Remembering Someone Else’s Life
Before I was born, the doctors misread the ultrasound and thought I was a baby girl. In preparation to have a biological daughter, my mother bought me a load of pink “girl” toys. I remember finding these toys in a box when I was five or six years old. I ran around screaming in joy to see the jackpot I just hit. I didn’t know who they were for or why my parents had them, just that I was happy to brush my imaginary hair with a pink plastic bejeweled brush. At the time I had a buzzcut, but my Little Mermaid fantasy became reality as I brushed my imaginary floating hair with my new dinglehopper. I’m not sure who it was in my family, but someone caught me with the toy. I immediately thought I was doing something wrong and hid the brush as they walked into the room as if it was something I should be embarrassed about. So many of my memories growing up revolve around hiding something I truly enjoyed.
Hormone replacement therapy, otherwise known as HRT, is just one out of the long list of treatments associated with Gender Identity Disorder. This is the term my doctor entered on his keyboard after I told him: “I think I’m trans.” I had a sinking feeling that something had been wrong with me longer than I had realized. I went home and immediately hopped on Google. This was the official term for gender dysphoria that greeted me: “a sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity.” I was confused. Overall, this was a feeling I couldn’t say I felt often. On the other hand, gender euphoria was something I got out of bed to experience. It’s sprinkled in small doses throughout my day. Just like the 2 milligrams of estrogen, I take morning and night, its exact science is unexplainable to me. What I do know is that it’s been two hundred and seventy days on HRT. My boobs are growing every day, I cry a little more often than I ever have, and my skin is silky smooth.
Gender euphoria in my eyes is my reason for being a trans person. It’s the little gender-affirming things that just light up your whole body. The official term would be described as “the psychological state of bliss and comfort that happens when our gender expression is aligned with our identity.” It’s usually the little things, like when a certain pair of pants hug my hips just right when I’m greeted with “Ma’am”, or when someone just assumes I’m a woman without having the conversation about it.
I often see stories from other trans people posting about how their childhood selves would be so happy to see themselves all grown up. When I see this, I’m always confused; little boy Noa probably didn’t know what “trans” was or what it even meant to be a woman. I wonder, did the little boy who pranced in his mother's heels and played with the girls during recess feel gender euphoria when doing this?
What I do know little boy Noa felt was shame. There was no gender dysphoria, just the fear of enjoying the things that may be considered feminine. The first time I looked at Miley Cyrus’s cheap throw-and-go wig I was mesmerized. To avoid discovery from my family, I’d flip between something I didn’t care about on Cartoon Network and Hannah Montana on Disney Channel. I was terrified to be caught enjoying such a show, let alone watching it. Even at the age of seven, I knew that some things were for girls and some were for boys.
The thing is, my father wasn’t the type to even care what I was watching. He didn’t care whether or not I played with Barbies. On the occasion when he did catch me watching Hannah Montana, I would hide it or make up some excuse for how I was just flipping channels before he could even say a word. Now, I know that if he did say anything, it would’ve been something along the lines of “what's this about?” He just wanted to connect with his child, not berate me for being effeminate. So why was I so scared to enjoy the things I liked, if nobody was holding me back?
To be completely honest I’m not sure. I can pinpoint small comments made by extended family members, teachers, or classmates that subconsciously programmed little boy Noa to have this fear of feminine things. But trying to remember those memories of being a boy is slowly becoming harder. It’s not that it’s painful for me, or that I don’t remember. Rather, it feels like I’m looking from the outside in. When I think of these moments it feels like I’m remembering my little brother, not with sadness but with happiness and fondness for the memories I do have of him. He may have been scared or anxious to enjoy some things, but it's not all bad memories. I know that little boy Noa just wanted to enjoy those things without worry.
Little boy Noa probably wouldn’t care about whether I was growing boobs or not, but I do know he’d be happy to see I’m not scared anymore to enjoy what I want. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the things that make me feel good now. His worries made me realize what I value. I began to focus on pleasure. Dysphoria didn’t bother me the way it does other trans people, but euphoria became something I sought out. Once I claimed my identity as a trans woman, anxiety about others' opinions of my gender presentation melted away. Anxiety-ridden, my little brother moved through the world cautiously. I now live as if I owe it to him to indulge in the things he felt he wasn’t able to.
Art by Vicky Luo