I’ve always loved “feminine” things, like makeup. But could my love of lipstick mean something more?
Growing up, I was never like all the other boys. For one, I wanted to kiss the other boys. But besides that, I never really felt like a boy. All the other boys liked Hot Wheels and playing sports and roughing around. And I just wanted to paint my nails and talk about my favorite Mary-Kate and Ashley movies with the girls.
I was often bullied for my more feminine interests. The other kids would call me names and act like it was so terrible to want to wear a dress. Sometimes it was easier for me to hold back and not do the things I really wanted to do, rather than face harassment. But when I was feeling brave, I would tell my harassers with a feigned coolness, “It’s ok for boys to play with dolls,” “Anyone can paint their nails,” or “Pink is just a color!” I’m not sure if I believed it, but that’s what my grandparents told me to say.
I’m not sure my grandparents believed it, either. But doing these things made me happy, so they let me do them, and they gave me these phrases to whip out in defense whenever the other kids would bully me. And the phrases usually worked in stopping some of the bullies, if only because many of them would be blown away by such a radical perspective. But that was only the beginning. As I got older, my attraction to “feminine” things grew stronger. I went from just wanting to play dress up and paint my nails to wanting to express a sense of femininity everyday.
In high school, I started wearing heels and make-up when I’d go to the mall with friends on weekends. I’d hide clothes and make-up in my backpack and get ready at my friends’ house. Even though I was doing all this without telling my grandparents, those phrases they gave me to defend myself back in elementary school were still in the back of my mind and they were affecting me in ways I didn’t even realize.
Those effects were reinforced when I started college a few years later. I was learning about things like feminism and queer theory—and I finally had the chance to express my femininity without having to sneak around my grandparents. “Gender is a lie!” I proclaimed as I strutted around campus in bright pink lip gloss and platform wedges.
At first, those theories served as a justification of my gender expression. I mean, why would I be embarrassed or ashamed of wanting to wear heels or eyeshadow if neither of those things were just for girls? But I’m starting to realize that those theories and ideas—and those phrases my grandparents told me to say—may have gotten in the way of me discovering my true identity, because they made the assumption that I am a boy.
And I think I might be trans*.
I mean, obviously, being gender nonconforming in any way falls under the transgender umbrella, but I think I may be more trans*—or trans* in a different way—than a boy who wants to wear makeup. I’m starting to realize that when I go about my day, I picture myself more or less as a woman. My mannerisms, the things I say, the way I walk, everything I do, I’m trying to emulate something I’ve seen a woman do either on TV or in real life.
And you can argue that that’s the result of seeing those images of women in the media—which are exaggerated versions of what women are expected to be—and that’s true, but I think that in itself says something. Why wasn’t I as affected by the image of masculinity I was told I was supposed to emulate? Why did only the feminine socialization affect me?
I don’t have all the answers yet and there are still a lot of questions to ask. Do I want to go from expressing a more “genderqueer” identity, to presenting an image that’s more typically feminine? Do I want to make any physical changes? Is that wrong? I’m still trying to figure it out. But I know one thing for sure—I’m not a boy.
To all my friends in the trans* spectrum — when did you know you were trans*? When did you find the identity or label that felt right to you? Or are you, too, still figuring things out? Share your experience in the comments below or submit it in essay form. Your story may help someone else figure things out!
Eve is a twenty-five year old trans woman and writer, and the founder of LGBTeen. She enjoys writing about pop culture, feminism, LGBT issues — and her lived experiences. You can view her writing on LGBTeen and on her personal blog, Original Woman.