My first coming out at 14 and the ensuing 7 years of denial: part 2

Therapy

My mom has always been a reliable pillar in my life. She is a woman of action, accustomed to stressful situations. If a problem arises, she deals with it with tact, diplomacy, and determination. She was the one to teach me to value music and the one who sat by my side when it was time to practice. She was the one who helped me through difficult english assignments, the one who joined the scout instructors to help me feel safe in a new environment, and the one who comforted me whenever I came back from school shaken by that day’s bullying.

I love my dad, but in the end it was my mom who was there when it mattered most. And it was to her I went first when I couldn’t bear the burden of silence anymore.

She listened to me, asked a few awkward questions most of which I didn’t know how to answer. Knowing her own limited knowledge on the topic, she asked me if I would like to talk with a professional like a sexologue. It was part of the usual narrative, so I agreed. She then hugged me and reassured me she would do everything she could to help.

Although I dreaded it at first, the talk with my mom went well. A little too well in fact.

She took immediate action. That day at work she requested a list of people who might be able to help from the services provided to employees. She educated herself on what she could find on the topic of transgenderism. She looked at news articles and statistics. One such article said that these feelings I had would never disappear; that they could be repressed, but would eventually come back when the feeling of dissatisfaction grew too intense.

She reaffirmed whenever she could that she was there to support me and that I could come talk to her. My mom had a plan, but more than that she was well aware she couldn’t understand what I was going through and that the help she could provide alone was limited.

Thus, she scheduled me an appointment with a therapist.

In my adult mind it feels like it had taken only a week between my confession and the appointment, but it could have been one and a half or two; I’m not sure. The only impression I’m certain of is that I thought it was too fast; that I wasn’t ready.

I went along with it.

In a vacuum, it was the reasonable thing to do. To my fourteen years old mindset,  psychologists were people qualified to take momentous decisions that could change the course of one’s life. You were supposed to sit in a room with them, answer a few questions, talk about yourself, and they would make a decision for you. They knew what was best. Or so did the theory go.

My previous experience with a psychologist had left me apprehensive about them having that much power over me. When I had been in first grade, my parents had scheduled appointments with someone qualified because I was smart. I could do maths other kids my age couldn’t do. I remember spending several sessions doing IQ tests and solving labyrinths and puzzles. It was done in the aid center at school. The teacher giving the tests later recommended I skipped ahead a grade because it would stimulate my logical mind. I could handle it according to them.

Yet, they had failed to take into account that my reading and writing skills were subpar. They had ignored the impact being a year younger could make on a five years old child. At that age, one year is massive. I might have had above average grades compared to kids my age, but I wasn’t ever compared to others my age; I was compared to older kids, and next to them I was barely making it.

For five years, I was smaller, weaker, less mature, less knowledgeable, less everything than my peers. I was ridiculed, intimidated, harassed, pushed around, forcefully held in place and poked, and laughed at. Other kids found it entertaining to ask me questions they knew I didn’t know the answer to. One question would be followed by a smug smile, no answer, then another question I didn’t understand, another smile, and never an answer. At some point the teachers stopped caring when I went to them saying the other kids were annoying me with all their questions. The teachers found it innocent enough; they didn’t understand how miserable and lacking it made me feel. To make it stop, I had to change school and take back a year simply to be in the right age bracket again.

I could handle it, the psychologist had said.

Right.

Thus were the thoughts I had while waiting with my mom in the lobby of the therapist. I hadn’t yet met them, and already I was feeling anxious and ill at ease. I didn’t want to be here, but I had read therapy was a normal part of transitioning. It was what the true transwomen did to prove they were women and to get hormones and many other things. It was part of the narrative, so I kept silent and tried to make myself comfortable.

The woman came to greet us. I didn’t speak much, giving the reins to my mom instead. The two of them talked around the topic of transgenderism, either as though the therapist hadn’t been made aware of it or it was taboo in a public space.

