When I played pretend as a child, I was never the damsel in distress. I was Superman, equipped with enormous arms, and always ready to whisk the girl to safety. But this fantasy of mine was flawed. The problem is I am only five feet tall... and I was born a woman. Being transgender has been a major part of my life, though, more challenging than realizing this about myself, was my decision not to transition.
As a child, it was easy to put on boy clothes and play with friends like one of the boys. All of my childhood infatuations were girls. As I grew older, cultural barriers grew with me. I came out to my parents as a lesbian in high school. It’s an adjustment for any parent, but growing up in an Indian family, this opened up an entirely new set of challenges for me.
Regardless, I felt as though everything fell into place. Finally, I could openly love a woman. It wasn’t until age nineteen that I realized there are others like me. Even the word transgender wasn’t something I was familiar with until I began to immerse myself in the LGBTQ+ community. Through communicating with others, I began to finally put the pieces of myself together.
The hardest part is gender dysphoria. I used to be imprisoned by ideas of who I should be and what I should wear. Once I began to let go of my preconceived notions of what it meant to be a man, and embraced what it meant to be a person, I began to feel comfortable enough to explore both my masculinity and my femininity.
The world of academia has always been my escape. Unlike toys, clothes, and social norms, academics are not a gendered activity. I could excel in school and be challenged without putting myself in a situation where I felt uncomfortable. By replacing my feelings of insecurity and self-doubt with the successes I have achieved in the classroom, I have begun to overcome my challenge.
I will forever be fighting this battle, but I would never alter this experience. Being transgender has made me more open to understanding others’ experiences without judgement.
Shefali (last name omitted)
San Diego, CA