When I was a kid, I was different.

I was shy, introverted, geeky. I was emotional. I was bullied for being different, even though they (and I) couldn’t really articulate exactly how I was different.

Some transgender people know how they’re different from a young age. From the time they can talk, they say things like, “Mommy, I’m not a boy; I’m a girl!”

I wasn’t one of those kids. I always felt different, but I never knew how or why. I thought I was just a shy emotional kid that got bullied.

I remember one time, I had a dream about being pregnant. I must have been maybe 9 or 10 years old. I spent the next several nights stuffing my PJs with a pillow, hoping I would have the dream again.

But even that wasn’t enough to make me really start questioning why everyone was calling me a boy.

However, when puberty hit, I knew something was wrong. Hair started appearing where I didn’t want it to. My voice started dropping. Stuff like that.

I remember seeing boys and girls changing differently, and realizing that I wanted to change in the way girls were changing–that I hated the way I was changing.

My teenage years were…rough. Even though my mom was supportive, and tried to help me, I still felt internal pressure that how I felt was wrong. Boys don’t want to be girls.

I was angry at the universe for making me this way, and I just wanted it to stop. I took my anger out on the people around me; the people that I loved.

As you can probably imagine, Gender Dysphoria (the disconnect between your internal gender and your external appearance) is  really hard to explain. It’s like trying to describe color to someone who has never been able to see; you don’t have any experiences with a similar frame of reference.

I like this explanation from Reddit:

Imagine you’re driving a friend’s car home. You know cars, and you know how to drive, so you can operate it adequately. But the seat’s a little too high, the turn signal is in the wrong place, and the acceleration is always just a little too slow. It does the job, but it never feels quite right.

Sometimes, you don’t notice the differences, when you’re just cruising along. But sometimes, you need the car to do something more than just operate, and then there’s a moment of dislocation as you reach for a lever that isn’t there.

Dysphoria is kind of like that, but instead of your car, it’s your body. And you can never get out. It’s always there, nagging at you. Sometimes, it’s a small irritation. But it scrapes at you over time, until what started as a small pain becomes torment.

We don’t yet fully understand why some people are transgender, but the current consensus is that it has to do with hormone levels during pregnancy; that gender development has much more to do with hormones than it has to do with genetics.

The going theory is that if a baby with XY chromosomes (“genetically” male) doesn’t get enough testosterone during pregnancy (or if an XX child gets too much), the brain gets wired differently. You literally have a body of one gender and a brain with another. Your brain is wired to expect one set of hormones, while your body is pumping out the other set, because of the anatomy determined by your genetics.

This is a way oversimplified explanation (and doesn’t take into account people who are non-binary, gender fluid, etc.), but I think it’s a step in the right direction.

So how do I know that I’m transgender? It’s hard to articulate, but I just do.

Throughout my twenties, I managed to convince myself that I wasn’t transgender. That being female was something i just liked to fantasize about, but I was still happy being male.

And it seemed to be working, too. I definitely wouldn’t say I was unhappy. I had friends–a few, but ones who were loyal to me. I had family that loved me. I went on adventures. I explored new (to me) places. I took a trip around the world.

I was a fairly happy person.

But through it all, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that I was different. Then, last June, circumstances colluded to make sure that I couldn’t hide from it anymore.

But, I’ll talk more about that next time.