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Transgender Trope #6- From childhood I felt like a girl/boy

April 19, 2011

This trope is used to promote the idea that Sex Roles are innate, and rebellion against sex role constraints is a symptom of a physical birth defect= false biological sex, not false roles.

The narrative of experiencing something “since childhood” implies that one’s experience is intransient, innate, fixed, possibly “hard-wired” and biological. This trope is usually substantiated by sex role evidence such as ” I never liked dolls and preferred to play with matchbox cars” or “until sex roles became more enforced as I grew near puberty I assumed I was not innately different from my male/female friends”. “I liked to hunt and fish and never understood or related to those conforming to the sex role demanded of females”. “I did not like being separated from girls and being considered “other” because of my biological status”. “I wanted princess things that the girls seemed so lucky to have”. “I was surprised and disquieted to discover myself different from other children due to my genitals”. Etc. This trope is called a testimonial. One’s feelings and experience, which anyone can relate to, is relayed to bolster one’s underlying assertion by using emotion rather than critical analysis. This is a deflection of critical thought. No one can dispute one’s personal experience narrative. This trope is used to deflect from critical analysis of sex roles by using emotional appeal.  If one injects critical analysis to this narrative – for example pointing out the sex role stereotypes which inform the narrative – the trope user will rapidly change course, abandoning the testimonial completely and moving onto another trope, usually “Society has no influence over my gender identity”.

Variations:

Transgender children should be sterilized before puberty so they can better conform to sex roles.

Sex roles are innate and un-changable.

Subtext:

Sex roles are inborn and not culturally created. Girls like dolls and submissive behavior, boys like guns and dominating behaviors.

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. jilla permalink
    June 21, 2011 9:29 am

    Since childhood, women are used to having no personal space. Feeling like a girl means dissociating dozens of times every day while some male invades your body space.

    Someone making a fuss about being patted down at the airport?

    No matter how perfect his make-up and how fetching his dress, that someone will be a male.

  2. June 21, 2011 11:50 pm

    Ya know, this is something lesbians and gay men say, as well, and I believe we (lesbians) say it because it’s what we’re “taught” to say. We’re taught to not even think about why we might have feelings for the other sex and if we do, it would cause us too much anxiety to speak different thoughts from the crowd. So, we come up with memories that virtually all people could come up with of having girlhood crushes, ignoring the crushes we had on boys. Transgender people keep repeating they are wired differently, and that science proves this, just like the vast majority of the GLBT movement (especially gay men). Yet, I have FtM friends who said they truly never considered the option of “changing” gender until very recently. They’re going to find out the hard way that they’re going to have to modify they’re story to get the desired T, and surgeries.

    • Barbara Di Bari Visconti permalink
      June 23, 2011 8:54 pm

      I actually never did have a crush on a boy in my entire life. The only male crush I ever had was on a high school English teacher, a gentle, intellectual type. Beyond that, no male ever moved me.

    • yerb permalink
      November 3, 2011 3:52 am

      Womononajourney (or anyone else here), have you read Vera Whisman’s fascinating book, “Queer By Choice”? Her research findings and book discuss just what Womononajourney was writing about, that gays are more likely to experience their homosexuality (and lack of heterosexual interest) from a very young age than lesbians are; also how born vs. chosen perspectives are “taught,” if I recall. Her research was from a small pool and she acknowledges the limitations of how she obtained her study subjects, but it is an absolutely fascinating read into the feminist and patriarchal politics of chosen vs. born stories/conclusions. I recommend it as a very satisfying feminist read, as Whisman is so thorough and insightful in her analyses.

  3. yerb permalink
    October 18, 2011 1:25 pm

    I agree, womononajourney, that lesbians and gays very frequently (if not universally, per Gallus and Barbara) change their personal herstories or histories to reflect the political expectations that we should all claim we are “born this way.”

    I love how one female friend who by her own account was very happily married to a man for at least 30 years and had an active and happy sex life with him (which she still does not deny), nonetheless now claims simultaneously that she was lesbian from birth, “born this way,” and never even bisexual. Huh?

    I have had no shortage of lesbian friends and acquaintances tell me that of course they have been attracted to males, but there was no way they were going to speak out about it because it was too politically dangerous to let hets think homos aren’t “born this way.”

    So we have a politics based on fear and widespread dishonesty. Fabulous. What a way to build a movement. On lies.

    How about basing our liberation on the fact that at least some of us *choose* to be with women, or with men, and that we claim the right to be able to make that choice, including feminist choice?

