The little mermaid, barbies, and butterfly wings: how gender sterotypes influence young transitioners

A 20 year old male who is questioning his gender identity posts to r/asktransgender:

I remember when I was in elementary school, I never understod the concept of cooties. “What’s so disguting about girls?” I would ask myself. “I’d rather hang out around girls than guys.” As a young child, I felt like some of the things I did were “wrong” for a boy. Most of them are silly things: my favorite colors have always been bright colors; purple and pink, traditionally “girl colors” are in my top 4 favorite colors, and I remember in first grade feeling that it was wrong for me to like these colors. As a child, and growing into adulthood, I always liked having girl friends better than guy friends. Sure, being socialized as a guy in this world, it was easier to have guy friends, so I had more, but I always liked having girl friends too, even when all the other little kids thought it was “gross” for some reason.

Boy likes “girly” things (as many boys do!), and prefers the company of girls. Hardly unusual, but unfortunately stigmatized in our society, as he noticed from a young age.

I didn’t fit in super well with other guys. I never got into sports, and I was never one for army games or any of these other “manly” things. I liked tech things, and that was about the extent my love for things typically “masculine”. My best friend during the first 10 or so years of my life was a girl. I loved playing with my friend, and I would play whatever game she wanted to play. It’s hard to remember, but I’m sure that sometimes we played stereotypically “feminine” games. I know that, on more than one occasion, her barbies were the center of attention. I remember this one time when I was over at her house, and she left the room for a second. She had butteryfly wings and I just wanted to try them on. It felt “wrong” to me sort of; it felt like I was doing a bad thing, or something I wasn’t supposed to do, but I didn’t think it was fair that girl got to dress up as fairies with butterfly wings, but I couldn’t, because I was a guy. But I felt stupid and ridiculous for doing it. It felt like some sort of guilty pleasure. And if I recall correctly, the moment I could hear her walking back towards the room, I took them off in a hurry so she wouldn’t notice, but there was something I liked about those butterfly wings.

So he has tastes and personality traits that don’t match the rigid stereotype of how boys are supposed to be, and he feels self-conscious about this.

From a young age I did some things that would probably be considered weird, or at least would have, back then. If I remember correctly, I used to use my “blankey” sometimes and pretend it was a dress and just wrap it around my body like it was one. Once my blankey had been forcibly removed from the picture by my parents, I began to accumulate a series of stuffed animals. I gendered every single one of them as a girl. I always wanted a sister, and I never got one. I think I wanted a companion to be female around and do typically feminine things with. I wanted someone who I could relate to. I always felt that I could relate to a sister better than the crappy brother I have.

More of the same. He is perceptive enough to have picked up that he does not fit the male gender role, and he wants to hang out with girls. He also hints at enforcing of rigid gender roles by his parents, something that shows up a lot in these trans kids narratives.

As a young child, with absolutely no knowledge whatsoever of the female anatomy, I would often, in the shower, manipulate my penis in such a way that made it seem more like what I thought down there might look like from a girl. I’ve always wanted to know what it felt like to be a girl. I think a curiosity of the female anatomy stemmed from this, because female anatomy was something I could never experience, but always wanted to, and I was fascinated by learning about what it was like and being able to put that picture together myself.

Curiosity about bodies.

My favorite movie around this time was The Little Mermaid. I loved that movie so, but it felt wrong to me, because I was a guy, and The Little Mermaid is a disney princess movie, and guys aren’t supposed to like those kinds of movies. But I did, and for the longest time I was ashamed of it. When I would watch kids tv shows, I would love when the commercials for girls toys came on. I was tired of seeing all the commercials marketed towards “male” toys, and although I had no intent on buying them, there was always something appealing to me about the way that the “girl” toys were presented in the commercials, almost in a way I could relate to more than with the boy commercials.

I always felt that there was something about girls that I could identify with better than boys. Boys always felt like these hypermasculine war/violence/aggression-loving machines, and I would much rather associate with the less agressive beings not hell bent on fake-killing each other all the time (speaking about stereotypical gender roles here).

Now, I don’t know how accurate these memories of my childhood are – the brain can change the way you remember things – but this is the most accurate I can get, and I’m pretty sure that most, if not all of these things, were real.

I was raised a cisgender male in a cisgender family with baby boomer parents. I was raised and socialized as a male. It’s what society and my parents were telling me to do. They grew up in a different time. I was born with a penis so I was raised as a boy, but I’ve always wished that I could have had the chance to decide how I feel for myself.

He likes a movie about mermaids and he doesn’t want to be aggressive. He even admits that he’s talking about stereotypical gender roles, but still presents these facts about himself like they are significant signs of something other than simply his personality. Note again the reference to his parents enforcing gender roles.

