Today we talked about my relationship with my body, my gender and my relationship with my dad when I was a child. These are all connected, it seems.
When I was a kid I was always told I was making a fuss about nothing when I showed my feelings. My dad was often drunk and had an unpredictable temper. The way I survived this was to separate my mind from my body – and to cut myself off from the feelings that, if expressed, would only meet with an unwelcome response.
I hated my dad but also, in that curious way that children often have, I was desperate for his approval. He seemed to approve of my sister. To me he always said that he wanted me to be a boy. That he had wanted one of each, that both he and my mum had wanted that.
I noticed he praised me for typically boyish behaviours. I started hating typically girlish things like dresses, skirts, playing with dolls, the colour pink. I liked wearing jeans, climbing trees, running with my hands in my pockets, later on I started smoking like him. He called me boys names like Charlie and Herbert – still does sometimes. My therapist raised her eyebrows when I said this.
Now I don’t know how much of my gender confusion is down to this. A lot of it corresponds to stereotypes of genders – a child’s way of trying to understand what distinguishes boys from girls in the eyes of a dad they just wanted to love them.
I cried in the session today, and felt pathetic. I told my therapist that this thought that I am attention seeking, not genuine, making a fuss of nothing is a real fucker of a thought when it comes to trying to sort this shit out. As soon as I try to open up to someone those thoughts clamp down on me with shame. I feel exposed.