    I once was at a lesbian potluck where one woman in a couple of ~13 years went on and on, right in front of her partner, to all of us, regarding “Why on earth would I choose to be lesbian? Why would I choose this living hell, this misery?” I kept looking at her partner and giving her a supportive smile. How insulting to the love of her life, to say there was no way she would have chosen to be with her because she was a wonderful woman or person, or because it is damn great to be with a woman–the particular woman she had partnered with–and not a man?

    I have watched over the years, from the 1980s onward, more lesbians shift their personal herstories to reflect the political party line that they’re “born this way.”

    I’ve also noticed over the years that trans have shifted the way they describe their experience, using the same phrases as other trans are using at any given point in time. It’s interesting that their personal stories of how they perceived themselves in childhood, down to the phrasing of it, seem to keep changing to sync perfectly with those of their contemporaries. Especially as critics of trans deconstruct the explanations. As the trans move on to new explanations, they seemingly universally discard their old descriptions of themselves that they say they’ve held since childhood.

    • yerb permalink
      October 18, 2011 1:28 pm

      And how can a boy know what it is to “feel like a girl” if he has never been one? He thinks he knows what that “feels like,” therefore he must be a girl. But those are just based on his assumptions + fictional societal stereotypes.

  4. cath permalink
    August 5, 2012 1:13 pm

    im female and i dont know what it feels like to be ‘female’. all i know is what it feels like to be me. stop looking to despise others for their own personal journey in this world.
    so much hate and mocking others just means you are not very secure in your own identity.

    • Bilbo permalink
      August 24, 2012 10:57 pm

      It depends on who you say that too. I’ve said the same thing, but substitute “female” for “male.” Some people tell me that means I’m trans. Some have said it means I’m “genderqueer.” One person even said “Die Cis Scum!” Most tell me that it means I’m cisgender and exhibiting a boatload of transphobia. *shrug*

  5. Susan permalink
    September 14, 2012 6:00 am

    I liked toys designed for both girls and boys. I loved Star Wars and Transformers (so did my sisters), AND Strawberry Shortcake and Cabbage Patch dolls. I didnt really care about clothes that much either, though I felt limited in my options with boys clothes at times.

    I did, however, feel much more comfortable and socially competent with my female friends. Males and females DO have different brain anatomy and functioning, and I’m sure that comfort was, and still is, due to similarities we shared upstairs. I also felt body disphoric at a very young age, long before puberty. And yes, the reality that I wouldn’t grow up to be like my mom, grandma, aunts, sisters or female cousins did not hit home until puberty started, and when I read in an encyclopedia that the testicles were responsible, I seriously considered self-castration as a way to halt the problem.

    Testimony or whatever- trope or not- these are the FACTS of my young life. I choose to call it etiology. Its a lcommon story because it IS common. You might as well label the fact that people with schizophrenia start hearing voices in their early twenties as a trope. Maybe the fact that people who suffer heart attacks felt chest pain is just a convenient trope as well…

    Here’s one last thought… many transwomen feel they HAVE to claim they liked ultra-feminine things as a child because the patriarchy- wrought with castration anxiety- serves as a gatekeeper to transition. In order to get permission to proceed, they have to fit a mans narrow definition of what girls and women are. The patriarchy won’t allow you to part with your junk for anything less than full-on pink girlie girlness.

    • September 14, 2012 7:08 am

      If you really believed all the crap you are saying you would be off living your happy life and not leaving comment after comment, hour after hour, day after day, thousands of words, on this site giving testimonials, sell-selling, evangelizing, and instructing females in how we have “female gender brains”.
      If you believed this crap you would not be here.

      “Here’s one last thought”… two days ago:

      “I’m going to take my leave now”… etc. etc.

      And yet you continue. And you’re welcome to continue to process here.
      😉
      You describe yourself as a perpetually angry man with sexual urges that you felt were beyond your control. It is admirable that you sought to “fix” those qualities. Clearly you are interested in further personal growth, hence your interest here.

      • Susan permalink
        September 14, 2012 4:31 pm

        You are right in many ways. At first, I was offended by the content on this site, and resented of the ways in which transgender people are characterized. After my initial knee-jerk reaction, I reread some of the posts and have a better understanding of where you’re coming from.

