One of my earliest childhood memories show me at age three or four wearing four t-shirts at once. How I managed to fit all of them on my person completely eludes me now, but I remember that I had watched some cartoon on tv where one of the characters constantly changed outfits from scene to scene. I thought it would be cool if I could do the same thing. Haha, kids are so impressionable, no?
Another thing that strikes my memory of around that age is when my mother dressed me for my preschool portrait. She had me wear a white dress with black dots on it and a flower at the center. What was worse was that my sister wore the exact same dress except the trim of hers was pink while mines was blue. I remember how much I hated being in that dress and how much I hated wearing dresses in general. Two decades have passed and still I hate the things.
When I was six years old, my mother signed me up for tee-ball. Not sure how I ended up with the position, but I played catcher for my team. People used to laugh at me when I told them that because they think a catcher in a tee-ball game is pretty useless, but hey, who's gonna throw the ball to first base when the batter hits the tee and the ball wobbles off? It's still considered a hit. Trust me, I felt pretty badass squatting behind the batter imagining that I'm about to catch some mean curveball or something.
In the third grade, I had a slight obsession with Sonic the Hedgehog. On a day that we had to do some distance running for PE, I wore a pair of black leather shoes that were the closest thing I owned to Sonic's high-tops. While waiting in line I would visualize myself as the blue blur and start running in place really fast thinking that I was "revving my engines" like how I did with Sonic in the games. To my embarrassment and dismay, the shoes I wore were meant for casual outings and provided no shock absorption whatsoever. I know my feet were sore as hell and I couldn't run as far or as fast as I wanted because of the pain, but I can't remember whether I had blisters or not.
Another moment in the third grade happened at recess. A whole group of us got together to pretend we were Power Rangers. Naturally, I wanted to be the Blue Ranger because blue was my favorite color and because I could relate to Billy. I remember one guy saying, "But you're a girl! You HAVE to be either the Pink or Yellow Ranger!" and I kept saying, "No, I don't! I wanna be Billy!" to the point where he gave up. I was fighting off gender stereotypes before I even knew what the word 'stereotype' meant.
I was mostly an intellectual loner during my elementary school years. In the 5th grade I read a book about Greek mythology every day during recess. It was a 600-page monster that I finished in a week. All I wanted to do in those days was get good grades so I could make my father and grandmother proud. I never cared for makeup, gossip, and boys, so naturally I never fit in with the girls. The perk of my geekiness was when one of my pretty female classmates would come to me for homework help. I loved the small, fleeting moments of attention that got me. Of course, I had no idea at that time how enamored I was with women either.
Now when I said earlier that I never cared about boys, I meant I never cared about getting romantically involved with them. I had no problems playing flag football, german dodgeball (or "sham battle" as we called it in those days), or hanging out around the jungle gym with them. Guys were more fun to hang out with because they wanted to go out and play instead of squawking like the girls did.
Then middle school came and with that, the onset of puberty. Guys actually started paying attention to girls and the girls loved it. This was the time that I learned what the words "slut" and "being straight" meant (interestingly, I learned what "horny" meant just a year or two prior). The few female friends I had started getting involved in the school band and eventually found their own cliques. I'd occasionally hang out outside of the bandroom trying to cling to the friends that I didn't want to admit that I was losing or I'd be found playing Magic: The Gathering with the "nerdy" clique. Even there, however, I felt like an outcast just because I was a girl and the word on the street was that girls suck at playing Magic.
High school came and I had the privilege of going to the private school I had always wanted. I knew that with a new school I could have a clean slate. I opened myself up more and even tried the girly thing for a little bit. I was still a geek, but I tried harder to socialize more and it helped. My closest friends now are the ones I made in high school.
I joined the Army JROTC program and loved it. I made it to the rank of Cadet First Lieutenant before the program got canceled due to the ridiculous politics of the time. I went to the annual Military Ball two out of the three years I went and both times I did not wear the skirt. I didn't try asking for the male Class A suit because I figured I'd get laughed at or it wouldn't fit me correctly so I stuck with the female Class A suit. No matter whether I was dressed up in a suit or out in my BDUs, I made that uniform look good.
Proms, on the other hand, I gave in and wore dresses simply because I didn't know that wearing a tuxedo was even possible for me, much less be permissible at my school. Not to mention I had male prom dates at all my functions so wearing a tuxedo was just out of the question. But trust me, I wanted to wear one. Badly. Still do.
Another year or so after high school and I came out as a lesbian, as most transmen do. I finally accepted that I was romantically and sexually attracted to women, but I had no idea that I was still missing pieces of the puzzle. I knew I liked my body as long as I wasn't looking at my chest in the mirror and I thought I could live with that. I had always been considered a tomboy, but I also saw myself as a lady's man. If I found a girl I liked, I did my best to be romantic, charming, and everything they'd want...in a guy. Go figure that the best relationships I've ever had were with bisexual women. They were able to see me for the masculine type that I was underneath the "girlish" frame.
I entertained the idea of getting a sex change with one of my now ex-girlfriends. Her parents were of the traditional Asian variety, so she never came out to them our relationship. I thought that my passing as a man would make them more accepting of me. We talked it over, but figured it was too expensive and invasive of a procedure. What also made me second guess myself was that I was okay with not having a penis or not being able to urinate standing up. The idea of having flappy pieces of flesh between my legs just didn't seem all that appealing to me. So I shrugged it off, thinking that I'll just deal with being a woman who hates the sight of her breasts. It was that now-ex who helped me bind my chest for the first time. My face lit up when I looked at the mirror. I could finally see myself as the sexy guy I always knew I could be, but I wasn't ready to contend with the bottom half of my anatomy.
A couple of years later, I ran across a guy named Dan Savage on both Google and Youtube. He is a sex advice columnist for Seattle's newspaper, The Stranger, and has his own podcast called Savage Love. It took me two days to marathon every video on his Youtube channel. And then one day I came across one where Dan was giving advice to a gay man who gets turned on by FtM porn. Dan spoke about how recently transsexuals are more and more accepting of the idea of being the gender that they are and still live with the genitalia that they were born with. An example he cited was the FtM porn star, Buck Angel, who is often seen in gay male porn. He is a dude with a vagina, and gay men who are turned on by it "should not consider themselves any less gay or any more straight for it", said Dan.
I saw what Buck looked like and...wow! It was the first time I truly appreciated what a man looks like. The presence of female genitalia did not make me think of him as any less of a man and I thought, "If he can do it, surely I can too..." I scoured YouTube and found a nice community of FtMs talking about their transitions and all the things that go with that. I even started doing my own videos.