I intuitively knew my gender as a child, as early as 2-3 years old. I am certain of this today for many reasons, but what stands out to me most at the moment are the memories of my mother gently correcting any behaviors she thought too effeminate. How she proudly told her friends that I wanted to be just like her and become her mommy when I grew up, while at the same time desperately explaining to me that I was a boy.
I didn't know what that meant. I just knew I was one, because that was what my mother said I was.
I loved and felt closest to my sister. My brother was unpredictable, dismissive, and felt dangerous. My sister read to me, supported me, and when I was quite small encouraged me to cross dress. I doubt she remembers this, and at the time she thought it was funny, but for me it was a golden ticket to be who I felt I was.
But my ability to explore openly was rapidly shut down as I went from nursery school (hardly any roadblocks), to kindergarten (boy/girl groupings became routine), to elementary school (teachers and children enforced gender norms). I can give examples of all of these, but I would rather you explore your childhood memories and recall whether you were encouraged to socialize with other children of your assigned gender and discouraged from crossing those lines.
Can you recall how parents, teachers, and other adults in your life would explain how much easier and better life would be if you behaved in certain "acceptable" ways? How they explained they only wanted the best for you and wanted you to have a "good and happy life?"
Do you (if you are AMAB) remember the boys mocking anything you did that was thought insufficiently manly or too girly? How about girls making fun of boys for being ..., while pointedly looking at you to emphasize that you were a boy and most definitely not one of them? How about the inverse, if you are AFAB and are a transgender man, did you experience similar feedback?
How could I argue? I knew I was a boy, because my mother told me so and I had the same body parts as other boys. But I also knew I wasn't like them, I could only pretend to fake it. I preferred to hang out with the girls, but that was discouraged, mostly by my mother and my teachers at first, but later also by the girls themselves.
So I worked out a narrative in my head. I was a girl born into a boy's body, and there was a reason for it. I was a secret agent!
It was a brilliant and insidiously self-sabotaging belief. First and foremost, it allowed me to navigate the world at home, in school, and elsewhere with far fewer incidents (not none, I didn't say I was a good secret agent). It also gave me a purpose to exist as a boy and later as a man. As a child, I remember dreams that borrowed heavily from TV science fiction imagery.
One in particular I have clung to all these years. My real-self existed in another universe or location in the time-space continuum, kept in some kind of clear tube, rarely self-aware but immersed in this world we all experience. Occasionally I would be awakened to report. Yet somehow, I could recall glimpses of those memories of being awake from my dreams. I tried so hard for many years to send a message to my sleeping self. I tried to open my eyes, to find the emergency release button or break the walls of the container that kept me in this oblivious state. I imagined that there were many of us, perhaps thousands, on similar missions in the same state. The dream of breaking free and releasing others and finally being my real-self gave me something positive to dream about.
But as you may have guessed, I either never broke out, or my revolution was quashed, and I was reinstated as a secret agent in our world. Slowly I became adept at convincing everyone, even myself, that I was a man, yet some things never went away. I still did things in private. Fantasized about being a woman in all aspects of my life. Yes, sex was a common fantasy, but so was just going shopping, or having a career, or becoming a mother. Is this what defines a woman? I am not claiming so, but these were the thoughts and dreams that helped me bridge the gap between how I felt and what I was. But even so, they were moments of shame and sin. Something to be hidden and never revealed. They ate away at me.
It continued to gnaw at me so much that continuing became unsustainable and I came to the conclusion that I could no longer exist as a secret agent. My sense of shame and sin was driving me away from connecting with those I love and care about. My sense that I was unworthy and unfit caused my depression to grow and thoughts of ending my pain became more and more frequent and actionable. I could not continue. I knew I either had to change or give up entirely.
I wasn't ready to give up.
I was a secret agent. I was team girl playing on team boy. I was a bad team player in that sense, but a good ally to team girl all my life. But when agents come home after a lifetime of living undercover, they are often viewed with suspicion and distrust. Are they really allies, or are they really double agents? Can I ever be truly accepted and included as another woman, just "one of the girls?" That isn't really "just," to me it is everything!
I am going to sleep tonight, and after a meditation period to direct my sleeping self to wake up and break out of that tube once and for all. If I succeed, this world may start dissolving, I am uncertain. Just know that if it does, you will also wake up as your true self, whatever that may be. I want to save us all. Meanwhile, if I wake up still as Saoirse in the morning, I know I will keep on working to become the person on the outside I have always been on the inside. I think you will like her, if you give her a chance.