By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/TRT Columnist—
In November 2018, Andrea Chu, a transgender woman, wrote an opinion in the New York Times, which stirred a lot of controversy within the transgender community. Chu touched on some sensitive topics with opinions that were oppositional from those held by many in the community. I read some discussions about the Chu opinion and in the discussions, someone brought up the possibility of “false narratives” being told by many transgender people about knowing they were the opposite gender when they were young. I never heard anyone question those narratives before and I have personally heard many trans people say they knew at an early age that they were the opposite gender. I can’t say though, when I was a child, that I knew that I was female. I didn’t even think that was even possible. I just accepted that I was a boy even though I did know that I wanted to express female.
Yes, I knew that I was different early in my life. I remember at age six, putting on dresses, looking in a mirror and feeling that it felt right but at the same time, that it felt very, very wrong. You see, I was born in the early 1950s and by the mid-to-late 1950s, I was attending grammar school. Back in the 1950s, gays, and lesbians were called homosexuals or queers and they were thought of as very mentally sick people.
If anyone was suspected or rumored to be homosexual or queer they were regarded as sick, demented people and as people to avoid, even shun. I didn’t identify as homosexual or queer back then and the word, transgender, wasn’t even coined yet, however, a male who wore women’s clothing was lumped into the homosexual and queer categories. Those individuals who cross-dressed back then were also regarded as crazy and sinful. I did not want to be labeled homosexual, queer, crazy, or sinful, so I kept my narrative to myself.
So, what was my narrative? I would say that I was simply a child who wanted to express as female. The thought that I really could be a girl never even crossed my mind. I just accepted that I was different from everybody else. I knew that I couldn’t talk to my parents or friends about wanting to express female. I knew that it would be trouble, so I kept my narrative to myself.
Another narrative I’ve heard from some trans people is that they would pray to God every night to change them into the other gender when they awoke the next day. I never prayed to God to ask for that. As a matter of fact, I never prayed to God to ask for anything. That thought never even crossed my mind.
You see, I attended a Catholic school from first grade to eighth grade and I was taught that God, the Father, was an angry man who always wanted to punish humans for their sins. I remember one nun told us that God was ready to destroy the whole earth because he was so angry about people sinning but that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was holding God the Father back from destroying the earth. There was no way that I was going to pray to that God to ask for anything, let alone to ask him to change me into a girl. I wanted nothing to do with God, and I wanted to keep off his radar.
So, to recap, I knew that I was very different from everyone else when I was a child. I also got the message that I was a very sick person who deserved nothing but to be scorned and shunned because I was viewed as a male who wanted to express female. That was my narrative and back then it was buried very deep in my closet covered by my shame, guilt, self-hatred, and knowing that I was not a normal, good, and deserving person. That’s a pretty tough narrative for a six-year-old child to carry all alone, wouldn’t you say? What’s your narrative?
*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is retired from 3M and has 3 children and two grandchildren. She can be contacted at [email protected].