Leaving my mom behind, I followed the woman into a room with two large and uncomfortable club chairs. There wasn’t anything else in the small room; just a carpet, me with my bags, and her with pen and paper.

I didn’t know what to say, so I remained silent and let her start. She shared the privacy policies of her establishment. Everything would stay between her and I, unless she decided it was life threatening, in which case she would take action. Already nervous, her mention of suicide did nothing to put me at ease.

After resisting her first few attempts at probing me, we eventually breached the topic I was here for.

I told her I wanted to be a girl. She asked me why, and I didn’t know the answer. I had never tried to justify my desire to myself. It had been floating in the back of my mind for so long there was no ‘why’; it just was. Having only breached the subject with two other persons I hadn’t needed to find a reason for wanting to be different, and yet here she was, confronting me about it.

She asked me if I felt like a girl, and again I didn’t know the answer. How did one ‘feel like a girl’? How did one ‘feel like a boy’ for that matter? I didn’t feel particularly feminine nor masculine. I felt uncomfortable, but how? I couldn’t say.

Even to this day, I don’t feel ‘like a girl’. I do feel comfortable though. I feel like myself. Nathalie Wynn had the right of it that the only good answer to that question pre-transition is ‘I feel like shit‘.

At the time, though, I took my lack of feelings as proof against me. I scrambled to come up with different reasons why I was feminine. I told the therapist I enjoyed drawing, crocheting, weaving, origami, swimming, and other such activities I associated more with girls than boys. At the same time, other activities came to my mind which I tried to repress: my love for legos, bugs, outdoor activities, Magic the Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons. Each of them felt like it detracted from my reasons to want to be a girl. It was like a scale, with on one side all of myself that was feminine and one the other all of that which was masculine, and the feminine side was falling short.

The therapist asked me how long I had felt that way, and once more I lacked anything decisive. At the age of seven, whenever I would go to sleep, I would imagine myself changing gradually to another shape. It had started with animals such as snakes and eagles, but eventually I tried a mermaid, and then a plain simple girl. Changing to a girl fell more soothing than any other shape, and while I tried a few more, I kept returning to that of a girl. Every night, I would do this little ritual of imagining myself as a girl as I fell asleep. It was comforting and helped me through the difficult times in grade school.

But that was the only memory I could conjure. I hadn’t known all my life like the other transwomen. I never crossdressed, never played with dolls.

Once more, I fell short of the desired narrative.

One of the questions I could answer I preferred lying instead: had I seen or read something to trigger these feelings? Kashimashi immediately came to mind, but I didn’t want to admit it. I was feeling pressured and tested, and I feared that the therapist would point out all the ways the manga failed to represent a true narrative. I didn’t want the woman in front of me to tarnish my enjoyment of the story. I needed to be able to keep dreaming, so I lied.

The therapist kept asking more and more questions, very few of which I knew the answer to. She would ask and reassure me with a smile when I couldn’t offer anything. She could have answered her own questions, shared with me other people’s experiences and different stories which were all as valid as the next, but she did no such thing. She never filled in the gaps. It was the same pattern I’d seen countless times before:

A question, a smile, no answer, another question, another smile, never any answer.

At some point, I stopped talking. I was too ashamed to say any more. There was no point. I wasn’t woman enough to transition. All I mustered were some ‘mhmm’, ‘okay’, and ‘why?’

The coup de grace came when she mentioned hormones. At the time, hormones were the closest thing to that dreamed “become a woman” button. I thought they were these magic whatever that would feminize my body over time without me having to do anything. They were the last thing I clung to with any semblance of hope.

I asked her whether hormones were an option.

She told me she would first need to make sure I wouldn’t regret my decision. To gain access to hormones, I would need to live one full year as a girl. Dressed as a girl, going to school as a girl, and being referred to with female pronouns.

