The Gendered History, Part 1

This is a short (3-4 part) series that will post weekends until it’s done. This is a personal history, the evolution and experience of my gender. As such, this series will contain frank discussion of sexual maturation (specifically of the FAAB body & its genitals), gender dysphoria, expressions of dissatisfaction with body shape, disordered eating, direct physical self-harm, depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide, and similar issues. Other topics mentioned include pregnancy, unsafe sex (and the consequences thereof), and underage persons having sex. When I was 9 years old, I had my first “sex ed” class at school. Every week for the rest of that school year, I asked my best friend, “Have you gotten yours yet?” Every time she said no, I was relieved; I didn’t want to be left behind, the only one who didn’t menstruate yet. Nobody I knew had started yet, but I was still terrified of being the last. I was already younger and smaller than all of my yearmates and getting better grades than most of them. The last thing I needed was another thing to make me stand out. But then the other girls started to physically mature. There were bras and pads and tampons and condoms in their bags. Someone got pregnant. Another shared more details of her STD than I ever want to hear, from anyone, ever. All of this before we even finished elementary school. We all went into middle school, where it became weird to ask your friends if their crotches were bleeding. Sex ed this year included the differences between boys and girls, which convinced me that girls got a bum deal and I would much, much, much rather be a boy, even if weird stuff happened to them, too. Really, what I wanted was a boy top and a girl bottom – a girl bottom, not a woman bottom that did gross things like bleed and squish out babies. I rationalized that if that were to happen, a woman top with a boy bottom had to happen, too. (Soon after this thought, the principle told me to stop doodling disgusting, sinful, unnatural pornographic images on my notes. My heavily edited explanation saved me from suspension, but I’d like to go back in time and tell him that while I can understand how he mistook them for pornography, there is nothing inherently disgusting, sinful, or unnatural about the type of body I was drawing.) I started to run competitively when I was 13, because both of my siblings had done that and because I wasn’t completely hopeless at it and because it gave me something to do, something to use up time before I had to go to one parent’s house or another. When my aunt mentioned that summer that it might delay my period, I thought that maybe if I ran hard enough, long enough, or well enough, I might avoid that dreaded thing for good. (I am pleased to report that I have a slightly better grasp on how the human body works now than I did then.) I shaved my legs when all the other girls did, but I did it because it was supposed to help you run faster. I was encouraged by the fact that I was still vastly shorter than my yearmates and didn’t have even a hint of breasts growing. I must be doing something right, I said! Except then I noticed that my teammates – all of whom ran just as hard and just as long and sometimes even faster than I did – had all experienced puberty as expected. Just in case, I wasn’t going to stop running, even in the off season, but I thought that maybe something actually was different with me. I wondered if my body had listened to how grossed out I was by the whole idea of anything associated with sexual maturation and had just decided not to proceed, but that seemed pretty unlikely. The only step I could see to take was to do research. It was for a project for my biology class, I told the school librarian, and she showed me the section of books that might help me and left me alone. When I exhausted the school library, I moved on to the town’s public library. There, I heard about the kind of person that looks female but isn’t female on the inside. I read that these people never have to go through this stupid puberty, and I wondered if I might be one of them. It was better than being a boy. It was miles better than being a girl. I hoped I was intersex. I prayed to be intersex. But I was still within the window of time for normal sexual development. I just had to wait out the tension until my 14th birthday, and then I would be free. I turned 14 with no sign of puberty aside from a very small bit of breast development. My mother insisted on bras, though I didn’t see a reason – if it doesn’t bounce when I’m running, it’s certainly not going to be bouncing when I’m sitting still in class. I figured I must have gotten lucky. This comforting thought lasted until I was 15.5 years old, when everything seemed to change overnight. Puberty, accelerated. According to one friend, I was a girl at the beginning of the summer and a woman at the end of the summer. I was barely recognizable to my old friends, but I was going to a new school.

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