by Gwendolyn Ann Smith
One of those questions that non-transgender people seem to love to ask transgender people is this: Do you have any regrets?
It may seem like an innocent enough question, just a bit of idle curiosity. Of course, what they are fishing for — and may not even realize it themselves — is some sort of moral superiority. Something that they can hang their own metaphorical hat on, and say, “Oh, that poor person, they went though all that, but they really regret all they missed out on beforehand.”
It’s all about being sympathetic, yet smug about one’s own choices in life.
In the way that they mean it, no, I don’t have regrets. This isn’t something where regrets really apply in the way some may want. It’s not like I’m going to get nostalgic about my days as a male of the species, and all the things that I really don’t feel any loss over.
I do have one regret, though it’s not one that can leave the aforementioned folks feeling smug. It is not at all what they’d be looking for. It’s nothing I had — nothing I could ever have had and. I just wish I did.
I regret that I never had a proper girlhood.
Like me, few transgender people have the opportunity to really claim their childhood in their preferred gender. I know that many male to female transfolks didn’t get may opportunities to play with the neighborhood’s non-transgender girls. Likewise, I suspect it is the rare female to male who got the opportunity to mix it up with the other boys without such being viewed, at best, through the imperfect lens of “tomboy.”
I did manage to share experiences with some of my non-transgender women friends. These are times I cherish, like being able to be a part of the local Girl Scout troop as a youngling, or having a favorite doll. Those times are few and far between, though, and when my history is known, require explanations and caveats — it’s simply not as easy as it comes to others.
I wonder what I missed. What things will I never know, and never understand because I was never a young girl? In how many ways would I be different from the person I am today?
Granted, I’d like to think that the experiences I might have missed out on don’t matter. That a decade or so of experiences that should have been spent in my preferred gender during the years when we are said to be the most impressionable can be written off. Gender itself should not be an issue: I would be simply the same person I am today.
Yet too many variables are in play. So much would have been different in my life that I can’t even begin to point to what would be changed, or how. I seem unable to even speculate on that. I only suspect that I missed out on a lot: I know that there are things I will never know, experiences I’ll never fully understand.
Think to your own past, and the experiences you had growing up. How many of those would have been different based strictly on birth gender?
Don’t just consider the big, obvious stuff: think of the more subtle things. Would your parents have had different pet names for you as a kid? Would you have got to “shave” with your dad, wielding a bladeless razor? Would mom have braided your hair? In how many ways might you have been treated differently by family, friends, and anyone else you came in contact with? You very well might be a totally different person than who you are today or, at best, you might be much the same, but with some very different experiences and history behind it all. For myself, I’m sure things would have been quite different.
Regrets? I don’t regret the things of my male past: I simply regret that it could not have been a female one from the get go.
That I will regret.