I have a few different trains of thought running through my head as I write this and I will attempt to bring them all together by putting fingers to keys and words to screen, my own contemporary version of “putting pen to paper.” Most of you who have been following my blog for a while, have probably noticed that I can be quite frank about my life as it unfolds before me. It is a quality neither good nor bad, for it is endearing to some, but to many others, I believe to be quite alienating. It is a quality I have had since I was of pre-school age although tempered by the one great secret about myself I could never share with family, friends or even my late beloved wife for over thirty-one years.
That brings me now to recollection of past events that I can now see have played a part in how my life has unfolded as a transgender person. What I have recently learned about memory storage and recall, is that memories are not, I repeat NOT, an accurate accounting of past events and are constantly rewritten by the brain as viewpoints and contexts change over time. This is only my interpretation of what I have heard and read yet there seems to be a general consensus among brain researchers that one, the human brain cannot distinguish between a memory of an event and witnessing the event itself. It provides the same intensity of feelings in either case and those feelings become part of the memory itself. The second thing is that the brain redundantly stores memories for faster recollection by associating more than one synapse with another which can be wired and rewired over time, and human emotions play an essential part of how the synapses are wired together. I admit I am a layman but I think I have stated the essential part for my own thesis of how I believe the brain operates.
The legal and law enforcement professions are quite aware of this phenomena of memory remapping but like all human beings, are not perfect in how they interpret this brain function. That is why defense lawyers and prosecutors alike try to get continuance after continuance when their witnesses seem too confident about conflicting testimony. They also know that they can influence a witness testimony but getting them to repeat it over and over again, ad infinitum, in the guise of “getting their stories straight.”
Anyway, getting back to my early childhood recollections, I remember my Mom telling me when I was around four or five years old, that the neighborhood kids were afraid of me for my frankness and honesty. She said that when I was younger, less than the age of my first self-awareness which I figure was around age three, I practically needed a social calendar so I could devote equal time without showing favoritism, to kids who liked to play with me but not each other. At around the age of three, an age that is characteristically associated with the age of sentience or self-awareness, something changed and from that time forward I would have only one or, at most, two friends at a time who were also misfits among our peers. From what I have learned from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, version 5 (DSM-5), psychologists and medical diagnosticians now have criteria to determine gender dysphoria in children as young as the age of three.
So at around the age of three, my social butterfly life went into the toilet. Is that a mere coincidence? If my parents were still alive, I would have asked them about their observations of my early pre-sentient and post-sentient days. I also can’t ask my siblings as my older brothers were age eight and ten when I was three and my younger sister would have only had her first birthday. Still the coincidence is too compelling to ignore even though from an objective scientific viewpoint, I would question the relationship between the two observations.
I also recall that my parents let me play with dolls and my Dad, who had a woodworking shop in the basement, used to make wooden toys for us for Christmas. One year, he made matching doll beds for my sister and I, one pink and one blue and I seemed to vaguely recall that I wanted the pink one rather than the blue. I also recall one day playing with my sister and a boy and girl across the street where the boys were soldiers who died in battle while the girls were angels who carried our souls to heaven. As I lay still on the ground after a dramatic death, I recall that I really rather have been a live angel with wings rather than a dead soldier.
Such are some of my earliest recollections where I seemed to have been confused around what I should enjoy doing as a boy and even though, as a pre-schooler, I was allowed to play with toys and games associated with girls, as I got older, I learned that some of the ways I had preferred to play would be considered no longer appropriate play as a boy. Looking back from my present, it would appear that perhaps this inner conflict around appropriate gender roles and gender expression would have repercussions not only with social development, but with my own self-image where I believe at such an early age, that I was supposed to have been the girl in the family. Whether or not my recollections of the past may be influenced by my present thinking, they sure seem to be compelling indications of my early gender self-identity as a girl or, at the very least, my confusion and self-doubt.
Deanna Joy Hallmark