My best friend was abroad when I told her I was transgender. I wanted to watch her face, to see if it would reflect the same doubts and fears that I still had myself.
But all I had were those three jumping dots on Facebook Messenger. Typing… I waited. “I’m just really surprised,” she wrote almost immediately. And then, almost immediately after that: “…actually wait, no, that explains everything.”
That’s bascially the reaction I got from everybody else in my life. How did we miss the signs? they asked.
How did I? Why did it take me 28 years to put a word to something that has affected almost every moment of my life? It caused me to doubt myself, to question my transition. Why didn’t I know? But now, when I push through the doubts and sit in the calm center of what I know to be true about myself, I feel like I can explain it: I just couldn’t see the wood for the trees.
There were so many trees. And they were always there. So pervasive and immovable that I just navigated around them, seeing them but never looking, never knowing or even really wondering if everyone else inhabited the same landscape I did.
Age has given me the distance I need to see the forest. It’s dense and sometimes dark. I’ve named and counted some of the trees now. Look:
One tree for every temper-tantrum I threw when made to wear a dress. One for every time I stormed out of my friend’s house because he wanted me to be the Pink Ranger.
One tree for every race I won, every rope I climbed, every flush of pride when told I was as strong as any boy.
One tree for every boy’s shirt I wore.
One tree for the day I realized I was growing breasts. One for the dizzying wave of shame and despair that brought me to my knees.
One tree for every Judy Blume book I read like an anthropologist. This is how girls are? They want breasts? They try to make them bigger? One tree for every time I failed to notice that I thought of girls as them.
One for every over-sized t-shirt I wore to hide the new curves of my body.
One for the gym class I failed because I couldn’t bring myself to change in the locker room.
One for the the day I collapsed on the floor, sobbing and dry-heaving, after trying to use a tampon.
One tree for the first transgender blog I discovered. One for every blog after.
One for my first binder. One for top surgery.
One for every prosthetic review I watched on Youtube.
One for the Joystick I ordered. One for the empowerment of learning that I could enjoy sex as a result.
One tree for the day I looked into the forest and finally saw the trees. I didn’t know how many there were until I started counting. It’s a big forest. It’s a long journey.