Sometime middle April 2014
I was somewhere in a crowd of strangers, wearing only my jeans, naked from my belt upwards. I was ashamed of my nakedness and looked around furtively for something – anything – to cover my shame. All I could find, was a tie, which I tied across my nipples to try and cover my breasts. After waking up, I was not relived as one normally is after waking up from a nightmare. I rather was left with the feeling that the dream was the message I had been waiting for all my life, the message that time was now ripe to act.
Early April 2014
I had made an appointment with my psychologist, whom I shall call “Haan.” I had an overwhelming desire to speak about the things he and I had been exploring under hypnosis, without the added layers of the symbolism of my Internal Family System’s parts and visualized memories. This time I was ready to speak frankly – mano-a-mano. I had sent him a link to a blog I am following, “A boy and her dog,” in which the blogger writes about emotions of “Traversing the borders between Butch and Transgender.” I follow the blog, which verbalizes thoughts and emotions I had been living with from my earliest memories. Haan had read the blog beforehand and had a good idea of what I wanted to share.
As usual, he let me do the talking, with carefully placed questions to draw out what I could not verbalize since my own 9/11 in 2010. I started with my earliest memories – my first gift from my mom: a doll, one who closed her eyes as she was laid down to sleep – quite a feat for a toy the early 1960’s in South Africa. I hated the doll on sight and never played with it. My mom must have been puzzled and hurt, I now know with hindsight. Forgive me, Mom…
There were other gifts – a play table with chairs and little teacups and saucers. I do not remember that I and my little black playmate, Phutime, ever played with them, after all, he was a boy! But I have a photo of a birthday party (perhaps my fifth?) where the table is set and I am in the company of neighbouring children, wearing a smocked dress with a huge ribbon bow in my hair.
Sometimes when I hurt myself, my mother would say, “Don’t worry, it will be over before you turn into a boy.” But I never wanted it to be over – I wanted to be that boy!
Later my mom gave up on girly toys. As she had worked in a shop, I could browse through the shelves with toys and chose guns, swords, cars, masks… During the years before my dad died (I was 11 when he passed away from a heart attack), I had two friends who came to play with me at our house. The games were from my fantasies and ideas from books I had been reading – Konsalik, Ian Fleming – hence the spy stories we acted out. Camelot was my favorite book and I became Lancelot, the fearless knight on the steed saving the princess from the dragon.
I was about 9 or 10 at the time when one of my playmates became the princess, not only when we play-acted, but also in my daydreams. I was infatuated with her, although I did not realize it at the time and could put no name to my emotions.
I was born late in the 1950’s. My parents were conservative whites and an Apartheid South Africa. We had no full-length mirrors, as it was a “sin” to admire yourself in a mirror. When puberty came and my breast started developing to my utter horror, I fortunately did not have to look at these atrocities in the mirror, although I could not escape them on my body. Playing sports and attending physical education classes at school, were nightmares. While the girls around me strutted naked or in their underwear, sneaking envious glances at the more developed girls, I hid in a corner, dressed in the shower stall, wanting to die of shame. Then already I was weaving my web of deception, although I did not know it at the time.