I’m a white Belgian American gay man. I was a gender-expansive child, and I now identify as a cisgender adult. My pronouns are he, him, and his. I’m an ally.
From the age of 2, I grew up going back and forth between my divorced parents’ houses. My father remarried a woman, while my mother repartnered with a woman for 15 years. She then repartnered with a man and identified as bisexual. Many of my mother’s friends were queer or lesbian-identified. My mother’s closest cousin was an effeminate gay man with the sharpest sense of humor. He taught me to laugh and properly lip-sync to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”—all essential life skills, if you ask me.
I remember playing devotedly with my mother’s scarves and high-heeled shoes as a child. Anything soft, silky, perfumed, shiny, and glittery was a source of exquisite pleasure. I rarely cross-dressed, but when I did, I always did it alone and with an aftertaste of guilt and fear. Despite my mother’s queer friends and my father’s progressive attitude, I knew that this kind of play was “wrong”—something to enjoy only in secrecy. Although I knew my parents realized I was different and that they loved me, I was never quite sure their love would withstand my gender fluidity. An invisible line existed in my mind between what was okay and what wasn’t, and I was determined never to cross it.
Yet my body language and behaviors betrayed me constantly. All my friends were girls, and all my…