A couple of months ago, I went to see my hair stylist, and she suggested I get soft blond-ish highlights in my hair. It was the first time I ever dyed my hair in any way. I was excited. She dyed it, and the result was striking… I LOVED how I looked. However, something curious happened; it seemed to me that people misgendered me a lot less afterwards. I had been in transition for maybe 2 months at that point. I was still getting weird looks and making some people uncomfortable. To be completely honest, there was probably not a single person that thought I was a cis woman (that means a non-transgender woman.)
The difference in how people gendered me was as striking as it was instantaneous. It was only then that I really started to feel the different way men and women are seen and treated. It was bizarre, and made stranger still by the fact that it was all down to hair.
There’s a phrase in Spanish that goes “Dime con quién andas te diré quién eres, ” or “tell me whom you spend time with and I’ll tell you who you are” in English.
I’ve been thinking about how much the people around you shape who you are. Not just in the way that phrase implies, where the people close to you affect your opinions and actions, but also in a more general way. People are a product of their background. Some parts of my personality have been shaped by the fact I grew up in two different countries, or that for most of my time in school I was 2-3 years younger than my classmates. I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to say that if certain circumstances and events were to be changed, I would have ended up being a different person in some respects.
Sure, part of who you are is just… there. It’s your soul and shapes the core of who you are, but a lot of the rest of you is shaped by your environment. By your parents, by the level of education you received, whether you were attractive or plain, etc.
Bringing both ideas together, I’ve been thinking how weird it is that something as simple as hair changed the way people see and treat me, and potentially started to shape me into a different person than I would otherwise be.
Ultimately, I wonder if that’s all that being transgender comes down to.
I mean, okay yeah, maybe not just that. I’d be very unhappy if I still had a male hormonal balance, more facial hair, etc. I do think about who I’d be if people treated me differently. If my live happened all over again, but I had just had the long hair since I was little and everyone treated me as a girl, who would I be?
The whole trans thing aside, growing up socialised as a man shaped a ton of who I am. If I’d grown up being treated as a woman, would I like the same things? Would I react the same way to things? Would I still be an introvert? Shy? How interested would I be in say, literature compared to maths? Would that change at all? What would I have studied in college?
Thinking about this frightens me. It makes me seem… fragile. Like, if the randomest thing about my upbringing changed, I would cease to exist. The person I once was wouldn’t die, but they would turn into someone that wasn’t me. The “me” I am today, the Lily I know and have learned to love just… wouldn’t be.
The exploration of the idea of multiverses is terrifying to me. I’m afraid one day we’ll learn how to observe or communicate with other similar but slightly different universes and we’ll know whether there’s anything to who we are besides chance and random circumstance.
How many other little things could have changed me? Which aspects of my environment have shaped who I am today? I’ve been thinking about those questions the last couple of days. How would you answer those questions?
Where do you even begin with that?? haha