Liz, my sister, remarked on how good I was at pretending when we were growing up, and was expressing how difficult it must have been for me trying to be somebody I wasn’t and having to be that person for so long. But it wasn’t all bad — it was mostly a case of being constantly confused, which is a lot like cisgendered kids feel as they grow up, as I understand them.

In my case, it wasn’t simply a case of hating my body or my life and feeling desperation all the time. I was torn between some sense of gender dysphoria and also trying to fit into my assigned sex role. So not only did I study girls, envy them, and imagine how I could somehow grow up to be one of them, but I also remember studying guys and trying to figure out how I could be a better boy. However, despite all that scrutiny of boys and girls, men and women, masculinity and femininity, I was unable to come to any conclusions. I found that I was jealous of guys who made being a guy seem effortless and I was jealous of girls because they were girls — and there I was in the middle, left out in the cold, feeling totally clueless about girls, boys, and myself.

I survived by reading, studying my homework, and finding self-worth in things like choir, athletics, and hard ranch work. I fell in love with the world of ideas, so seemingly disembodied from my awkward struggles. Philosophy, poetry, and literature kept my head away from thinking about my body and my fate, and so I think it is entirely possible that my current profession owes something to my juvenile gender identity confusion.

As I grew up and ran with a fairly androgynous group of friends (high school choir buddies and fellow intellectuals), I felt a lot more at home, and was often able to stay one step ahead of gender troubles, but what I learned, and what I’ll write about later, was that even as I got more sophisticated, my gender trouble also got more sophisticated and harder to ignore or thwart.

I ended up in a long distance race with me and my wits on one team and the specter of gender trouble on the other team, the former determined to pull away from the latter, which was equally determined to catch up. And even though I often pulled far ahead of the other team, leaving it broken down on the side of the dusty course, the race was very long with lots of surprises, and we know how it turned out, don’t we?