Pinocchio has always been a little too close to home.
As a very small child, I had long hair I never brushed and straight-across bangs I tried to chop off. I loved the color pink, because it was girly and I was a girl, and argued with my sister whether “pretty” was preferable to “cool”. I remember that at my preschool, most of us were not fully potty-trained. We could use the toilet, of course, but things like wiping or going on time sometimes got overlooked. In order to allow the teachers to help us, the door to the toilet stayed open.
I remember imaging what breasts would feel like. I remember thinking that it was impossible they’d just grow, without warning. I remember thinking there was remarkably little difference between me and my friend who played with Thomas the tank engine, except that he could stand to pee.
No one ever properly explained bras to me. My father taught me to shave my face, though puberty has yet to offer a beard or even a mustache. I envied his Adam’s apple and didn’t understand when I stopped being allowed to shower with him.
I knew as a kindergartener that you could stop puberty. I knew, even then, my parents would never agree to help me do that.
These are the gender markers of my childhood. I was always angry about people dismissing women, angry because I had so much to say and if my body did as it was instructed, I’d grow up to be a woman, to be ignored. I was angry that men couldn’t wear dresses.
And now I’m an adult. My body has done the unspeakable, given me hips and breasts and a menstrual cycle. My body has given me a tell-tale shape, a voice too sweet and skin too soft and not enough muscles.
I can’t hate my body. I can’t hate that all these things are a part of me, except perhaps the fat that still lingers. I tried it, and I nearly died. I was too vulnerable to hate my body.
But people dismiss me, just like that little girl knew they would. She knew, she understood that her words and thoughts were not going to go away. She understood that even with breasts, she would be stronger than her sister.
That little girl became me, a person who can’t understand that “woman” can be applied to them, to him, who can’t understand that people dismiss him as nagging or shrill when he gets upset.
This young man is trying so hard to hide in the shape of a woman, and this shape isn’t bad, but it doesn’t fit quite right and he can’t hide it. He wishes it didn’t exist. He wishes he’d had the guts to ask for hormone blockers, to prevent this hellish confusion.
He wishes he was binary. He wishes he was a woman. He wishes he knew what he wanted at all. And he feels like a puppet, because his purpose is not to fill this false roll of woman, but he’s not sure he really does want to be a real boy.
He’s not sure he’d survive being swallowed by a whale.