Dear World

My entire life has been shaped by the world outside of me up until recently. It’s only been within the last year that I have been able to take control of my own life and start living as I want to. I was brought up to be more concerned about what my neighbors think than what I think. My parents taught me that it was more important that they be considered good parents by my grandparents than me considering them to be good parents. My parents did everything they could to impress their own parents and all of you out in the world. They did not care about my thoughts and feelings. They did not care about my comfort. They were standard Boomer parents raised by generations of parents who didn’t care about feelings or self esteem either. I can forgive all of this with my parents, because I don’t think they knew any better. I can even forgive their parents, because there’s no point in holding anything against them. It only harms me. But you, World, I cannot forgive. You can’t change. You won’t change. You will continue to stamp out the good in children, by pointing out how these new generations are “spoiled” and “don’t want to work” and all those other excuses you make for not understanding how the old way just isn’t good enough. It’s like you forgot about yourself as the little dreamer who didn’t like the harshness screamed at you, the spankings that didn’t teach you anything. And don’t let yourself be fooled, you are not ok after being spanked. You did not turn out ok when you continually comment on social media posts when you have to keep posting “I was spanked and I’m ok.” Keep trying to convince yourself you are fine.

You, World, see me as something completely different. You see me as this retired warrior who has done good things in my 20 years as an Air Force officer. You admire my 9 deployments and think about how hard it would be for you to have done that. You listen intently to some random deployment story I decide to throw out at you, something minor and unclassified. A story that will impress you, but not hurt my soul to remember something awful. It won’t be a story of any of the many times I hurt someone’s feelings, unless I want you to think I am a badass who doesn’t take shit from anyone. Then I will tell you detail by detail about how I bitched out this guy who couldn’t do his job in 2016 and froze at his console so long that I had to tell someone else to do the job. I won’t tell you that he cried in public, he cried in private when we talked about it, and that he is still scared of me to this day. I don’t want you to know that it breaks me every time I think about how much I hurt him. That his tears arose so much sadness in me but I was too emotionally immature to stop my abusive behavior. And it came out as more anger. It was anger with myself though, but I won’t ever admit that to you.

You, World, see me as this super mom when I tell you that I have four kids, 19, 16, almost 12, and almost 10. Since they aren’t little anymore, it looks like so much less work than it was much earlier in their lives. I will tell you that my oldest took time off after graduation to figure himself out but now he knows he wants to get into mortuary science and he has a college in mind. You’ll ask some questions about how he decided to do that and I will make him sound like this calm, meditative god-like figure who sat quietly and found his core. He’s not. He’s a scattered, depressed mess who had a huge emotional breakdown during the first months of the pandemic and nearly dropped out of high school. His grades plummeted and I made it worse by barking at him all the time. He was extremely difficult to raise and he continues to frustrate me almost every day. But you will praise me and tell me I have done a great job with him. With the 16 year old, I will tell you he has straight A’s and he’s super focused on going to college in two years. He has targeted a location with family nearby and he spends a lot of time researching colleges in that area. I might throw out a casual “teenagers suck” story, but nothing that makes him look too terrible and nothing that makes me look like a shitty parent. And the younger two, they say amazingly funny things and I will tell you story after story about them. I won’t tell you that the ex’s abuse has made the almost 12 year old anxious and terrified of loud spaces and that the almost 10 year old hides everything inside her until it becomes too much for her.

You, World, see “mom”, “woman”, “female” on the outside of me. You have never seen the inside, never seen Zander. You don’t care about Zander. So many of you want to invalidate him and make me feel less than. You want me to feel that I am mentally unstable with some horrible mental condition that makes me think I am something I wasn’t born as. You want me to just accept myself as what you think I should be. You don’t believe that I tried hard enough and think I can accept myself finally. You don’t understand how this feels and it also scares you. What if “man” and “woman”, “girl” and “boy” aren’t as concrete as you think they are? That’s too much for you, it goes against everything you were taught. It scares you. If you believe everyone is equal than this concept isn’t hard to understand. But if you believe that AFAB (assigned female at birth) people aren’t the same, or as good as cisgender (white) males then it will be impossible for you to believe that trans males are as good, and anyone who wants to be female is crazy for wanting to step out of their AMAB (assigned male at birth) privilege. Now yes, obviously there are biological differences between the sexes. Body parts are different and the basic reproductive functions go along with the body parts. And then the hormones affect things too. But we don’t know much about the human brain. We know a lot, but there’s so much more we don’t know. Studies have shown that trans brains often share characteristics with the sex they identify as. Why would that be? Is there some part of fetal development that washes varying levels of hormones over the baby that impacts that brain development? Are there actual physical things that happen that make people trans? We do not know. But to even begin understanding this, we need to stop silencing trans voices. Well, you, World, you need to start listening. Instead of letting your fear show with stupid comments like “I identify as an elephant, does that make me an elephant? Of course not. Blah blah blah,” how about you close your mouth and listen.

I would tell you, World, that I knew I was a boy from the first moment I can remember. I knew that my clothing choices dismayed my parents. I know that they wanted to protect me and “teach” me to be the girl that I was born as. But I refused to learn because I knew who I was and I knew they couldn’t see inside me. The harder they pushed me, the more I repelled what they wanted from me. I did not like what they were forcing on me and I would not comply at all. I would tell you how much I hated my stupid, ugly pink bike and the stupid dolls and dresses everyone insisted on buying for me for Christmas. I would’ve shared my sadness at never getting a race track or BMX bike and how much I really wanted those things. Not even the huge race track that went up the wall. My brother never asked for one, but one year he was given one and it pissed him off. He didn’t want it. So he let me have it in my room and we played with it together in my room, but not as often as I wanted because he always wanted to play with something else more. It wasn’t fun to play with it alone though, so it sat unused so often.

See, World, I knew from such a young age that there was a disconnect between my insides and my outsides. I didn’t have the words to talk about it, so things like me asking for a BMX bike and a race track every year was how I communicated it. Me throwing a huge tantrum when I was told to wear a dress was how I told them that dresses made me uncomfortable and didn’t feel right for who I knew I was. It was so complicated for me because I knew I wasn’t like everyone around me and it was confusing. Why didn’t I want longer hair? Why didn’t I like dolls and the color pink when it seemed like every other girl did? Why did it take me so long to even realize that I was so different? The answer is that I knew. And I stood strong against my parents’ pressure and peer pressure to conform. I stood strong until I was in middle school and the whispers started. The substitute teacher in 7th grade science who kept insisting I wasn’t me and to my extreme embarrassment, kept calling me young man in front of my class. Even though that’s what I felt on the inside, I knew that no one could know anymore. I needed to conform. I needed to try hard to fit in. I could no longer try to be one of the guys. That was not acceptable. It must stay inside and be a secret. Hide it at all costs.

This is all your doing, World. You crushed my soul with the peer pressure. You crushed my soul by making me lose trust in myself. You continue trying to crush me by telling me that my existence isn’t valid. With all the therapy I’ve had and how hard I have been working on getting to know the real me, I am learning to not listen to you. I am learning to live as who I am, who I have always known I am, which is not who you tell me that I am. I can live my life your way and die miserable or I can live my own life and be happy. I choose happy.

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