As a closeted trans kid, I had a difficult and lonely childhood. I wonder whether life would've been easier if I transitioned as a child.

  • As a kid, I always wanted to hang out with the boys and be just like them, but they bullied me.

  • I had a lot of temper tantrums because people always saw me as a girl when I knew I wasn't.

  • I transitioned at 33, but I think life would've been easier if I transitioned as a kid.

I grew up in the 1980s, when "transgender" was not a word that most people knew. I had a wordless feeling that I was a boy and gravitated toward them in my elementary-school classrooms, but I had no language to explain who I was.

I didn't begin to put the pieces together until I was 33 years old. After making friends with a trans woman who was exploring her gender identity, I began to explore mine. Suddenly, the years of depression, anxiety, and anger-management problems made sense.

I don't regret the journey I took to become who I am. But when I look at the next generation of transgender kids, who are able to express themselves at earlier ages, I sometimes think about how much easier it would have been for me had I been able to transition at a younger age.

Socializing as a kid might have come easier if I'd transitioned earlier

I was an awkward kid who was both autistic and transgender — and I didn't know I was, either. My gender identity made socializing more difficult from the age of 9 onward.

As a young child, I naturally made friends with other boys. I remember getting in trouble in first grade with a male friend who encouraged me to chase him while holding a tree branch.

But by fourth grade, boys and girls had begun to separate themselves by gender. The boys I had played with when I was younger — including my friend with the tree branch — no longer wanted anything to do with me and sometimes teased or bullied me. I felt disconnected from most of the girls in my class; we'd play together at recess, but I felt different and wasn't friends with most of them outside the school playground.

When I did make friends with another boy, kids made fun of us and even accused us of having sex because "boys and girls can't be friends." As a result of all the bullying, my friend distanced himself from me, leaving me feeling even more confused and alone.

Would this have changed if I were allowed to transition? Who knows. But at least I would have had a chance to play with boys without being seen as a girl, which got in my way as I got older.

I had a lot of behavioral problems as a kid

As I grew up, I got myself into trouble a lot so that I could fit in with boys who dropped their antagonism if I joined them in breaking rules. They never got me to do anything serious, but I did get caught going to the front of the school with them when we were supposed to stay on the playground.

I also had frequent tantrums. They weren't about wanting my way. They were often about wanting to be seen for who I really was. Every adult in my life saw me as the girl I wasn't. Teachers also compared me with my brother and always made a point of telling me how smart he was, which made me feel like they thought I was stupid. Most kids, regardless of their gender identity, saw me as weird, and I wanted them to like and play with me.

All this led to frequent outbursts both at school and at home. I wonder whether I would have been a better-behaved kid if I had been able to express myself authentically — and be accepted for who I really am.

I now have low self-esteem because of all this

All the invisibility, negative comparisons with my brother, and social and behavioral issues eroded my self-esteem. As a kid, I was an avid reader who lost myself in stories all the time. As I grew older, my loneliness and feeling too different to fit in turned into depression and low self-esteem, which reinforced themselves because I was afraid of being rejected and kept to myself. I also clung to abusive partners who I thought were the only people who could love me.

Would I have better self-esteem and better relationships now if I were able to transition earlier? Maybe.

At this point in my life, I regret nothing. While my early years were traumatic, the pain of being invisible has fueled my desire to help others of all gender identities to become who they want to be.

But my life might have gone very differently had I had the language to express myself as a trans person when I was a kid.

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