Written by Elliot Weber
Most people I know would say I was a girly child. I played with dolls, I wore dresses, I liked unicorns, and pink frilly things. I wore child’s plastic heels, feather boas, and princess crowns. As an adult, I wouldn’t say that I’ve abandoned any of that. I collect dolls, I would like to wear dresses (once I have bigger arms and some chest hair, maybe), I have a passion for makeup and a deep-seated desire to be a drag performer. Looking back, I wasn’t a girly child; I was a campy child in the same way I desire to be a campy adult.
There was a sense of otherness that floated in my subconscious as a child, which manifested into a debilitating imposter syndrome as a teen and young adult. Regardless of transness or neurodivergence (neither of which I was aware of at the time) I felt distinctly different from my peers at all stages of my life; puberty was the worst of them. In discovering and exploring my identity as a trans person, I found experiences and people I could relate to. For the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged. The opportunity to connect with my body and feel comfortable in it, an opportunity I had never been privileged enough to have, felt like the promise of a future I never thought I’d get.
I wasn’t a girly child; I was a campy child in the same way I desire to be a campy adult.
Although a medical transition isn’t in the cards for everyone, it is for me. For a lot of people, the first step is getting a gender dysphoria diagnosis. I’ve been out in some capacity for almost seven years now, and although I’ve had lots of support from friends, the cis people in my life have never taken me seriously. For me, getting this diagnosis would prove that medically transitioning was a necessity, and possibly make it easier to get it. I felt that my experiences would be enough to warrant such a diagnosis, but the line of questioning read out to me didn’t fully encompass my trans experience. No diagnostic criteria will fully encompass anyone’s entire experience, but what concerned me about this one was the narrow narrative it presented of the trans experience, particularly the questions about childhood.
Expecting, in some capacity, that trans children reject any and all activities associated with their assigned gender at birth ignores another glaring problem. There are no “girl” activities or “boy” activities, only gendered stereotypes agreed on by the majority. This binary view of gender also leaves nonbinary trans people like myself “out in the cold” so to speak: what am I supposed to accept or reject if I don’t fully identify with either? The mental and physical well-being of trans people should not be gatekept by western society’s view of dress, action, and behavior. We should not have to tailor our life experiences to fit a narrative cis people approve of in order to receive life-saving treatment. Make no mistake, medical transitions are life-saving.
There are no “girl” activities or “boy” activities, only gendered stereotypes agreed on by the majority.
Even though I qualified enough to receive a diagnosis, I still felt that the more questions I answered “correctly”, the more “valid” I would appear. It seems that even though the act of being trans itself is meant to liberate us from these boxes, we are simply shoved into a different box and expected to fit. I couldn’t help but consider the alternative: what if I hadn’t checked enough boxes? What if my experiences weren’t “good enough” to warrant a diagnosis? How would my future experience in healthcare be affected by this?
This alternative reality provides another unacknowledged problem in trans healthcare. Although trans people are the ones receiving care, we are at the mercy of the cis doctors and healthcare professionals who write the prescriptions and the diagnostic criteria we have to meet in order to get what we need. We have to jump through hoops in order to prove our transness to people who view us less as patients and more as science experiments. Genuinely treating us and listening to us seems optional based on our gender expression being digestible enough for them.
I ponder this same thought of accessibility as I cancel my endocrinology appointment; the one meant to get me the testosterone I’ve been seeking for seven years because my insurance won’t cover the appointment. “Would you like to reschedule?” the lady on the phone asks me. I reply: “No, I’m cancelling because I can’t afford it.” A beat of silence: I almost think she’s going to ask what they can do to help. “Ok, have a good day,” she replies, hanging up the phone. I go on with my day pretending that my hope hasn’t just been crumpled up and thrown in the trash. It’s not the first time, but the fact that I was so close this time makes me bitter and achy. The pain of reopening an old wound is nasty and jagged with the number of times it’s bled and re-healed, over and over.
Trans people are the ones receiving care, we are at the mercy of the cis doctors and healthcare professionals.
The answer to this predicament is obvious: we need more trans people in healthcare. But for now, we just have to keep fighting for every little thing. I’m used to the uphill battle, but I’m getting tired. We all are. It’s easy to give up, but every time I want to, I remind myself that I’m not the only one I’m fighting for, I’m fighting for every other trans person who wants hope, and for the child in me who just wants to live.
Elliot Weber is a 19-year-old undergraduate student at Florida State University studying Editing, Writing, and Media. He is from south Florida, where he keeps his extensive doll collection. They are looking to publish a poetry anthology, and have hopes of becoming an experimental fashion designer and drag artist. His instagram is @ouijaaboy, just in case you want to see him post maybe once a year.