The Toast’s previous coverage of trans* issues can be found here.
It was my best friend, Anna, who I told first. That kind of friendship you have when you’re eleven – where you see each other all day at school, then rush straight to the telephone to call when you get home. ‘Do you ever feel like you were born into the wrong body?’ It was a genuine question – I knew I’d never heard anyone else say it, but maybe I was being stupid, and perhaps other people felt that way all the time. She didn’t quite know, but guessed that maybe she did, sometimes. I told her more, hoping that she might agree – about feeling like my skin was closing in around me, that I could feel my mind willing it to be something else. Then we talked about homework, and The X-Files – and I didn’t tell her the thing I was really thinking, which I knew was crazy, but also sort of believed was true. That I was really a mermaid, and that if I concentrated hard enough, hit some kind of magic formula, then my body would get the message and change appropriately.
The seed of it was planted by my parents – not necessarily my being trans – I don’t have an explanation for that, and don’t think that I need one. But maybe the start of a fantasy that re-emerged when my mind could no longer make sense of the reality around it. Calling me their ‘little mermaid’ was blameless – my other mother telling me that her brother had seen mermaids from his fishing boat and that they were totally real was probably not the best call. Still, I mostly grew out of telling people that I was going to be a mermaid by the end of kindergarten – and though I was (justifiable) obsessed by Hans Andersen, and practiced my best dolphin-style swimming whenever I could, it was more of a familiar and comforting daydream than anything else.
Knowing what I do now – about trans kids, trans narratives – narratology itself – I want to put a neat retrospective structure around it all. We use whatever cultural tools we have to hand – and, for children without words to know themselves, stories of creatures not quite human, who can make a deal to change their form into what they’ve always dreamed of being – that stuff sticks....Read More