I wasn’t completely comfortable being seen as a girl, that the reason I hated my body wasn’t because it wasn’t feminine enough, but because it was too feminine. Another key thing: I got a haircut. I’ll be honest, for the week or two until I got used to it I absolutely hated it, but after that initial shock period I started to see myself properly. Finally when I looked in the mirror I was Me.
It’s strange now. Most of my gender revelations have happened in the past few months and I’m now at a point where although I’m not out to anybody I feel far more comfortable in myself. Previously, before my hair was cut I would hide from the camera and cringe at any pictures taken of me because I hated how I looked; now I look at pictures taken of me with my hair short and I see myself looking back. Seeing pictures of me with long hair now is like looking at baby pictures of myself, like they’re from a distant life I once had but can’t quite remember. Looking at my body as non-binary has improved my relationship with it, I feel far more confident in my skin and no longer see all the flaws that I used to because I’m no longer striving for the societal ideal of a ‘perfect woman’. That said, I do get some mild dysphoria about my hips and breasts, but its easier to comfort myself about that.
My friends have said I’ve been smiling more, been happier and more confident and I really just think that now things are clicking into place. It wasn’t that anything felt intrinsically wrong before I started to question myself, its just that now everything feels so much more right.