By Lyana Farooqi
Walking into a room as a four year old isn't a particularly exciting memory. Of course it depends on the room, and in some cases, the walk... I'm sure an image popped into your head. Perhaps of a younger version of yourself, walking into a room with a weighty four years of experience in this chaotic world. The room I imagine is a classroom. The first one I had at my first school. I don't particularly remember my first day, nor most of those in my first year. I remember sitting at a table with two boys and two girls. I was the fifth, the odd one out. Little did I realise then, that this would be the start of a pattern. This was the start of the life I would lead, standing in the middle of the divide between boys and girls.
Most things in this world are excessively gendered. Most children probably don't notice, or particularly care. If a teacher tells you how to behave in accordance with traditional gender roles, you just accept it. After all, it doesn't bother you if the teacher tells the boys to play over there and the girls to play over here. It bothered me. I was mildly annoyed at the confusion it caused. The boys had already started playing over there with some of the toys on the floor. Some of the girls were still chatting at the table but most had begun to organise some sort of role playing game. I stood in the middle. I looked at the boys, loudly playing with some toy cars; occasionally grappling with each other for control of them. I looked at the girls, eagerly involved in their game, with a pretend mum tucking her pretend children into bed. I looked at the teacher, doing whatever it is that all primary school teachers do on their computer. I stood in the middle, and for the first time that I can remember, I felt confused. Properly dumbfounded by the apparent simplicity of the choice presented to us. All the children in trousers were over there and all the children in skirts were over there. I looked down at my legs and saw trousers. Eww. I hated trousers. With hindsight, I didn't hate trousers, I hated the fact that I wasn't wearing a skirt. I couldn't explain why I wanted to; that understanding came later, along with a wave of other emotions and an internal discussion to save for another day. Fast forward several hundred days and my slightly older young self was getting ready for lunch. We'd reached the age where the eldest little children (us!), went over to the big school for lunch (an intrepid foray to the big dining room across the car park, escorted by teachers). The boys queued on the left and the girls queued on the right, ready to be partnered up to walk across the car park. I stood at the back. In the middle. There was a line in the middle of the carpet on the floor, where two sections of fabric joined. To the left of it, a long line of boys; to the right, a long line of girls. I stood ever so slightly to the right of that line. In all of the school days in that year, I never once stood to the left of that line whilst queuing for lunch. I didn't really know why I couldn't. I tried to. Willed my feet to step over it. They refused to move, or more correctly, my brain refused to issue the instruction. Although at that age, (around 6 or 7), I didn't understand the source of my confusion, or even being trans, my instinctive actions showed that I truly saw myself as a girl. Despite how others saw me, told me to behave, and not having the words to express my growing confusion surrounding gender, my brain believed, for whatever scientific reason, that I was a girl and should not and would not act otherwise.