Original photo by EK-StockPhotos
I received a question from raw-noize-slut on Tumblr, after writing about putting my hair in pigtails, and thought my answer deserved publishing here. This was her question:
I’ve heard many Trans people talk about reliving childhood either because 1. Hormones are giving them a “second” puberty 2. They missed out on a childhood of preferred gender expression. I don’t really feel either of these and think my attitudes and behaviors lean towards what most would consider “adult” i.e. I cant see myself wearing pig tails; the exception being (and this complicates things exponentially) when I have clients interested in age play and although thats not a go-to fetish for my non-pro sex life, I’m definitely into the power dynamics. Do you think the general infantilism of Western women’s sexuality plays into your desire to explore your child self?
In simplest terms, no. This is recovery work dealing with rape, and rape is not sex. The only time sexuality comes into play is re-discovering my sexuality from the perspective of my inner child. Just as I wasn’t able to go through normal developmental stages otherwise, I also had my sexual development completely obliterated by the abuse. The re-parenting process is often described as “learning to live all over again”, from the basics of walking to talking to everything else, and while that includes my sexuality as well, this is not akin to ageplay or any kind of sexual kink.
It’s about regaining lost time from extreme abuse, and going through essential developmental stages I was never able to experience. I was too busy playing pretend people to please my abusers and the rest of the world, and had no time to be me. So while my false personas developed vast histories, I was locked away in a cocoon and didn’t grow much at all. This is partly why I developed dissociative identity.
I was always a “little adult”, was never allowed to have any of the toys I wanted, nor could I play the ways I wanted or with other girls/feminine children. (The only friend I had in my early childhood later came out as gay, imagine that!) My room was always barren: empty walls, empty shelves, with the only exceptions being the small number of things I actually liked that I was allowed to enjoy, such as computers and videogames. I am now giving myself permission to, in my own way, do all the things I wanted to do as a child but was never allowed.
This isn’t about role-playing or using childhood as a symbol, this is about healing my actual childhood mind.
There are aspects of my adult sexuality that involve infantilization, and I consider that to be a side-effect of the abuse and of the infantilism of women in general. (It’s not just a Western thing, by the way, Japan is another huge fan of infantilizing women.) That sexual kink, however, is separate from this healing process. There is a difference between enjoying infantilization as an adult, and going through the process of healing my inner child. It’s more like reclaiming everything that was taken away from me as a child, rather than using childhood as a symbol of vulnerability and submission as is often the case when people do ageplay. This isn’t about role-playing or using childhood as a symbol, this is about healing my actual childhood mind, which was compartmentalized and frozen in time by the abuse. Now I’m thawing it out, allowing time to pass for that part of my psyche, and integrating it with the rest of me.
I don’t think “missing out on preferred gender expression” really covers the depth of the pain caused by denying a child their own reality. It’s not just gender expression that gets denied, it’s our feelings, our entire sense of reality. One common aspect of abuse is telling the child what they’re experiencing isn’t real. “I do this because I love you.” “That never happened, it was just a bad dream.” “You’re just making things up to get attention.” Telling a child their lived reality is false causes massive amounts of psychological damage, before we even factor in the rest of what’s being denied. When it comes to gender, enforcing strict gender roles on a child is essentially erasing their entire personality and replacing it with something else. It’s ripping out their soul and replacing it with an artificial shell. The damage caused by that is immense and far-reaching, even for some cisgender people. They just have too much to lose and very little to gain socially in admitting that pain.
(As a side note, I don’t, strictly speaking, identify as a “woman”, and don’t put much stock in the socialized aspects of gender. That word is just a useful shorthand that gets people to understand who I basically am. I have a chapter that explains this in depth in Bite, called “Disowning Labels”. I deconstruct things a lot, probably more than most people realize.)