GIRLHOOD, INTERRUPTED (essay)

There is this thing that cisgender people assume about my life as a transgender woman: that before I transitioned, I had male privilege. According to their interpretation of my body, the male privilege I acquired during puberty and freely used all the way up through my transition currently and forevermore informs and invalidates my understanding of what it means to be a “real” girl, and subsequently a “real” woman.

The problem here lies in one very flawed, cissexist assumption: that a girl designated male at birth (i.e. a transgender girl) experiences puberty just like a boy designated male at birth (i.e. a cisgender boy).This assumption also implies that transgender girls and transgender women experience their bodies in the same way that cisgender boys and cisgender men do. This logic is biological determination at its best, and transmisogyny at its worst.

So I implore you, my gentle readers, to consider the following. Consider what your life would feel like if you inhabited a different body than the one you have now, a body that didn’t “match” the gender you know you are. Think about that for a moment, and then travel back in time with me– to puberty.

Imagine that you are a teenage girl that suddenly got big, hairy, and overwhelmingly tall overnight. Consider how it would feel to not develop breasts and hips like every other girl your age. What would it be like for your face, your shoulders, your legs — in fact, your whole body — to get harder, sharper, and more masculine? Could you even recognize yourself in the mirror? Can you picture how it would feel? THEN think about this: how you would rather be dead instead of living a life, living a lie, in a body constantly being poisoned by testosterone. Imagine thinking about all of this, every day, every minute, all the time.

Consider this as well: being in a body that can’t make babies. Not being able to make friends with other girls your age. Not having permission to wear the clothes you want to wear. Being called a faggot by other boys. Being outed as gay by your mother, and not gay as a lesbian, but gay as in liking boys. Receiving gifts made specifically for men, repeatedly, at every single holiday including your own birthday. Being told how handsome you are. Being forced to live your entire life — of which only happens once, in this particular form, on this particular rock, in this particular time period — in a certain way, under a very firm set of rules, and all because of the gender assignment you never signed up for at birth.

Think about all of that. This is what it’s like to be a transgender girl growing up. It is a very lonely, isolating experience. And it is not a privilege.

So the next time you insist on asking me what I miss about my male privilege, remember everything I’ve written here. Remember a little girl that was robbed of an estrogen based puberty because of a cissexist society that told her she was crazy, mentally ill, sick, and perverted. Remember a little girl crying herself to sleep, wishing the changes would just stop. Remember a little girl praying to God that she would wake up the next morning in a different body. Remember me. I was that girl.

Remember.

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