Bastian, age 3
Swanton, Vermont (1985)
Just look at this kid! Blue feetie pajamas, a mop-top haircut straight outta the mid-80s, playing with blocks in a very earth-toned living room. A kid looking up at dad with his ever-present camera, capturing every moment of his eldest child's life as it happened. That's the advantage of having a photographer for a father: really nice angles and flattering photos. And I really like this one; it really captures that innocent, boyish charm when I was just a wee one.
Well, not that they knew that at the time, of course.
I'm grateful that for much of my childhood, my toys and clothing were rather unisex and not overly girly.
Oh sure, I owned a few Barbies in my time, but they generally ended up headless or tossed down the stairs, as I'd laugh endlessly at the weird and painful-looking poses they ended up in.
However, my parents mostly encouraged play that was more open-ended and prone to self-expression, like Play-Doh or art supplies.
There was always the vague, 'Go play outside' command, which led to all sorts of adventure and improvised shenanigans. Stick-swords, buckets of mud, trying to dig to China via the sandbox. No tea parties for me, thanks.
On the other hand: As a kid, unless it's really ingrained into you by parents, you don't really see other kids as "so-and-so the girl" or "what's-their-face the boy" - you just see a kid and another kid, or the one who smells kind of funny with the runny nose. Gender doesn't matter, and gender expression matters even less. You just do your kid thing, and nobody really gives a hoot.
In that vein, it wasn't until puberty when the gender segregation and the 'not-really-right feelings' surfaced, culminating in the start of my physical transition from female to male in 2005, at age 23.
Pretty much, everyone was remarkably fine when I came out as being transgender, and seeking to change my name, start hormone therapy, and get a mastectomy. My friend Becka summed up the general nonchalance the moment I came out to her. She grabbed her phone, and tapped away at the keypad.
'What are you doing?' I asked her.
'Changing your name in my phone directory. Duh', she replied.
My mother was extraordinarily supportive, as were my brothers. My youngest brother, a teenager then, took a sort of glee in showing me how to be a proper dude: how guys shake hands, how guys hug. That kind of thing.
The only one with major reservations was my father. I was daddy's girl - in his eyes. He was so proud of all I'd done in life, and then I went and did this and took his little girl away? At the time, it seemed like the end of the world, and that maybe he'd even give up on me, or wouldn't talk to me ever again, but...
Eventually, my dad came to realise that I'm still me, still there.
That I hadn't gone anywhere. And I wasn't daddy's "girl" to begin with.
Nowadays, it's no issue, and he seems just as pleased to have two sons as he was to have a son and a daughter. I also think he's jealous that I can grow a better beard than he can. Time does help, as does expressing the same love and patience as always.
All in all, I'm a pretty satisfied fella these days.
And, admit it: You don't see a little girl in that picture either, do you?
Bastian's first, famous-person same sex crush:
Billie Joe Armstrong (of Green Day)
Right around the 'Dookie' CD in '94.
And yes: Coincidentally, I'm also gay! Fancy that!
Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"
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