This one’s always a classic. You’re talking to a cis person who’s a few clues short, and they bust out the ol’ how-do-you-know routine. Four out of five times, no matter what your answer is, they’ve got a follow up question that is stunningly obvious, but they ask it with an innocent wonder as if you hadn’t considered it before you went around telling people your chip set is wrong for your motherboard.
“Have you considered that maybe you’re just a boy who doesn’t want to be macho?”
“But you like video games, don’t you?”
“Didn’t you want to join the Army at one point?”
“Maybe you’re just gay, have you thought of that?”
The last one is my favorite, because I’m not even into boys. I consider myself an aspiring lesbian.
Of course the really frustrating part is that even after all this time I still don’t have a good answer to the main question: how do I know I’m a girl? Any answer that relies on performative cues doesn’t fly; my fondness for sexy lady boots is no more an indicator of my gender than my video gaming habit, and it would be unfair to both men and women to say otherwise.
Body dysmorphia is another possible answer, but I didn’t actually notice my dysmorphia until after I realized I was trans, and while sometimes it is positively suffocating, it’s not a problem for me every day. In fact the more open I am, the more steps I take towards transition, the less frequently I get it. (Talking about female anatomy in health class was another matter; I never get dysmorpha more severely than when I do when the discussion is about parts I don’t have, but my body insists that I should. So I avoid that subject as much as possible.) The real reason I don’t like dysmorphia as an answer is because it’s related to sex, not gender identity. I don’t think what I do or do not have in my pants should define the whole of my gender, even if I am uncomfortable with the plumbing set I got issued. So while dysmorphia is a handy checkbox to add to the list, it isn’t in itself an answer.
The answer I have come up with, as insufficient as it is, is that I just know. I’m a girl. Took me twenty two years to figure it out, but I’m a girl. I identify more with women than with men. I’m more comfortable thinking of myself as a woman than as a man. Actually, I can’t think of myself as a man without becoming deeply uncomfortable. Thinking of myself as a boy, is different; I spent most of my life as one of those, but I can’t imagine myself as a male adult.
An acquaintance of mine, who I used to count as a friend but have distanced myself from due to unrelated circumstances, when I was explaining this to me was incredulous when I gave him this answer. “You just know?” Like I was claiming that the Holy Spirit had given me winning lottery numbers or something. And yeah, I just know. Were there hints? Sure. The long, pleasant, and increasingly frequent daydreams of waking up in a girl’s body and being just a-okay with it was a hint. The fact that when I jacked off I would think of lesbians, with myself as one of them, that was another hint (one which would later cause me significant angst. Look for another post about this.). The times when I’d see a woman on the street and be slammed with a sudden need, not to fuck her but to be her, that was a hint.
And eventually, you take the hints, and you just know.