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What’s it like to be a trans woman?
Allison Washington
8117

I lived as-male from age 14 till my transition back to female starting at age 31. I was raised by my mother, who allowed me to live as a girl through childhood.

My mother was an odd duck; a rather bohemian professional artist, who had, at my birth in 1957, blessed me with a made-up and rather feminine-sounding name.

She became aware of my female identity at around age four and, though no doubt ignorant of the nature of gender dysphoria, nevertheless allowed me to wear my strawberry-blonde hair very long, and generally pass as a girl. She played at dress-up and makeup with me, and braided my hair.

She made two attempts to enrol me in school, where I would necessarily be marked as-male; once at age five, and again at age seven, but there were immediate and severe difficulties. I would refuse to wear boy’s uniforms or join in the boys activities or use the boy’s washroom.

For this I was, of course, subjected to severe harassment by teachers and other students, including, once, a public thrashing by a headmaster (for refusing to adhere to the dress code) and, another time, a stoning by boys. Each attempt at school lasted a week or less before she withdrew me. The public thrashing and stoning were the final straws, and thereafter she schooled me at home.

I don’t know what her thinking was during my childhood. She was a generally conflict-avoidant and pretty in-the-now kind of person who did not, I think, do a lot of planning, but rather took things as they came. I assume she knew that I would eventually have to cope with a male body and adult life. My best guess is that she tried not to think about it too much.

She again enrolled me in school, at age 12, when we moved to Norway in 1969. I was still to all appearances female, and read as such. Knowing my mum, I wouldn’t be surprised if she’d just left the gender box blank on the forms and let them fill in the ‘oversight’…

Norwegian culture, even back then, was liberal with regard to gender roles; and this time round there were no uniforms. No one ever remarked on my gender presentation, so I suppose no one suspected anything amiss.

Things changed when, at age 14, my mother sent me to live with my father, who took it upon himself to ‘fix’ me, as did my new school. The next 17 years were hell.


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