That killed any hope I may have had that I could transition. I didn’t want to be seen as a boy in girl clothes. I didn’t want to be ridiculed nor to give anyone any reason to ridicule me ever again. I couldn’t imagine myself going full-time, coming out to my entire family, all my friends and everyone at school. I felt like I needed the hormones to be able to transition, so to be told that I needed to do so without only to be rewarded with them when all was said and done was non-sensical. It put the cart before the horse.

But what did I know? She was the expert.

I exited the room feeling numb. My mom was there waiting for us. She asked how it went, and I told her I didn’t want to talk about it. It was painful to be reminded of what I couldn’t have.

Denial

That was the last time I mentioned transgenderism in the years that followed. I didn’t want to think about it at all.

I resigned myself to masculine behaviours. I would avoid my own reflection as much as possible, ignore facial hair until it grew long enough I randomly caught sight of it in glimpses of said reflection I was avoiding.

I went back to reading gender-bender fiction, but no explicit transgender literature. I enjoyed my friends’ company. Most of my hobbies were more masculine, such as card games, board games, Dungeons and dragons, and scientific experiments. I distracted myself with life for a while.

Meanwhile, my mom had the patience of a saint. After I had come out of my appointment with the therapist, she hadn’t breached the topic with me nor had she taken more steps to help me transition. She had read it never went away, and thus she had waited for it to come back, ideally at a time I felt more confident and comfortable about it. I never told her what had been said during that therapy, nor that I had associated the sexologist with the same teachers/psychologists that had been involved during the most stressful years of my childhood. I only talked to her about all this when writing this post. That was one emotional yet satisfying discussion.

My mom waited three years before coming back to me about it all. She asked me if the feelings I had had— I didn’t want to talk about it. I knew what she was alluding to and I didn’t let her say it aloud. I told her I regretted opening up to her about my feelings. At seventeen I was right into my teen years, and so my mom stepped back and let me have my way. I was often lost in my own head, recluse in my room for one reason or another. Recalling the teenage years of my older sisters, my mom gave me all the space I needed and didn’t take my rudeness too personal.

The most I did gender-wise during the following years was to grow my hair out. I thought I could maybe dress as a girl at Halloween if my hair grew long enough, but I never went through with it.

I was still in too much denial to do more than this. Every time something reminded me of trans issues, I became nostalgic and resentful. If my mom was around, I was anxious she would bring me up in any such relevant discussion. The topic was taboo for me.

Over the years, I gained in maturity and confidence. Even though the topic was a self-imposed taboo, I would once in a blue moon read something about it, or be exposed to it in a way that didn’t trigger my fight-or-flight instincts (or rather my freeze-or-flight response in the 4F system). Eventually I became comfortable enough with the topic to be curious about it and search solutions to specific problems: how to completely get rid of my facial hair, how to soften my voice, how to tuck my Adam apple, how to care for my hair, etc.

It was July 2015. I was going on 21. One day I received from my school an email offering opportunities for an internship in Japan. Four to eight months in a different country, where no-one would know me nor recognize me. Eight months to explore, to try things and make mistakes with no long-term consequences. It was too good to pass.

That email was the trigger that pushed me to transition.

 

<< Previous

My first coming out at 14 and the ensuing 7 years of denial: part 1

I remember laying wide awake in bed at five in the morning, waiting. The sun was barely poking through the windows and yet I refused to go back to sleep for fear of missing my chance. All I could do was think over and over again what I would say to my mom.

I heard her shift in her bed two rooms down from mine. She was gradually waking up, going through her morning routine. I laid as still as possible. I didn’t want to rush her into a talk. I wanted her alert and attentive, not groggy from sleep, so I waited.

I waited as she moved from the bathroom to the kitchen: the sound of drawers being pulled and plates being moved. Then, all was silent. I could imagine her eating, the sounds too soft for me to pick up.

I debated whether to get out of bed at all. I felt ashamed, scared of her reaction. I could go on pretending I was asleep and no-one would be the wiser. I could go on with my life without forcing myself to confront her on this.

