The Search for Identity

Are you a boy or a girl?


I'm sitting here trying to type on a big round exercise ball. I read somewhere that sitting on a ball rather than a chair is good for your back. It is supposed to keep your back exercised as you continually try to keep your balance. I thought blowing it up was enough exercise to last a while. But anyway, here I am rocking back and forth trying to type without falling over.

So, I spent two days this week observing at our local Child Development Center. Interestingly, for a small town, our CDC is considered one of the best ones in the country. Child therapists from all over come here to visit. So, on Tuesday I went in to observe a classroom and then following that with observing play therapy through a one-way mirror.

My first classroom was for three and four-year-old children. I was supposed to engage with the children practicing child therapy techniques such as "tracking," "encouraging," "reflecting of feelings," "giving choices," and engaging in "discussion." These techniques, when used well, can really build connections and relationships with the children.

So there I am sitting on one of those tiny little chairs they have for the kiddos, and immediately, once I am down at their level, they begin to engage me. Of course, wouldn't you know, their first question was, "are you a boy or a girl." I told them that I was a girl, even though I am a pretty big girl with a low voice.  My voice isn't usually so low and gravelly, but it has only been a week and a half since I had my nasal surgery for a deviated septum. Anyway, they seemed to accept my answer and we were able to get into some pretty good conversations. I thought it was fun and really enjoyed myself. Sometimes, when I was down on the floor, I got used as a human jungle gym. I was terrified that one of the kids, in their exuberance, would pull my wig off. But, fortunately, that didn't happen. Later that day, I watched two sessions of play therapy. I found that to be extremely interesting, and I went away from that having immense respect for child therapists.

The second day, I spent the morning with another class of children, but slightly younger.  In this class, nobody directly asked me if I was a boy or a girl, but later, one of the therapist interns told me that the kids really liked me and that they had discussed me, and they all decided that I was a girl. I was pleased to hear that. During quiet time, while the teacher was reading a story, five little kiddos found space to sit on my lap. Well, my legs were sticking out in front of me, and I have long legs. So, two kids sat on my thighs, two more sat on my shins, and one last little girl, upon looking over the situations, plopped down on my feet. It was fun, and we all enjoyed the story about the noises animals make, and, of course, we all made the various animal sounds. And again, I didn't lose my wig--phew.

Damn, sitting on this ball is tricky.

So, upon reflecting on all of that, I think a trans person has to be pretty secure about who they are if they want to work with children. I really don't make a lot of effort "to pass." I'm sort of on this "wanting to be me" kick. So, I was wearing jeans and a sweater for my time with the kids. Also, sneakers, and very little makeup, and my nails had month-old polish that had almost worn off. On the other hand, I almost never get misgendered, but it does happen on occasion, but usually because they knew me when I was a man. Actually, I have been in conversations where I have misgendered myself, so I really never worry about it.

I'm discovering that if I let the ball roll up against my ankles, I can hold it still--sort of.

I have been feeling lately that I need to start seeing a therapist again. I have found myself getting "triggered" in my "Child and Adolescent Development" class. It has nothing to do with being trans. I kind of assess my transness every now and then, and I always come away from it feeling really glad that I get to be me. The way I assess myself is that I try to picture myself being a man, or even dressing like a man, or even dressing androgynous, and every time, I find the idea completely alien to my senses. I mean, I can't even picture it. I do so like being me. I sometimes wish I had hair, but wearing a wig is a small price to pay.

Oh yeah, back to being "triggered," if I can keep my balance long enough.

What I mean by being "triggered" is that unresolved, un-dealt with childhood traumas keep coming up. I don't always remember what they are, it is just sometimes in class when we are discussing families and parenting, I find myself starting to cry. Like I said before, I think that once we get gender dissonance out of the way, we can discover we have a lot of other issues that still need to be dealt with. Growing up trans, can, for some of us, cause us to live in a pretty untenable, unloving environment. I don't think we can spend years of repressing and hiding our transness without it leaving some scars, and then, if you heap physical and mental abuse on top of that, it is amazing that we even survive. But, survive I did, but I do have a lot of garbage going on in my head. In play therapy, we call that "shark music"--a good name for it.

Well, I do think this ball will strengthen my back, only because it is getting downright uncomfortable to keep trying to balance myself.

So anyway, I don't think I am cut out for working with young children, but I do like teenagers. The other day, I was over at a friend’s house, and it was filled with about a half dozen or so long-haired geeky teenagers. They were playing a card game called "Magic." I told them it looked like a giant version of fish. "Do you have a transcended swordmaster? No? Well then, go fish."

Anyway, two of the boys were discussing whether they were going to be straight or gay. They weren't sure, so they said they would just wait and see. I thought that was really cool. I think the younger generation has far fewer hang-ups about sex and gender and all that than my generation. So, it seems, I get along with this age group pretty well. I think they see me as outside of the mainstream enough that they can trust me and relate to me. Of course, I feel at home with them, so maybe that is the direction I may go when I get my counseling license.

Okay, my ankles are getting sore trying to keep this ball from rolling out from under me. Also, my back is getting tired, so maybe it is working, after all.