        I don’t agree, of course, with a lot of what is being said here, but for a large portion of the Trans community, you’re fairly accurate. It probably explains why I don’t spend a lot of time with other transpeople. My partner is a biological female, as are most of our friends. I am turned away by transwomen who perpetuate myths about women, who insist on invading woman-born-woman spaces when they’re not welcome (the Michigan Wmens Fest debate, for example), or who dominate meetings/etc due to vestiges of male privilege…

        I think I’ll just decide not to be upset with the messages here, and take my leave for good this time. I just want to say that, while this site offers some very well thought-out analysis, it would be even more powerful if you took current brain research into account, and stopped assuming that differences between men and women’s brains automatically pose a threat to women. In my opinion, if anything, the research shows that males are at a disadvantage in the brain department. Ive always thought that an innate sense of male inferiority undergirds most violence and discrimination against women, like a playground bully using brute force against a smaller, more thoughtful and articulate kid. I guess the fear of these differences being used against you is what drives your denial of them.

        I also understand your colonization argument, but feel that someone like me who cares about women’s issues, and uses my time and expertise to fight political battles on behalf of women, and who provides pro bono services for women struggling financially, should be given a pass. I have a right to feel at home in my body, and I have a right to focus my energy on issues I care deeply about. I have a right to make this a better world for my daughters to grow up in. And frankly, I’m a whole lot more valuable to women than biological females like Ann Coulter or Michelle Bachmann (I live in the US).

        Good luck to all of you. I hope you find happiness in your lives as I have.

      • September 15, 2012 10:39 am

        Thank you for your comments.

  6. doublevez permalink
    September 18, 2012 1:42 pm

    I believe there’s a wordpress blog that cogently debunks the trans “brain” science, in plain language for non-scientists (which would include the authors of some of those so-called studie once you understand how inaccurate and “lite” the science is.) Maybe yo know it GM?

  7. May 1, 2013 8:53 pm

    personal history fudging. these childhood “i felt like a girl/boy even though i was a boy/girl” stories are rarely true.

    • Pete hensen permalink
      February 17, 2014 11:28 pm

      HOW ABOUT THIS FACT: when I was 10 my once flat chest began developing small buds. Stressed, I did the closest thing I could to binding – I wore a tight sports bra day and night (lest I wake up to those deformities in a sweat) I kept my hair short, wore loose shirts and basketball shorts lest my developing curves show through my clothes. now, keep in mind that I was a self identified feminist from a young age, challenging the boys in my class in everything from track racing to English lit to the sexist objectifying language used by boys which is all too commonplace. The feelings about my body as well as my attractions to both sexes confused me. The role people tried to herd me into bewildered me. I identified, yes, as a lesbian for a bit because it was a rather easy label but it still did not describe who I was. Because of my discomfort sex was weird to me and for the first of my partners i insisted that I wasn’t touched as the hand of another would bring about an acknowledgement of my womanly form. I have memories of dysphoria – a deep panicky feeling happening when people referred to me as a girl or “ma’am”ed me in public or even painted my nails as a joke. Anyway all I’d like to say is my experience as a trans person is real – and it’s something perhaps someone who isn’t trans themselves will ever understand. Keep in mind that misogyny comes at us all in every direction, that trans people are not the sole perpetrators and that instead of wildly pointing fingers we must all reflect on our own thoughts and behaviors. With this we may be able to rid ourselves of a parasite that has so hindered the ability of us all to be human

      • sayar permalink
        June 21, 2014 2:42 pm

        I felt the same way growing up, Pete. I wanted to be a boy so fucking much. Sex was weird, I hated to be touched. I am still disgusted by my sexual organs, but I realized that I have been brainwashed by a patriarchal society and am learning to love myself for who I am. It feels great to be a woman now.

  8. Danny permalink
    July 3, 2016 6:04 pm

    This confuses me…Do you not accept that there are kids who grow up uncomfortable about what they perceive as their identified gender and feel that they fit in more easily with the other gender?
    How should these people cope with these feelings? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this to pick an argument, I’d just like to see what your take on it is, because I don’t have a clue one way or another…

    • July 3, 2016 6:16 pm

      Of course there are kids that reject gender and will do anything to escape it! Read on, here and at GenderTrender. Soon you will have more than a clue- you will fully understand the feminist analysis of gender, which is QUITE ENLIGHTENING!
      -Best,
      GM

Trackbacks

  1. My story, in brief | Transitioning back to being a man
  2. Introduction to myself, part 1 | Transitioning back to being a man
  3. Transgender Trope #6- From childhood I felt like a girl/boy – Critiquing Transgender Doctrine & Gender Identity Politics

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