In the years I've identified as transgender, I've encountered many of the drawbacks and advantages that I assume many other trans people also face. There are a few benefits I really like (no menstruation!) and some other aspects that are more inconvenient (multiple five-figure surgeries).
Some of these problems will get better in time. My next surgery will be my last; the medical community is becoming more and more familiar with treating trans people; the march toward social tolerance keeps trudging forward. There's one issue that sticks with me, though, that I'm not sure will ever change: being transgender robbed me of my girlhood.
I don't hear this part of the trans experience discussed as much as other issues. For me, it looms just as large as surgeries, passing, or sex. I know nobody wants to hear someone bitching about their unhappy childhood. As dentists everywhere say, I'll try to make this as quick and painless as possible. My childhood actually wasn't unhappy. I had (and have) two loving parents; I was raised in a healthy environment; I had friends; I was active. In this sense, I had as good a childhood as one can hope for. In retrospect, it just wasn't the one I wanted.
I wanted to be a girl. I never vocalized this. I overcompensated a bit, to be truthful. My parents probably would've handled it well, but I never gave them the chance. I didn't have the courage or self-awareness to speak up. I wasn't aware of the future consequences of this decision. I didn't even know I had made a decision. I knew my feelings were incorrect and that's all there was to it. How could any 4- or 5-year-old begin to comprehend such a choice in the present, let alone its effects decades in the future. I said earlier that being trans robbed me of my girlhood, but perhaps I should say being trans caused me to rob myself of my girlhood.
I've learned to cope with my anger and frustration about this. Early in my transition, with added stress and new hormones whirling, the wound felt more raw. If I saw a young girl in public somewhere I would seethe with anger. She's getting what I didn't get, what I'll never get, and she'll take it for granted. This was a preposterous thing to think, of course. To swell with such hatred at the sight of a little girl is more befitting a cartoon villain. I've long since moved from anger to the acceptance stage, but it will always bother me to some degree.
I want it back. I want my Barbies. I want my ballerina phase. I want the bedroom that's pink and purple everywhere with a canopy bed. I want tea parties with my dad. I want slumber parties and unsuccessful experiments with make-up with my friends. But it's too late for all that now. I often tell friends that I'll always be transgender; that there is no surgery that can make me have been born a girl. Even long after all my surgeries and cosmetic procedures are done, after my birth certificate is changed, after I'm spot-on with my voice 24/7, after I stop receiving junk mail addressed to Mr., after my years spent as female heavily outnumber my years spent as male, the void left by the girlhood I never had will always be there.