During the last six years I have become increasingly aware of how important the teenage and pre-teen years are. This is when boys and girls experiment with looks, ethics, beliefs, attitude and many other things. For most this is an experience that will set them on a path for life, helping to shape career, orientation, status, conformity non-conformity, femininity or masculinity regardless of gender. For a few, like me, this is not quite the case.
True, I have my ethics, my lack of belief in a deity, my politics, my shyness. All formed during my teenage years. But I also have my masculinity. Even though I was more comfortable with girls/women and even though I think it was easier being a teenager then (in the late 70s/early 80s), you still had to survive in the pack. In those days, it was not done to be openly gay or effeminate, certainly where I was growing up. Don’t get me wrong, these people were there and I was in awe of their bravery, but I was not that brave and I had to survive!
But now I realise that that teenage angst, which makes them so difficult to live with, pretty much moulds everything about them: how they stand, sit, lounge, move their arms, cross their legs, answer questions, put their point of view across (or not), talk to people of their own gender, talk to people of the opposite gender, flirt with men, flirt with women, handwriting, length of stride, the step pattern, walking in general, hand gestures, cadence of voice, laugh, in jokes, films seen, role models, fashion, make-up, hobbies, standing, gestures when speaking.
As a closeted transwoman, I find myself gong through a second puberty, not through hormones, but purely through realising how much I have to learn from my new peers. The problem with that is my peers are not teenagers and are not programmed for those conversations, learning exepriences and experimentation. They did that decades ago, and it was exhausting then and they are certainly not going to relive it again thank you very much. What to do?
I read vorasciously anyway and with the rise of Young Adult (YA) books there is plenty to choose from. I have read a lot by trans authors, though often these are frustrating as they usually have the lead character magically beginning to transition with no intervention but magic. I am sure that there are many of us out there who wish that that could happen but personally, I live in the real world. Having said that, if anybody knows how to activate the magic so that my boy bits can gradually morph into girl bits, could you please let me know? I would be eternally grateful.
Fortunately there are a large number of coming of age young women novels. The most recent ones I have read are by Jenny Han. I really enjoyed “To All the Boys I have Ever Loved”. I saw the film first but reading the book afterwards was still great as there were enough differences that you still wanted to turn the page. This was also the first of a trillogy and I enjoyed the next two just as much, if not even more. I have also read Jenny Han’s “The Summer I Turned Pretty”. Different characters, different story, but just as good.
I am learning from my friends on the written page. Maybe not as good as going through puberty with other teenagers but you have to make the best of what you have got.