By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/TRT Columnist–
Let me tell you a little story about a boy who was born in the early 1950s.
He was born into a family as the first male child in almost 20 years. This was cause for celebration! A male is finally born in the family! He will be everything that we want him to be and he will carry on the family name! Gotta feeling that ’51 is gonna be a good year!
Yes, this little boy was hailed as a kind of prince, if you will. He was special. Yes indeed he was special but in a different sort of way. He was a little transgender child except that that he didn’t know it. No one knew it. As a matter of fact, the word “transgender” wasn’t even coined yet. That would come in the early ’80s. It really didn’t matter anyway when you are very young. Gender wasn’t an issue to a preschooler and everything was fine, sort of.
This little boy grew up with lots of uncles playing with him and he was the darling to the female part of the family. He would sit on the floor with one of his uncles and he would roll up his pant legs to his knees and play “Yeggs!” with his uncle. There was no game really. He just wanted to roll his pants up to expose his legs.
When he was about 3, he was outside in the yard and one of his sister’s friends came over with a big smile. She just had her first Holy Communion and she looked so pretty dressed up in her white dress, white veil and white shoes. Mom took pics of the smiling girl and then suddenly the little 3-year-old boy started crying. Mom asked him what’s wrong and he told her that he wanted to be pretty, too. He wanted to wear the white dress and veil and shoes. The young girl agreed to let the little boy wear the white veil and the little boy had his own big smile. Then the little boy demanded that Mom take a picture of him wearing the white veil. Mom did. The little boy was ecstatic!
Time went on and the little boy had to go to school. He was deemed a boy and was separated from the girls. The little boy just went along with the arrangement. He kind of got used to it.
He had to wear a little sport jacket and tie and long pants. Not the same. Not even close. The little boy was silently sad that he couldn’t be pretty like his mom, his sisters, his aunts, and his grandmothers. He had to sit with the males in his family in the living room and watch “the game.” He was bored. He would go out to the kitchen to get a soda and the females would be chatting and laughing and having fun. He would get his soda and stand and watch the females interact and he would smile and laugh along with them. Then he was told to go back to the living room with the other males. There were no smiles and laughter there like the kitchen had. Yes, there was laughter and smiles but usually only after a big play. Again, not the same.
He would dream of sitting at the dinner table with a dress on. In his dream his relatives would ask him “Is this what you want?” and he would happily say “Yes!” Then he enjoyed the holiday feast with his family being a girl. It was a wonderful dream but that’s all it was: a dream. He knew that he couldn’t come to the table in a dress. That would be a huge no-no and there would probably be repercussions, most likely of the physical kind; after all, it was the 1950s. He kept his thoughts to himself. He shoved them way down, down deep into his soul where no one would ever know of them. This made him sad but he knew that he had no other way. Welcome to the closet, little boy.
It was the late ’50s and early ’60s and not a good time for a young gender rebel. Even the gays were suppressed and scorned back then. They were called homosexuals and queers and they were considered to be very sick people and people to avoid. The little boy then had a bad feeling that he was even worse than the homosexuals. This better never come out that he wanted to be a girl. It was at this point when the little boy knew that he was in for a lifelong struggle. (To be continued next month.)
*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is a local transwoman who has three grown children and works at a local Fortune 500 company. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.