When I look back on when I was a child I never really fitted in anywhere. I very strongly felt wanting to be a boy. You can see in the photo’s in my earlier posts that I looked and dressed very much like a boy, but in between I had girl fazes. My parents never really made a big deal out of it but they didn’t really guide me in this either. I really didn’t like playing with girls, I was not interested in dolls and back then kids play was very much gender divided. I wanted to play with boys, outside, play football and war, and build dens. It was hard because the other boys in my street didn’t want to play with me because I was a girl, so with football I was always made to be the goalkeeper. I was a frantic reader and by the time I was 10 or so I had read every single interesting book for my age in my village library. I loved adventure stories and stories about the second world war. I read all my dad’s books from when he was a boy.
By the time I became a teenager I felt pressure from the outside world to fit in as a girl and I sort of automatically dropped the boy look. I think it was just too big a step to really question my gender to myself, without anybody pointing it out or showing me. But then a real struggle began because I grew a lot more body hair than other girls and my breasts didn’t develop much. I only started wearing a bra age 25 or so. I also had a lot of testosterone I think cause I was a very sporty person. I swam a lot, 3-4 times a week and a game of waterpolo in the weekend. I cycled a lot, 10-20 miles a day easy. I was very muscular as a result and had very broad shoulders. I am also 6 feet tall, which in the Netherlands is quite average for women, but here in England I am standing out big time.
In secondary school I started to get bullied. It got really bad, with kids beating me and I only had one friend. I struggled with how I looked, I felt a deep shame about my body hair, but despite that I kept swimming. It got so bad that my parents took me out of that school and I went to another, much smaller school. Here I really flourished. I had a whole group of friends, I got my first boyfriend there. But still I struggled academically and only just managed to pass my exams. To do this I worked incredibly hard, 4 hours studying a day. But it didn’t help, I just couldn’t concentrate and take anything in. My confidence in my ability to learn was at a low, I wasn’t interested in the lessons anymore and started to play up behaviourally. At home the crisis deepened. My sister left age 15.
Then I really became very depressed. And angry. I didn’t know what to do with my life, I wanted to go to Art College but didn’t have the grades, so I went for the next best thing. It only lasted 3 months. I walked away from home, from school, from my friends and started living in squats. The next 5 years I would be drifting, travelling, just really lost. My mental health got extremely bad, I was constantly in crisis. I tried to commit suicide, I had extreme violent outbursts and psychosis. I used a lot of drugs, alcohol.
During this time I experienced a lot of traumatic events, rapes, beatings and I even got drugged, gang raped and held against my will by a bunch of criminals who were involved in drug trafficking and prostitution. You can imagine I did not have time or the mental headspace to wonder about my gender or my mental health, I was just about surviving. I didn’t have any steady relationships, or any real friends.
Eventually it took decades for me to recover and get my life together in such a way that I was not just surviving. Only really the last 5 years or so I found the space to try and figure out who I actually am. So now, because my body and mind were basically giving up and telling me this is as far as you can go. Only then I realised I have to stop working, stop what I am doing and focus on all the trauma and figure out why I am stuck.
Eventually what happened was, I was working 45 hours a week as a lorry mounted crane operator and only saw my kids about 2 hours a day. My youngest really suffered with anxiety and needed my attention, but I couldn’t give it. I was a single parent for most of my kids life and always struggled so much with the emotional attention they needed. Then I started for the umpteenth time to suffer with back pain. Really bad. I struggled to work. I got sacked from my job. The back pain got worse. I worked for another 3 months, struggled to get work because I had to get my youngest to school first. I felt more and more depressed and my confidence got a real bad hit because I got sacked. And then I thought I have to stop, I can’t do this anymore. I thought I have to figure out why I have such back pain, and why I feel so down and exhausted. Well, my back I think is just bad because of the stress of working so much and being a parent with multiple mental health conditions. I have to admit to myself that I can’t do it. That I have disabilities. So then a whole period of reflexion started. And because I started to think about everything, I also started to think about my gender and question who I actually am.
I googled it. And I came across a Wikipedia page about androgyny. On that page was a link to a test about the gender spectrum. It did say, don’t take it too seriously, cause it only gives an impression but I found it very surprising and at the same time totally affirmative of how I felt.
That was 2 years ago. When I told my parents I didn’t get the reaction I was hoping for. My mother was outright dismissive when I suggested I might choose to start using the ‘they’ and ‘them’ pronouns. For the rest I can’t remember seeing much reaction from them. Then I told all my Facebook friends, and I had lots of positive reactions. But that was basically all I did about it, because that was right after I stopped working and I just didn’t have time to process it.
Now I am just starting my first year studying Criminology & Psychology and I have time to think about it. We’ve just been through the first Covid-19 lockdown with oceans of time. I listened to podcasts about being non-binary. And it made me think about how I express my gender. So, I’m taking steps. I am planning to cut off my long hair and get a more androgyne hairstyle. I am thinking about publicly announcing I want to use other pronouns. And then, see how it goes..
By Mayola 22/10/2020