I heard more sounds and I panicked. It was earlier than I expected. Either that, or I had lost track of time in my musings. I knew she usually left for work very early, before the rest of us were out of bed, but I didn’t want to miss my chance. If I didn’t go through with this now, I would find excuses to chicken out next time, then the next and so on.

Bare feet, dressed in only the first pair of pants I could find, I walked to the kitchen. My mom was there, dressed and ready to leave at any moment. She saw me coming and stopped what she was doing.

She was surprised to see me up this early. It might have been my state of undress, the way I stood, or the look on my face that clued her in: she asked me what was wrong.

I told her we needed to talk. She put away her purse and sat me in a chair at the kitchen table. I sat at the end of the table while she took a side seat. The table corner between us was my last bit of protection as she gave me her full attention.

She asked me again what was wrong. I was too ashamed to speak. She asked me if it was about school, and I shook my head: no.

Was it about the bullying?

No.

Was it related to the family?

No.

She paused, at a loss.

She asked me if I was gay.

I didn’t deny that one, but it wasn’t what I wanted her to take away from this either. Sure, I could say I was and brush the whole thing off. It would satisfy her curiosity, and it wasn’t even technically false at that point, but it wasn’t enough.

“I want to be a girl,” was all I said.

It’s funny how so many years later I barely remember the ensuing discussion with my mom, but the lead up to it remains so vivid.

Context

Contrarily to my transition at the age of 21, I do not have a written account of my impressions and feelings when I was 14. All I have are memories colored with hindsight, idealized or dramatized with time. My mom and a friend helped me fill in the gaps of my patchwork memory.

I cannot pinpoint one time in my past where I became aware of my dysphoria. It became much more pronounced with puberty, though.

I waited as long as I could before shaving the light fuzz that grew on my upper lip. The boys were proud to brag about their first shave, comparing the age they started using a razor as though it was an accomplishment of their masculinity. For my part, I wanted nothing to do with it. I didn’t want to use a razor, nor did I want to see my fuzzy face in the mirror. I ignored the hair and pushed back the task as much as I could. The only reason I ended up shaving was because the glimpse of myself in the mirror brought more unease than the dysphoria of going through with it.

Speaking of mirrors: I couldn’t stand my own appearance being reflected back at me. Mirrors, glass, pictures, even the voice recording we needed to do for our Spanish class: they were all off. I didn’t think much of it back then. Everyone was going through puberty; everyone was complaining their voice sounded strange, or they had pimples, or were dissatisfied with their body in some way, shape or form. My own feelings fell perfectly in line with what others were living, so I never questioned why I kept thinking I would look better as a girl. I simply assumed everyone felt the same.

I went through the first few years of high school without much self-awareness. Gender identity wasn’t one of the topics of our sex-education class. Rather, most of our classes centered over biological sex, STI, safer sex measures, and pregnancy. There was so much focus put on safer sex that at one point the topic bled into our other classes. For a few months, whether it was chemistry, French, English, ethics, or physical education, the only thing our teachers would talk about was safer sex. More than one students ended up either disgusted, desensitized or disillusioned. Thinking back, that might have been the teachers’ goal: what better way to keep a bunch of hormonal teens on the straight and narrow than to overwhelm them with exactly what they were interested in? Again, my own feelings of aversion towards my own body fit right in with the other students’.

Outlet

During high school, I knew what I wanted. However, I didn’t have enough knowledge of LGBT narratives to think my desires were more than wishful thinking.

I had found some stories about transpeople, sometimes on news websites told from the perspective of a cis person. The narrative was often the same: the person said they always knew; they felt trapped in the wrong body; they were depressive; they crossdressed from a young age; they related more with people from their chosen gender; they were sure.

That wasn’t me. That couldn’t me.

