I drew the picture that headlines this post when I was 20. I drew lot’s of pictures back then. I won’t make a claim to its artistic value, but I loved to draw pretty women. This was one of a series that I did. I still think it’s not bad.
All children love to show their parents the things they did that they’re proud of. Even grownup children. Especially our mothers. When I showed it to my mother I was just hoping for a “wow, nice drawing.”
Instead, I got, “is that a self portrait?” No. It looks nothing like me, and certainly nothing like me at the time. In those days I was moonlighting as a male model—admittedly I was not a buff male model, but rather a skinny one, but I still presented male wherever I went. Now I find myself looking at the drawing and trying to figure out what made her say that. Was there some other message in what she was saying?
This was the woman who constantly told me growing up that she wished I was a girl. I don’t know how this would affect a cis boy who was happy to be a cis boy. In my case, and not being cis, I just thought, “yeah, I wish so too,” though I never told her that. I wonder why. I wonder why even as a child I felt that my dysphoria as something I had to hide, something shameful. I have no idea how that might have crept into my thinking. Especially since I have no recollections of shame or even being told that the clothes my mother dressed me in were not appropriate for a boy.
Of course, when the reality set in and my mother discovered I had a small but growing collection of female attire in my closet, things got ugly for a while. She sure didn’t like it. But I don’t think she ever asked herself whether me having female attire was the result of her constant lament that I wasn’t a girl. I don’t think it was, but I bet a shrink would, and I still can’t work my way through the psychology of a mother who simultaneously wanted something and also appeared to not want it.
Maybe it was her way of protecting me from whatever pain she imagined would result if I accepted myself and this side of me. Who knows? I would have made a really beautiful woman though. But we didn’t have the words to describe the things that children have today, society didn’t have the level of sophistication about gender issues that it has today (even though we still have a long way to go). And my household was certainly not supportive of these feelings, so they stayed hidden and bottled up, and quite literally, the clothes stayed in the closet.
I don’t think I will ever figure out what was going through her head when she commented on the drawing. Over time I have been able to process how I feel about it. The drawing is of a pretty woman, my version of pretty. If my mother saw that inside of me, then I am flattered. That’s how I prefer to remember her. I regard my id as female, so there she is, introduced to you by my mother.