Like most individuals my age who have both X and Y chromosomes and a conventionally male sexual organ, I was assigned a specific identity at birth. I obviously had no choice in the matter, though I can hardly blame the delivery-room doctor or my parents, since, in those benighted days, even the most enlightened members of society were unaware of the broad spectrum of possible personality types that we today accept as simple fact.
Society, my family, our religious beliefs, even my public school—all of these reinforced the identity that I had been assigned at birth. I was taught to say “Yes, please” and “No, thank you,” to refer to my elders and teachers as “Mr.” and “Mrs.,” to open doors for others, and never to interrupt a serious adult conversation or to clown around in public. To the outside world, I looked like a normal boy living a normal life in a normal village in the oh-so-normative Midwest. Little did they know what I would someday become.
I don’t know when I first began to suspect that the identity assigned to me at birth might have been in error. I do know that, by the time I had reached fifth or sixth grade, I had glimpsed the truth about myself. Those were confusing years, as I continued to try to conform to the expectations of my close-knit community, while privately longing to explore the depths of my newfound identity.