I didn’t know for sure how I felt. I didn’t feel trapped. I wasn’t unhappy; in fact compared to my bullied grade school years I was happier than ever, with a great family, good grades and a growing circle of friends. I never crossdressed, nor did I have that many female friends. I had one good one whom we’ll call Marie, and there were a few other girls who hung out with my other friends so I considered them friends as well even though we didn’t talk much. I didn’t feel any closer to them than my boy friends.

I didn’t fit the narrative, so I couldn’t be trans.

I was disappointed, but not much more. I was happy. Between school, swimming and board games, I had plenty to distract myself.

And books. Lots of novels. There is something reassuring in the escapism one gets from some ink on sheets of paper. Books had followed me ever since I binged the Amos Daragon series in grade school. They were the same old fantasy stories I loved, except for one thing: I now only read stories with female protagonists.

I related more with female protagonists than male ones. I was fascinated with their emotions and reactions and I could imagine myself in their shoes facing the same trials much more readily than the latter. After a few such stories, male protagonists left me unsatisfied. They were missing something, a lack of depth that made them uninteresting to my fourteen years old self.

One of the books to feature almost only women characters was Thendara House from the Darkover series. It was part of a large box full of books left behind by my brother after he left home. The book was old, with the cover scrapped around the edges and with the middle third not even glued to the rest of the binding.

The book follows two plotlines, one for each main character. I was more invested in the story of Magda Lorne, though. Her character arc led to her making efforts to adopt the natives’ culture as a diplomatic move to integrate the colony with the rest of the interstellar empire. Part of said culture was an openness to lesbian women among the group Magda joined. At first prejudiced, Magda gradually opened up to her new sisters. She developed feelings of her own and, confused, she spent a while in denial of them. The romantic sub-plot was a small part of the book, but seeing her struggle with her own feelings and the subsequent release when she finally admitted them to herself… I could relate.

The romance itself wasn’t anything to write home about, but it was still one I could picture myself in more easily than those teen romances between a boy and a girl.

Now, I know what most people reading the above would say to this: girl on girl is hot; it’s a teenage boy’s wet dream; of course I would be interested.

Except for the fact I had my sexual awakening only three years later, that I had just come out of a short relationship I didn’t feel comfortable in, and that the book didn’t have any erotic nor even suggestive scene, I would tend to agree. As it was, what I took away from that book was the realization I was more comfortable seeing myself in a lesbian relationship than a straight one.

First confession

A few months before I read Thendara House I had a brief relationship with Marie. I talked a little about it in an earlier post. She asked me out and I agreed despite my confused feelings.

I felt like I was following a script of how to act in a relationship instead of living it for my own sake. I was stiff and awkward, but again, it’s puberty. Who isn’t?

At the same time, a guy we’ll call John hung at the same table as me and my friends. I was one of the satellite members of the group, there for the few people I knew. The rest of the group were friends of friends I wasn’t as close to. He was probably around for the same reasons I was.

John was quite open about the fact he was exploring his bisexuality. He had had a few crushes on girls that didn’t work out, and had tried to flirt with a few boys as well.

I think he had been flirting with me prior to my getting together with Marie, but I can’t quite remember. I was oblivious to those kinds of social cues at the time, and it took Marie’s confession for me to realize that she had been trying to become closer to me for a little while. John might have tried the same, though his attempts flew over my head. All I know was that when Marie and I made it official (asking me out in the cafeteria in front of everyone kind of made it official by default), John became more obvious in his flirts. Or maybe I was more on the lookout for them from my girlfriend so I also noticed his more?

Regardless.

I dated Marie for a month. By the end of that month, I couldn’t pretend anymore: I didn’t feel attracted to her the way she was to me. I broke up with her but wanted us to remain friends, which we did. Once there was no script to follow, I felt more at ease with our relationship. I felt closer to her as a friend than as a partner.

