As I’ve mentioned previously, I have a difficult relationship with holidays. Halloween was never a big deal (even with the enticement of free candy), but what about the others? As Christmas draws near, I’ve found that I’ve uncovered memories, some of which help me to make sense of my past, and others make it even more confusing!
My siblings have told me that one year when I was young, my dream Christmas present was an EZ Bake Oven. While I don’t remember this as a priority present, it has me wondering about what other presents did I really want and whether I ever expressed my desire for them. You see, I don’t have a lot of really strong memories from growing up. I can conjure up memories of events, especially when reminded of them, so it isn’t a matter of blocking out my childhood, but rather, burying certain memories.
One of the common (but not universal) experiences of being trans are wanting to play with toys associated with a gender you weren’t assigned. While I don’t remember wanting any specific toys, what I do remember is wanting to wake up on Christmas morning as a girl and find girl gifts waiting for me. But what girl gifts? Barbies and baby dolls didn’t feel attractive, nor did any of the other stereotypical “girl” toys. To be fair, traditionally “boy” toys – toy guns, action figures and sporting goods (balls, bats, etc) – held no attraction for me either. I guess the toys which attracted me were ones with some kind of creativity/engineering aspect (tinker toys, lincoln logs), or ones involving technology (remote control cars, handheld electronics). This is why the EZ Bake Oven seems so weird to me – that feels like a feminine-coded toy, yet there was a creativity aspect – mixing together ingredients to make foods. Was this a case where my young brain saw a chance to pursue a feminine toy while maintaining plausible deniability?
This isn’t to say that Christmas gift-exchange wasn’t special — far from it, as I received many meaningful presents from family throughout my childhood – but there was always a bit of a shadow over the Christmas mornings of my youth.
Looking back at other childhood memories, mine don’t focus so much around gifts, but of other parts of the season. I remember my dad putting lights up on the front of the house, of my mom decorating the inside with familiar decorations. I remember my mom baking batch after batch of cookies and other delicious sweets (I even remember helping out on a few of those batches), and letting them cool on wire racks on top of old newpapers spread out to catch the crumbs. I remember my dad bringing home a tree and leaving it outside until the 23rd, when he’d bring it inside and we’d all decorate it while listening to Christmas music (Percy Faith’s Joy to the World was the lead-off song on the favorite album). The activity level in the house would pick up in the week before Christmas as we carefully folded the tops and prepared white bags for the neighborhood’s annual luminaria display (my father had his picture in the paper lighting a candle one year) – a special tradition, not to mention an opportunity for us kids to earn a little extra money from neighbors by taking care of their properties. Then Christmas eve, we’d attend services at our church in a darkened sanctuary, where at the end, we would spread the light of Christ’s coming, each of us with a lit candle in our hands.
As an adult, Christmas has remained a season filled with complicated emotions. As a parent, I enjoy watching my family’s faces when opening gifts, and I appreciate the gifts I’ve been given (especially those which never came in wrapping paper and didn’t come from a store). And recent Christmases have included gifts which would have made me so happy as a child – “girl” clothes!
This year, the genital dysphoria I wrote about last Christmas is gone – thank goodness! The surgery is done but I’ve recently discovered that my struggles with the insurance company aren’t over. I feel a heavy weight from current events and a seemingly increasing antagonism towards trans people.
But Christmas remains a struggle. I find it harder each year to find “the Christmas spirit”, so I return to the things that stand out from my childhood — especially the music. This year I was asked to play a small part in this year’s Christmas concert, which gave me a chance to reconnect with friends from years ago, play a little music, and enjoy a literal front-row seat for another amazing performance!
I hope for things to get better and do my best to focus on the positives in my life: my family, my friends, and more recently, how many blessings I’ve received since coming out and beginning to live authentically.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!