I am a man. But I haven’t been a man for very long. At least, I didn’t realize it until very recently, when all of a sudden the question of “who am I?” loomed very heavily over my head. At that point I was nothing but a puppet. I was told I had no identity of my own. I knew it was true too. Then it began, the desperate process of searching, of trying to swim into the depths of my mind in yearning for any memory that could help me make sense of myself. Frantically grasping at any and every thought, trying to put together the shattered fragments of me like pieces of a puzzle. I’m not one to commit to keeping a journal, but back then keeping one was crucial. I needed to record all my discoveries, both internal and external, and for that my journal was to be my pensieve.
Who am I? The question shook me. Naturally, my first step was to go back to my childhood. My earliest memory? Not knowing how to ask my teachers that I wanted to go to the toilet. Not very helpful. My favorite toys? Well, I remember having a large collection of toy cars. But this doesn’t have to mean anything unless you believe in gender stereotypes. I spent most of my time playing with my male cousin, but that doesn’t mean anything either because he was the only kid of my age. My memories of childhood pretty much end there. Not as helpful as I thought they would be.
Middle school; body changes, puberty, social anxiety, angst and what have you. No other period in your life could ever give you better hints about who you are than this one. I should have pretty clear memories, shouldn’t I? Nopes. Besides having a very vague notion of being uncomfortable with my body, there were no other hanging red herrings. I played games using male characters. I was partial to books with male protagonists. I recall overhearing a phone call where the subject matter was the transition of an intersex person, and I remember my overwhelming excitement about it; something so out of the ordinary, so unique, so different; so like me. Only to resort eventually to the disappointment that I could not be that unique. I remember wondering whether I had “different” genitals hidden somewhere inside of me. I had to dig deep to uncover these memories. And even then, all I had to work with were vague memories, so vague they didn’t even leave any lingering shadows behind.
I entered high school with the intention of being a new person. A chance to rebuild me all over again. A clean slate, while trying to ‘be myself’. That phrase was new to me, before then there was no ‘me’. At first it confused me, but later on I embraced it. However, it never embraced me. Today, my memory of that time is ambiguous. I spent almost all of it pondering over this matter. What it means to be myself? Where to do draw the line? What is it in me that could answer my questions? For a while I couldn’t answer any if them confidently. But now the matter is no longer a question to me. My memories, though, failed me again.
It all started with a resurfaced memory, almost two years ago, one that told me that “I am not myself.” And I am still groping for more memories, hoping others will resurface, giving me valuable clues to the inner workings of my mind. So far that hasn’t happened. So far all the recollections I’ve managed to collect all point me towards the same thing. At least, that’s what I believe. The fickle thing with memory, is that it’s very malleable. How am I to trust that my own recollections are even true? How do I know that I’m not making it all up? Is my mind playing tricks on me? I have no clue. And there’s no way to find out.
That’s the scariest part of all this. As much as I try to dig for those memories. As much as I try to find any traces of evidence to support the way I feel. No matter what I do, as long as it happens inside my head, there’s no way to prove it. I can hope that my memories aren’t letting me down, but I will never know for sure. I can tell you, that I am a man, but at the end of the day, my memories will do nothing to support or refute my statement. I wish memories had more legitimacy. Maybe then, and only then, people would believe me.