Funnily enough, I used to think I had been born a boy. Before the birth went down, way back in my childhood, I started to have the first stirrings of my sexuality. I had my first crushes on celebrities and teachers. I also had this slight red crease that ran from just below my bikini line to just above my genitals. I never really thought much of it until one night in the shower.
I stood with one foot up on the ledge. I knew my short nails would make the perfect speculum for self-exploration. On my way through, I picked up the glossy magazine full of anatomy diagrams that I’d pilfered from my brother’s bedroom. I knew I had felt this lump inside me about a week ago, which had heightened my curiosity about who I thought I was, and I wanted to find out for sure.
I placed the magazine upon the counter where I could see it with my hands free. I let the glossy finish slide against my bloody fingers as I turned each page over, looking for the naughty section. The joy of all of it was that my mother never, ever censored my reading content, so when I turned to that section, the one that contained a full-length picture of a naked man, with a detailed diagram of a flaccid penis, I wasn’t shocked, but intrigued. I looked closer at the diagram, processing the similarity between the shape of this tipped shaft and something I’d felt inside me, but facing upwards, inverse, like a mirror image curving upwards.
A few weeks prior, I had slid my fingers inside my child body for the first time ever, until I got to a point where I could go no further. Here, I had felt a bulbous tip and a hole, which didn’t feel quite like it belonged. A few years prior, I had noticed a faint, red scar that extended from below my belly button to just above my vulva, and part of me wondered if I had been reassigned, made from a boy to a girl, from the inside out.
Perhaps my parents, at birth, looked at the wet, bloody baby in front of them with shrieks of, ‘Congratulations! Another boy!’ were so tied up with wanting the ‘pigeon pair’ my mother always spoke about, that they’d reassigned me at the hospital. It would explain many things – like why I had this scar. It would explain this penis tip inside my body. But most of all, it would explain this deep, sinking feeling I’d always had. I knew, even at nine years of age I knew it, that I loved girls. And only boys were attracted to girls. So I had to have been born a boy, or else why would I be attracted to girls?
The other theory I had was that every woman had these feelings ebbing away inside them, but from a social point of view, every functional marriage needed gender roles; that is, a man and a woman. For quite some time, I entertained the idea that every woman had innate same-sex attractions, but they fulfilled their social need to make a family and raise children with a man. You know, so there was someone to mow the lawn, lift heavy boxes, and bring in the pay cheques. In the mid-to-late 1990s, when I was beginning to have an awareness of the wide world outside of my reasonably functional home life, I noticed that so many men in the media were painted as useless buffoons who couldn’t even fry an egg or change a nappy, let alone fulfil the romantic, tender loving role that a lifelong spouse should. Interesting that even in the face of having a competent, sensitive father, these messages still burrowed deep in my attempt to explain how I felt.
I went back to steadying myself on the edge of the bath with one leg up and one on the tiled floor. I spread myself wide because although I had no nails to cut my insides, the opening just wasn’t that big, even for small fingers. One pointed finger slid in with ease, if I thrust my hips forward, but I couldn’t get in far enough. Seeing the purple moisturiser bottle in my periphery, I slid my finger out of myself and squeezed a liberal amount of the white lubricant to help things along. Turning at an angle, my finger nudged up against the bump once more. Navigating my internal organs carefully, I twisted my flat, lithe torso close enough to the bench so that I could see the picture in the magazine.
The freshly-painted wooden door bashed against its frame and I just about tore myself from the inside out with a single finger when my brother yelled through the door frame.
“Get out, I need to use the shower!”