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Monthly Archives: August 2013

When I was little, I more often felt like I had no gender.

I had Barbie dolls (although not nearly as many as my sister did). I’d play with them, too. When my sister and I would play with them, Barbie often wound up marrying Max Steel (he was WAY cooler than Ken). The dollhouse lived in my bedroom, and my cat often slept in it.

I had an American Girl doll (Molly), and a Bitty Baby. I played with Bitty Baby more.

While I always abhorred dresses, I did have a couple of pink clothing items. There’s a photo of me at eight years old wearing a pink Esmerelda sweatshirt. Speaking of Disney, I know that I also had several shirts featuring Pocahontas.

When my sister and I would play make-believe, I was always the knight in shining armor, or the handsome prince.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast came out when I was four. My best friend, Angela, and I would often act out scenes from the film at daycare. We’d argue over who got to be the Beast.

My sister took dance lessons (jazz and tap) for about a year. Several times, I watched the lessons. It looked like fun, but I was too terrified of being put in tights or having to wear a skirt to tell Mom and Dad that I wanted to try it, too.

I took karate lessons for six years. Sensei Mike will forever have my gratitude and admiration. Three weeks out of five, class time was devoted to drills of the “charts” (basics) and then individual work on katas. The other two weeks, however, were devoted to grappling and sparring. Both sports were full contact, and each match was done in front of the rest of the class. The rule on those nights was that everyone had to grapple or spar at least once. Sensei chose who partnered whom for each match, and he matched people up based solely on skill level, and, on grappling nights, weight. In other words, girls fought boys, girls fought girls, and boys fought boys. Sensei measured everyone based on their hard work, not on what they happened to look like. For six years, class was a safe haven, and for that, I am forever grateful to Sensei.

The majority of the music in my iTunes library is cast recordings of musicals. And yes, I know the lyrics to all of the songs.

I am a geek, in all senses of the word. Although, as my sister once pointed out, “you actually have social skills.”

When I started Transitioning, I avoided people from my past for about three years. To this day, I don’t quite know why.

In junior high and high school, I avoided social situations like the plague, including cast parties for the musicals.

I didn’t learn how to dance until college, when my friends dragged me to swing dancing. I later enrolled in two semesters of ballroom, and loved every second of it.

Even after four years of testosterone, I still have moments when I think people around me are questioning my gender.

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“I do not read to think.
I do not read to learn.
I do not read to search for truth,
I know the truth,
The truth is hardly what I need.
I read to dream.
I read to live
In other people’s lives.
I read about the joys
The world
Dispenses to the fortunate,
And listen for the echoes.
I read to live,
To get away from life!”

These words, spoken by Fosca in Sondheim’s Passion, describe me perfectly. From the time that I learned to read at the age of three, books have provided a means of escape. I read picture books during the long car ride to daycare, and was allowed several books to read during nap time, since I rarely slept. My parents further encouraged this behavior in a number of ways: They limited the amount of “screen time” (TV and PC) my sister and I had to about one hour a week. I often saw them reading to relax. Bedtime was rarely negotiable, but lights-out could be delayed by the magic words, “I just have to finish this book” or, later, “I just have to finish the chapter!” Either they or my grandma took me to the library on a weekly basis; I was so excited to get my very own library card when I was six! The house had books, books, and more books, and I was never told that I couldn’t read something.

When I was six, Mom and I started reading the Little House books together. Every night, before bed, we’d read a chapter or two, alternating pages. It took some months, but we eventually finished the entire series. During that time, I was reading other things, as well. Not long after we had started the series, a schoolmate introduced me to Star Wars, and I became obsessed, reading everything that I could get my hands on about the movies.

At school, I frequently got in trouble for reading ahead. It wasn’t that I didn’t like what we read, but my classmates read so SLOWLY. My teachers were very used to seeing me bring in my own books, often things that would be considered well above grade-level. The school librarians noticed, too, resulting in my working in the school libraries from third grade to eighth grade. This proved to be a blessing for two reasons: One, I kept finding more and more good books to read. Two, as I got older, the libraries and books became a refuge from the teasing and bullying of my classmates.

Yes, as Fosca said, I read to live, to get away from my life. Building off of my love for Star Wars, Dad introduced me to the works of Robert A. Heinlein when I was nine, thus cementing my love for the genre of science fiction. In those pages, I could literally do anything, be anything. Books were a safe haven, a place where it didn’t matter what the kids around me were saying, a place where my own troubles disappeared. Not only that, books became my own way of learning how the world worked, and how amazing people could be. The worlds of my books were where I found acceptance of who and what I was, something that I desperately needed.

As I’ve gotten older, of course, things have gotten better. I no longer have to hide in my books from my peers, because I am no longer afraid to show the world who I am. Reading is still one of my favorite past times, however, because I still enjoy that feeling of escape, of freedom, of unquestioning acceptance.