When I think back on my childhood now, I can see signs that I was trans starting from a very young age. A lot of my early pretend-play with my sister revolved around us both being runaway princesses or fairies or mermaids (my personal favorite). I didn’t really think that was odd when I was young enough to not have the full weight of masculinity weighing on me. And I had somewhat of an advantage in being outside of the typical school environment where a lot of gender is enforced. I was homeschooled and most of that play happened when my mom was distracted with my younger brother’s birth and early years.
All my life, my closest friends have been girls (or at least we all thought they were at the time but it turns out at least one was also nonbinary). And as I got older I started to realize the reason I sought out those relationships was because it was so much easier for me to communicate and relate to them. Around puberty I began internally bemoaning my “weird brain,” even then I knew there was more to it than me just being an odd kid. I remember feeling distinctly like my brain worked more like a girl’s than the stereotypes I heard about male brains or the ways I heard boys in my life talk about them.
Puberty was a very angsty time for me, as is often true of a trans narrative. But it revolved less around my anatomy and more around my brain and way of relating to people. It didn’t help that my parents started worrying about how much time I was spending alone with girls and trying to restrict our activity. They gently pushed me towards making more male friends and doing more typical boy activities. I was extremely emotional but as I became more steeped in masculinity that became less and less acceptable. So instead my emotions were pushed down and funneled into anger. I was a pretty unpleasant teen at times because of it.
Are those all signs that I was trans or just that I didn’t fully buy into masculinity? It is hard to say. Since I didn’t have access to information about the existence of trans people much less concepts of nonbinary gender, I never developed that framework for thinking about it. I do know that around 16 I started wishing quite often that I could snap my fingers and change myself into a girl but that was only partly about anatomy and just as much about escaping masculinity pressure. The idea of taking steps towards changing my gender with the body I had never crossed my mind, not that I knew it was possible. But my dreams often involved me having all the genitals in one body.
In regards to my sexuality it never even crossed my mind that I might be queer. The negative messaging around that was so strong that I avoided any train of thought even remotely leading in that direction. At one point that fear was so strong that I stopped watching any porn with penises because I worried that liking it might make me gay. Also because the masculinity most porn I could access showed felt repulsive to me in the same way that most of the boys I was around disgusted me. Even today, the aggressiveness that comes along with masculinity is a big turn off to me and a big reason I have a hard time approaching cis men who I find attractive.
The point of this story is that the stereotypical story of knowing your gender or sexuality at an early age isn’t true for everyone. And the reasons are complicated. I truly believe that not all people are “born that way” and sometimes gender and sexuality change over your lifetime. And even if I have always been nonbinary, which I think is likely, it is ok to discover that later in life. It doesn’t make you any less trans or queer. This is a good post on the topic for more reading.