I’ve never particularly hated my body, but I didn’t particularly have a fond liking towards it either. I’m mostly indifferent to it. My body is fine, I guess, I think because I’ve lived with it my whole life, so I guess I’m used to it, but I don’t really like the male aspects of it. Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I’ll think about what I would look like if I were a girl, or if I had breasts, or if I didn’t have chest hair, or facial hair, or some other manly feature. I try to look past my masculine features when I look in the mirror. They’re okay, I guess, but I think I’d rather not have them.

I find the naked male body in general to be a displeasing sight to look at. Seeing a naked male body, in movies or in the pornography I’ve seen, is not a pleasing sight to me, and I don’t feel like I really identify with the male body or male the male position in heterosexual sex scenes. Maybe it’s a reminder of my own male features that I don’t have a particularly fondness to, though I don’t know.

Notice how he says he doesn’t hate his body. This is a recurring theme in internet communities like these. Posters will start out not hating their bodies, and then a few weeks or months of obsessing, they suddenly talk about hating their bodies after all. Note also that what he does not like are his masculine features. Why is this? Our bodies have social meaning, and this is a male who has personality traits that our society likes to label “feminine”. Since he full well realizes that his personality is not like the stereotypical “manly man”, he is distressed by the masculine features of his body.

I also enjoy the idea of having long hair, and I’ve always liked something about having long hair. At one point, I grew my hair out really long, and it was just really enjoyable for me, possibly because it made me feel feminine. At one point, while my hair was growing out, I used my mom’s hair bands to try and give my hair a bit more of a feminine look (for brief moments in my own privacy), like pigtails or a braid. I think I really just wanted to (and still do want to) experience what it’s like to have hair like a girl.

More stereotypes. He wants long hair but is apparently unable to separate hair from gender.

I’ve started becoming really worried that every moment I take to figure out whether or not I am trans is another moment that I grow older and have a less likely chance of ever appearing “normal” as a women, and at the age of 20, almost 21, time feels like it’s running out really fast.

And finally, he’s obsessing over time running out. That exact phrasing shows up a lot, we saw it in this post, where a 13 year old kid was obsessing over the changes puberty was doing to his body.

Less than a month later, he starts taking antiandrogens:

I literally went into an appointment with my mom and I had almost no idea what it was about. I talked with a social worker and then a doctor came into the room and basically was like “how would you like it if I told you that you could walk out today with a perscription of spiro” and I honestly didn’t expect that to happen walking in.

Doctors are giving him antiandrogens after seeing him once. Apparently nobody has bothered to actually talk to him about the medication he is starting, becausethe day after he posts again, asking “Can anyone give a detailed listing of what Spiro actually does?

So like, I know some of the stuff it does, but I can’t for the life of me find a comprehensive list of every way that it acts as an anti androgen. I’m just sorta wondering what I can expect it to do to my body until I’m able to start E. So… does anyone actually know?

Then two weeks after that, he asks. Spiro feels like it’s doing nothing?

Yeah, I know it’s only been two weeks, so I shouldn’t expect that much, but hair seems to be growing exactly as fast as before, and I feel 100% the same. I can still feel the testosterone coursing through my brain. The diurect effect seems to have stopped, too, or at least calmed down; I get dehydration headaches every few days, but I’m going to the bathroom like I was before. I feel 95% the same as I did before I started Spiro. Again, I know it’s not even been much time, but I feel like I should feel at least a little bit different or something. Hoping it at least means that E will start working on my body faster once I start that..

Edit: I also just feel all around terrible. My body right now feels like a baggy costume that I can’t take off and I don’t normally feel like this but I just wish I could rip it all off. It feels so uncomfortable right now and I want to get rid of it.

The medication his doctor was so quick to prescribe doesn’t seem to be doing him much good.

Two days after that, he posts this, asking about surgery:

You can get FFS for facial bone structure; voice surgery for the lowered voice; tracheal shave for the adams apple; GRS for, well, you know; hair removal for body hair growth.

What about hips and shoulders, is there a way to feminize those? And are there any other secondary sex traits that I’m missing?

And so we see again, a young male, doesn’t fit into stereotypical male gender roles, likes long hair and disney movies. Goes from saying he’s fine with his body to taking anti-androgens and estrogen in the span of a month, and now seems eager to have as many surgical changes to his body as possible.

12 thoughts on “The little mermaid, barbies, and butterfly wings: how gender sterotypes influence young transitioners

  1. Little boy growing up who really likes girls. That’s not allowed, real men don’t like girls.

    Real feminism says “Hey, you like girls, you want to play around with feminine role scripting. That’s nice.”

    Thanks again for your good documentary work here.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] previous posts in this blog we have seen how gender stereotypes play a big role in the narrative of many transitioners. Liking stereotypically feminine things or wanting long hair is seen as significant markers of […]

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