Hi, I’m Jim. It’s time for me to finally admit my struggle with gender identity.
At grade school recess, I preferred to play jump rope with the girls rather than “King on the Mountain” with the boys. As a skinny little kid, I may not have had much physical strength, but I did have a strong instinct for survival.
In junior high, while my friends were trying out for Little League, I was trying out for Junior Theater. (I actually wrote a play about Admiral John Paul Jones that was performed at an elementary school assembly. A playwright by fourth grade!) While my friends were outside hunting and fishing, I was inside reading the World Book Encyclopedia. (Yep, one summer I read it from Aachen to Zymurgy.)
In high school, I excelled in writing. I wrote my first book as a junior. And, as a senior, while the “jocks” were tackling each other and then showering together, I was editor of the school newspaper with a staff of good-looking, good-smelling girls. I even dated the head cheerleader, but I never, ever felt like a “real” guy.
And apparently, I was showing up on some adults’ gaydar. One summer, a public school music teacher invited me to join him at a local nudist colony. I suspect he didn’t think I simply would enjoy some sun and volleyball.
So, after being called a “queer” for playing with girls (let the record show, I never played with dolls) and choosing a writing career that is populated by 90 percent females, I went through a time of wondering Am I gay? I didn’t feel any attraction to guys, but why didn’t I like “manly” activities?!
That’s why I can relate to those struggling with transgenderism. I understand feeling like an outsider. I know the confusion of wondering if there was (is) something wrong with me sexually that I don’t fit the male stereotype.
I share this only because, a) I have a pretty good identity of being just as male as anyone else with a Y chromosome and, most important, b) I have real empathy for the one-third of young males and many females who are going through a gender identity crisis and being viewed as any number of shameful terms.
As I was researching my first book on teen sexuality (I’ve written three), I found some interesting research that helped me to realize that even though I loved writing, the arts and Broadway musicals, I wasn’t necessarily transgender.
So, I’m wondering out loud, if a large number of those who view themselves other than a binary male or female are simply people who do not fit society’s gender norms. (And who decides what is normal?!)
For instance, I feel much more at ease with my gay writer friends than with the manly men at church who can only talk sports. I actually feel more accepted by gays in the arts than straight athletes, hunters and fishermen.
If you’re going through a struggle to find out where you fit in socially and sexually, here are some things to consider:
Many of our choices are hard-wired in our DNA.
Weighing 115 pounds in high school, I was pretty well disqualified from any contact sports. My great grandmother was a poet and painter, so maybe my writing talents were inherited. My son is a great actor and videographer, so I’d like to think he got some of his creativity from his dad.
Simply being drawn to activities that society once associated only with the opposite sex, doesn’t mean you’re trans.
Today’s culture is becoming more and more accepting of female race car drivers, women executives and lady wrestlers. And men have always excelled as artists, writers, and chefs.
Parents have such an important job in affirming children’s natural talents and abilities.
My parents were a patient “audience” for my magic and puppet shows. Instead of forcing me into sports, they encouraged me to try out for theater. They bought me a typewriter, guitars, and provided a workshop full of tools and supplies for creative projects. (My attempt in junior high to create an anatomically-correct female robot should have convinced my little brain that my inner male was really quite normal!)
And so, through my addled adolescence, I learned to shake off the slurs and haunting suspicions that the labels fit me. I learned to embrace both my maleness and my artistic interests. I realized if it took hunting and grunting to prove my manhood, perhaps I wasn’t much of a man.
So, my heart goes out to those trying to find their way. Remember . . .
You’re not alone!
Again, one-third of all males and many females struggle with gender self-identity. I was one of those and I turned quite normal (Well, let’s not quibble about the definition of “normal”!) Just realize that you’re not alone!
© Copyright 2013, 2022 James N. Watkins
Since this was first posted in 2013, I’ve learned the transgender and same-sex attraction are viewed as two entirely different issues in the LGBTQ community. So, my apologies for muddling that distinction. I’ve completely revised this post to reflect that difference.
If you found this post helpful, please share it on your social networks. Thanks!