It’s kind of surreal to think back to 2010. It’s already been half a decade since then. In 2010, when I was 13, I was still figuring all this gender thing out. It had been one year since I made the decision to cut my hair, and I was getting used to being read as a boy and being treated differently. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was starting to know what having male privilege was like. The difference was not obvious to me, but as my mother started to point them out to me, I noticed. Things that I liked happened: people moving out of my way more, being more respected, and not feeling constantly aware of being sexualized. But some things also happened that made me uncomfortable: being told to “man up,” feeling like I have to constantly prove my masculinity, using public restrooms, and getting weird looks when people realized that I was “really a girl.”
13 year old me didn’t know it at the time, but looking back, I was a boy then. A young trans boy exploring a new identity, what it means to be a guy, what it means to be a girl. The funny thing was, I wasn’t aware I was a boy at the time. Five years later it’s obvious to me. I made friends in homeschool co-op who didn’t know I was “really a girl,” I grin and feel good whenever I got read as male in public, and I felt totally comfortable wearing clothes from the men’s section.
No, actually, looking back I was kind of aware something was up. The previous year I decided to cut my hair because someone thought I was a guy. I hurried back home and googled “girl who wants to be a guy.” Thanks to the Internet, I knew what “ftm” was. I longed for binders, I wanted to present and live full time as male, but I thought it was sin. I gave myself a way out by thinking that I was just a tomboy, and this was just a phase. I wasn’t really a boy, I was just a girl who liked masculine things.
But I was never shown what being a man looked like. My father was distant and I didn’t respect him much, so I looked to other sources. The traditional American macho philosophy provided me a framework, if you will, for what masculinity should look like. I wanted to belong, so I took part in misogyny. I looked down on girls and tried to distance myself from anything remotely feminine. I already had internalized misogyny from my years of not being “one of those girls,” so it was an easy fit for me.
Even with all that, 2010 was a good year, all in all. I still have a picture of myself at 13, wearing a Flyleaf t-shirt and cargo shorts for my homeschool co-op picture. In it I just had a haircut and I am smiling widely. I didn’t have to deal with a lot of things yet.
If 13 year old me could see me right now, he probably would have lots of questions. He would ask if I have a binder, if I was a boy or a girl, how I made it the past five years. But most importantly, he would ask if I were still me.