I wanted to share a few stories of my childhood so that
people would be able to know a little bit about the struggles that transgender
children go through. I want people to see how damaging it is was to me having
to live my childhood without hope of growing up happy. I hope that it would
help make the world a place where transgender children can dream.
For as long as I could remember, I have always looked up to
my sister. She was smart, pretty, super capable. She could do anything and
everything. All of her decisions were correct and she could do no wrong. She
was only a year older than me but even as a toddler I wanted to do everything
she did. I wanted to be with her, I wanted to follow her and I wanted to be
just like her. I remember when we were getting our first Halloween costumes, my
sister picked out a Smurfette costume and instinctively I declared that I
wanted to be Smurfette also. My mother suggested one of the other more “gender
appropriate” costumes but I would have none of it, I wanted to be just like my
sister. Eventually my mother relented and got me a Smurfette costume, just like
my sister’s. When it came time to wear our costumes was when I realized what I
have done. In my blind want to be just like my sister I have broken one of the hard-societal
rules of gender. That was my earliest memory of feeling the shame that comes
with growing up transgender.
Societal gender roles are deeply embedded in everything we
do. Girls are supposed to wear dresses. Boys don’t cry. Girls play with pink
toys. Boys play sports. These cues are everywhere in TV, professional sports,
When I was in grade school, my grandmother was making a
dress for my sister. The dress was a light pastel orange with ribbons. My
sister was out so my grandmother asked me to put it on so that she could make
the final adjustments of the dress as needed. I protested. While I wanted to be
a girl and I thought the dress was pretty, I felt a deep sense of shame about
wanting to be pretty. My mother and grandmother pleaded with me to put on the
dress so they could work on it more.
I dare didn’t express myself femininely. Being a Korean
American Immigrant, I was already so different than anyone else at school or in
the neighborhood. I was being teased for being different, and I couldn’t give
anyone any more reasons to pick on me. I suppressed my feelings and I hid this
side of myself.
We eventually struck a compromise and I let my grandmother
drape the dress in front of me to get the measurements she needed. I secretly
wished that the dress was really for me. It hurt to want… It hurt to hope…
I went to middle school in Korea. The school I went to had
separate uniforms for boys and girls. Not only that, they had special hair cut
requirements. All the boys were required to have buzzcuts… I was starting to go
through puberty. My voice was about to change. I lived between genders as much
as I could when I was a child, but now that was over. I remember walking into
the barbershop, the sound of the trimmers going through my hair. It was a bit
of a relief to get the haircut honestly. Girls don’t have buzz cuts, girls have
long pretty hair I told myself. I was trying to purge myself of all hopes of
being feminine. I would never be a girl now that I am going through hormones and
this would be the end of it and I could give up on my hopes and dreams.
If I could, I would want to go back and tell this version of
myself that it is okay to hope, and it is okay to dream. I would want to tell
myself that there is nothing wrong with who I am. That I am not alone.
I would show myself that I would grow up to be a beautiful, strong,
amazing professional transgender woman.
And I would want to tell myself that I don’t have to suffer
and that I would be loved.