Growing up, I knew nothing of what it meant that someone could be transgender. I knew what gay meant, and lesbian, and cross-dressers (The Birdcage and Some Like it Hot are family favorites) but I had no idea that people could completely change from one gender to another. Our little Lynbrook bubble kept me from seeing more than just my small town.
I knew that I was having feelings for other girls when I was very young, probably five or six, at least I knew that I felt differently about them than I did about boys. I didn’t know exactly what it was until middle school and even then, I suppressed feelings as hard as I could because I knew that was something that wasn’t common in society and didn’t want to be seen as different. I just wanted to be a well-behaved, normal kid – for my parents’ sakes. I have to say that I did a pretty damn good job of it until I became a teenager (typical, I know – gosh darn kids these days, no respect I tell ya) and started to truly self-analyze. I began to acknowledge that even though I’d dated boys, something wasn’t fully clicking. I told no one what I was feeling in middle school, and kept all of my research private, afraid (rightfully so, as it turns out) that no one in my traditional Irish Catholic family would understand and help me to learn more or explore deeper into myself.
The closest thing that I got to support came from my brother Michael, who unfortunately died of a heroin overdose in 2011, before I even came out as transgender and began my transition. To say “it was hard” to lose the only person in my immediate family that showed any semblance of unconditional acceptance and support for me, is a drastic understatement.
Throughout my research in middle school and some of high school, which was done hastily and often followed by a deletion of recent search history (the computer was located in the dining room with the screen facing the main entryway of the house – so that what we were doing could be seen at all times), I found that there were more positive reactions than I had anticipated to someone coming out of the closet. Although the terrible situations that I imagined ensuing when I came out were still evident on the internet, there was a sliver of hope that I wouldn’t have a terrible life as a lesbian – which is what I assumed that I was at that time in my life, since my feelings towards other girls had become more evident despite my attempt to push them away and ignore them. I’m not sure if there was a single moment of revelation that occurred in which I knew that I was sexually attracted to women. It was a string of moments, and brief feelings of warmth around certain people.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20 so now I know that I was transgender all along. A question that I often ask myself is, “If I had known earlier, would I have done it all differently?” An unfair question, really – but still interesting to ponder. I don’t know if I would have been better off knowing earlier – or if that would have made it harder for me. Going through this process in my twenties is assumedly much different than that of a teenager or younger, and I have the feeling that I would be much more impatient and frustrated as a teen than I was as a young adult.
Most importantly, however, is that I cannot change the past – none of us can. So try to remember that even though it would have been nice or convenient to know about something (whether it’s rain on the day of a party or someone you love sharing that they are part of the LGBTQ+ community), it doesn’t change what happened or what is happening. All that we can do is take a breath, accept things as they are, and move on with our lives as best we can while we educate ourselves about different aspects of life.