John was never far behind when Marie and I were dating, but after we amiably broke up, he grew more daring. He was competing for my attention while at the same time backing off whenever Marie got fed up with him. He had enough respect of my friendship with Marie to ask her permission before doing anything with me, whether it be holding hands, sitting next to me, or kissing me. On her end, Marie was polite enough to take a hands-off approach and let him experiment with me if I was up to it, thus she agreed more often than not. I went along with it, not too sure what to think.

It was a few months later, with the recent reading of Thendara House on my mind, that John and I found ourselves to be the only ones at our usual table at the cafeteria. We decided to walk around the school without destination, talking all the while.

After some mundane talk, I asked him how being bisexual felt to him. He mentioned his attraction to boys and that he wasn’t really sure he was bi, but he wanted to keep his options open and take his time to explore both sides.

He told me he found me cute. I knew that. He had been rather obvious about it.

He continued with more seriousness. He confessed his feelings and asked me if I wanted him for boyfriend.

I turned him down as gently as I could. I wasn’t attracted to him, and we didn’t have the same kind of friendship I had with Marie. I wasn’t eager to get back into a relationship before having sorted out my confused feelings.

He took it in stride, and we resumed our earlier chat. However, I didn’t want to leave it at that. I wouldn’t get over my feelings by thinking about the same things over and over again, so I made a confession of my own.

“I want to be a girl.”

Perhaps it was because he had shared his own confession earlier; perhaps I felt he would understand; or perhaps it was because he was distant enough as a friend that I didn’t fear to lose him if our relationship changed as a result of my confession. In the end, I told him. He was the first person I ever shared this desire of mine with.

He kept silent for a few seconds, then asked me if I wanted to go somewhere more private. Nodding, I followed him to an empty staircase leading to the balcony of the gym. No-one ever used that staircase.

We sat down on the steps, and he listened as I talked.

I told him about my disdain for my facial hair. I told him the thoughts I had whenever I looked in the mirror, and how little things kept making me think everything would be so much better as a girl. The silent wishes upon my birthday cakes, the fact I had thought about it at least once a day for years now…

At some point I started crying. It was cathartic to speak about these things, to admit they were real. I thought I was coping well enough, but that illusion came crashing down the moment I opened my mouth. I couldn’t contain my feelings, and so I let them all out.

He hugged me and said nothing. He listened until I was done, and comforted me until I calmed down a bit.

He tried to relate, but it didn’t help. He wasn’t living the same thing, and the experiences he shared missed the point. He tried to ask me questions about what being a girl meant to me, whether I was more attracted to boys or girls, but that didn’t help either. I didn’t know. Did I need to be attracted to boys to feel like a girl? I didn’t know.

At a loss, he did the thing most teens have seen in movies when one needed to provide comfort. He kissed me.

And I kissed him back.

It wasn’t the first time he kissed me, not by a long shot, but it was the first time I returned the gesture. That both surprised me and confused me. He was a flirt, one not to be taken too seriously. I enjoyed his company, but we didn’t share enough interests and values for me to consider him a close friend. I wasn’t attracted to him, so why in a moment of weakness would I kiss him?

What did that say about me?

I pulled away from him and excused myself. He apologized and said he shouldn’t have kissed me, but I was too out of it to answer coherently. I needed some time alone to think.

I avoided him for the rest of the day. In fact, I avoided a lot of people that day.

It was while waiting at a bus stop in between my transfers, with a few hours of distance and the cool air soothing me, that I came to a decision: I might be bi. I thought I should thank John for helping me discover this about myself and to have seen me through in a moment of distress.

The next day I did just that. John apologized profusely, even though I didn’t see it as his fault but rather mine. He had been his usual self, and he had a history of kissing me at awkward times; no surprise there. I had been the one kissing him back, so I felt the responsibility fell onto me. We were awkward around each other for a little while afterwards.

Looking back, I was lacking the introspection to unearth my true feelings about this situation. I was just mimicking the reaction I had read in Thendara House, where Magda (much in the same way) was confused by her reaction to the advances of another member of the sisterhood, even though she expected these advances. Magda thanked the sister for showing interest, but politely refused them in favor of finding answers by herself.

