Category Archives: Performance

The shape of my gender

NOTE: This is a transgender-related entry. If you are confused by any of the terms used here, check out Ronen’s Trans Glossary.

ALSO NOTE: This article contains discussion of physical dysphoria.

In high school I studied the way boys moved and sat, particularly the way they crossed their legs with one ankle on top of the opposite knee. I enjoyed the shape of it, the geometric strength and openness of it, particularly when contrasted with the prim silhouette made by sitting the “girly” way. I trained myself to walk with a smooth step rather than a bounce. I wore loose pants and open button-ups over t-shirts. I wore bras and shaved my armpits and legs because That’s What Girls Did, but the only reason I ever practiced applying eyeliner was for the school plays.

I did not think of myself as transgender then. “Transgender” was the glossed-over tag at the end of GLBT; sexuality was a far hotter topic than gender identity even at my relatively liberal school. My vague definition of the word, at the time, mostly consisted of “drag queens.”

Family members, in the form of holiday and birthday cards, told me I was growing into a young woman. I would read those words and sense a wrongness, but when I asked myself whether I wanted to be a man instead, the answer was “Not really,” and I considered that the end of it.

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I’m not finished yet.

Photo by Philip MacKenzie.

Photo by Philip MacKenzie.

I’m sure that at some point in my life, someone must have told me I’d have to work hard to be successful. They must have done. It’s one of those things people just know. It takes ten weeks to form a habit and ten thousand hours to become a master. In order to get ahead, you have to be obsessive. Practice should be a daily routine.

Surely someone told me this. The problem is, I didn’t believe them.

I was a smart kid. Furthermore, I was blessed with certain creative talents. With a smattering of exceptions I could count on one hand, school was an easy place to be. I almost always got A’s or B’s. I starred in the spring musicals. I was in the French Honor Society and the Art Honor Society and the Advanced Choir.

You can probably see where this is going. It’s not as if the subject has never been talked about before. Hell, just now I clicked over to my Tumblr tab and was greeted by a study that shows children who are praised for their talents (rather than their efforts) are more ashamed when they fail. We feel we have value only when we succeed. And for many, success doesn’t mean being merely adequate: it means being top tier. 90th percentile at least.

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