I never believed that I was a girl. I knew that I was a boy, or at least male bodied even though I didn’t want to be. Early on, I don’t think I could have actually articulated that I wanted to be a girl, but being a boy just felt wrong. Sadly, I don’t have better words for it than that. As I got older, I would oftentimes pretend that I was a girl (it seems that most trans women have a history of doing that. I’m unaware whether cis boys ever pretend at being girls). When I went to bed at night, I wished and prayed that God would turn me into a girl while I slept (I don’t think that’s common for cis boys).

It’s common to hear trans people describe it like being a “woman trapped in a man’s body.” Where that description succeeds in its simplicity is also where it fails. I have always felt like myself, though my understanding of that gendered person has never been anchored as firmly as the understanding that other people have of themselves. Perhaps I could say that I feel betrayed by my body, which I have felt very acutely: sometimes a piece of clothing doesn’t fit quite right because of my slightly too broad shoulders, or my slightly too narrow and boyish hips. It feels almost unfair that so many women complain about their hips being too big, when all I can think about is finding jeans that actually fit me because mine are too narrow. Sometimes I cry during sex because it is at that moment that things feel the most dissonant, that my body feels most foreign to me when I ought to feel most at home in it.

Sometimes you’ll hear a person say they’ve felt like a woman all their lives. I think that’s just absurd. No one knows for sure how anyone else feels at all, not what it’s like being in their body or being privy to their thoughts. I think the best way of putting it is that “the identity of woman most resonates with my own experiential gender” (Julia Serano, Whipping Girl). The identity of a woman, as it is presented, and as I understand it, seems to ‘fit’ me in a way that my identity as a man did not. We don’t have a lot of words for “body feelings” as Ms. Serano calls them, but that’s exactly what it is. You can feel it, just like you might feel the difference of quality between a sprain and a break that can’t be quantified on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the worst pain you’ve ever felt before. Sometimes you just know when you have to go to the hospital. That’s how I felt about my gender identity. As I continue my transition, my lived experiences reinforce my identity as a woman. As they fade, those dissonant feelings that originally helped me understand that something was wrong also help me to understand that things are getting better.

I identify more closely with the female identity, and do not feel like being male fits with me at all, but I’m not deluded enough to think that I was not male bodied, was not socialized as a boy, and have not benefited from male privilege at all. Such a statement would be demonstrably and categorically false. Claiming that you’re an orange doesn’t make you any less of a human, any more than claiming that you’re a woman as loudly and unambiguously as possible makes you less of a man. I’m not saying that trans genders are just “men pretending to be women” because that’s definitely not what I mean, and that’s definitely not how I view myself. What I’m saying is that you can’t just say something and expect other people to believe you, because most of the time, they won’t. If you really are a woman, if that’s really your gender identity, then you transition. So that’s what I did.

Not that life has really been that easy.  There’s no magic *snap* and you’re a girl.  It’s more like one of those journeys, a long road trip that eventually reaches its conclusion.  We may not even be aware of the way we change along the path, we are only aware of how we have changed when we arrive.  I’m still on the road somewhere.  Sometimes I break down, sometimes I make good time.  Sometimes I cry.

As Jenny Boylan once told me, pain is less interesting than a person’s story.  There’s a lot of pain here, but I also hope there’s something underneath it.  Scratching past the hurt, I think there’s a story worth telling.  This is my version.