I was adrift in feelings I didn’t understand, and so I clung to the only role model I knew who had been in a similar situation. I didn’t know better.

As opposed to what I had told John, I did not discover I was bisexual from that one kiss. The impact wasn’t that clear cut. What I did get from it was momentary relief. It was a single moment where I didn’t repress my desires. I wanted to be held and comforted like a girl. I had feared ridicule and dismissal for so long that the simple lack of these reactions felt validating. For all of John’s awkwardness, he listened. He held me, he comforted me. That meant a lot.

However, I felt also uncomfortable having shared this secret with him instead of say Marie or my parents. I wasn’t close to him, and this kind of vulnerability felt at odd with the type of relationship we had. It could lead him to believe we had a deeper connection than I was comfortable having. Furthermore, I felt guilty towards the people who should have been in John’s place, those whom I wanted comfort and validation from. It was unfair to keep this secret from them when I shared it with a distant friend.

Yet, I couldn’t gather the guts to tell them.

Breaking point

There was one other book that affected me enough for its name to stick with me for all these years: the manga Kashimashi Girl Meets Girl.

The premise of the manga is that a boy named Hazumu died after confessing his feelings to a girl. He got crushed in a failed UFO landing. The aliens, feeling responsible for his death, brought him back to life as a girl and announced that fact to the entire world.

While the premise might sound strange, it is an excuse to explore the relationships and personal growth of a transgender person when physical transition and social transition have been taken out of the equation.

Nowadays I can see the unfortunate implications of a person being assigned the wrong gender at their rebirth and for them to readily accept it and live by it. I’d prefer not think too deeply about that.

Rather, as a thought experiment of what would happen if some of the biggest hurdles of transition were made into non-issues, the story is quite entertaining. Hazumu seems genuinely happier as a girl from the start, which is why I think of her more as a transgirl a step ahead in her transition instead of a transboy resigned to go with the flow.

This manga was the first work of fiction I read involving a transgender protagonist. Similarly to Magda, I could relate to Hazumu: the introspection, the focus on emotions, growing into one’s femininity, etc. However, Hazumu made me feel something I never felt while reading about Madga:

I wanted to be her. I wanted to be her so, so bad.

If there had been a button that magically changed me physically to a girl and everyone knew about it, accepted it and encouraged it, I would have been ecstatic. Every thought I had had over the years would disappear and the world would finally make sense.

Reading Kashimashi gave me a glimpse of what life could be if I transitioned. It put words on my desires and expressed feelings I didn’t know I wanted to express. Reading about Hazumu growing more and more feminine as she became more comfortable outside the male social role, it was as though I was right there along with her, living through her transition, sharing her happiness.

All too soon I had caught up with the last chapter of the manga. And my dysphoria became much worse.

I tried to satisfy my need for escapism with other manga in the same genre, but none came as close to satisfy me as Kashimashi. Either I couldn’t relate to the protagonist, or the latter expressed desires to return to their original gender, or the situations arising around them were so contrived and fetishized they broke my willingness to disbelieve.

Whereas books had been my source of escapism for years, after reading Kashimashi I no longer felt satisfied reading at all. Boy leads, girls, lesbians, gender-benders, I didn’t care. They all felt alien to me.

I thought about Kashimashi day in, day out. I kept replaying the scenes in my mind, as those were the only things that felt like me. I bottled my feelings while searching desperately for another outlet.

I didn’t find another book, so I dreamed. Without anything to fill my evenings, I started to go to bed early after doing my homework. I took refuge in my head, where I could be the gender I wanted to be. I was reluctant to wake up in the morning. School didn’t have the same appeal anymore.

I didn’t keep that up long. I knew I was only fooling myself by remaining idle. I knew what I needed to do.

Thus one morning, before my mom left for work, I got up early to have a little chat with her.

 

Next >>