My gender identity since childhood

For the past few weeks I have been reflecting more on the development of my gender identity since childhood. Seven weeks ago I wrote about my questions regarding the gender identity of my inner child, and a few days later about reconsidering the development of my gender identity since my childhood. This last question continues to move me, and yesterday before going to bed and connecting with my inner child, I found them in a lot of fear and a lot of pain for not being able to show themselves as who they are, and for having to hide. Also because of issues of bullying, and the shame they felt for not fitting in (being a boy). The same thing happened this morning, and I stayed connected all day with this pain and fear.

Did I feel like a boy? a girl? It is very difficult to reconstruct my gender history, as I generally have almost no memories, let alone of my emotions, of what I felt. Dissociation was my survival mechanism, in order to survive sexual abuse, emotional neglect and permanent intrusions into my intimate space. It is very difficult to reconstruct my emotional history, beyond fear, deep loneliness, abandonment, sadness and shame...

I have started to think about my gender identity since my childhood because almost always when I visualise my inner child, when I connect with this child, I see them in a dress. And when I tell them that I like their dress, that I am proud that they wear a dress, they sometimes respond with a shy smile (they smile very little). I'm almost sure I've never worn a dress before (whose dress? my little sister's? my mother's?). I would have been too scared to do it, and probably too ashamed. But, my inner child I almost always see in a dress. And I feel his fear of being discovered, a huge fear of my/their parents, but also of other children (who? No idea). I feel their shame, shame because others bullied them for not fitting in with what it meant to be a boy. I don't think they even knew what it was - to be a boy.

Did they feel like a girl? I doubt it. I imagine they felt rather confused because they didn't understand what was wrong, because they couldn't and wouldn't fit in, because they didn't understand anything... and they didn't have anyone they trusted, anyone they could talk to.

Thinking back to later, to perhaps early adolescence, I remember that many times when I took a bath I would hide my penis between my legs, so that this symbol of my masculinity would not be visible. And it's something I've done almost all my life, until I started taking estrogen to change my body away from the masculine. Did I imagine having a vagina? No, I don't think I ever did. I just imagined not having this penis. At the same time, I didn't reject my penis either, as I also discovered that it is an organ of pleasure... They were rather moments when I imagined not having a penis... And, it's curious that it doesn't happen to me now, as my body no longer fits into the clearly masculine. It's never really been about imagining being a girl or a woman... just not being a boy, a man...

I also have memories of perhaps later thinking about buying women's underwear - for me. Underwear rather like imagining putting on a dress or other clothing clearly read as "female", which I would have been too ashamed to wear. I did not buy it (now I do, but it is not limited to underwear).

As I wrote earlier, much later I started experimenting with less masculine clothing. Much later I started to question masculinity in general and politically, and my own masculinity, until I publicly defined myself as genderqueer eight years ago.

But, now I connect a lot with the fear and pain of my childhood, a fear that had to do with having to hide who I was, a fear of showing myself, of experimenting with how I might have liked to live. I connect with all that I have never lived because I had to pretend to be a boy, a man, and this causes me a lot of sadness, a lot of pain. What would my life have been like if I had allowed myself to experiment with my gender already in my childhood? In a way it scares me to think about it. It would probably have been very dangerous, first of all because of my parents, and then because of this whole cisheteronormative world (we are talking about 50 years ago). But, on the other hand, what would have been possible without trying to live in the corset of masculinity?

Fear. Pain. Sadness and loneliness. That's what I feel when I think about and connect with the issue of my gender identity from my childhood. Missed opportunities. Dangers avoided. More dissociation. Yet another trauma.