Why I Feel Bad About Not Having had a worse childhood

Publish Date
Word Count
856 words
Content Warnings
  • Dysphoria

Realising that I was trans has opened up my eyes to a lot of different things. Mainly it has made me realise how many things I didn't see before. I experienced some forms of oppression; other's I didn't. I'm white; I grew up solidly middle class; I have been perceived as male for my entire life, so quite a line-up. I also have Autism and ADHD, which can fuck you over in ways that people don't know. One thing not many folks talk about is how people with Autism can have crippling empathy.

Yeah, you read that correctly, crippling empathy. I might not be super good at reading people, but I care dammit. Even if I don't know them, I care. I care about the homeless people I've somehow convinced myself to walk past every day. I care about the people in other countries with almost no sanitation, and on days when I'm already low, that can keep me up at night. Sometimes, I care so much that I start to obsess over it, no matter the subject.

My parents grew up poor. I didn't. I have never had to wonder where my next meal was going to come from, whether I'd have a place to live next week, or how I would make sure that they didn't shut off the electricity. And at times, that makes me feel guilty. I don't know how I compared to other kids, but one thing is sure, I asked a lot of my parents growing up. I think all children do in one way or another.

I've gotten better about it, but it can still feel super shitty when I buy something for myself as accommodation. For example, a pair of noise-cancelling headphones is not something that many people consider to be essential. Still, for me, it usually means the difference between a burnout with a meltdown on the side and a tiring but productive day. I felt like shit when I bought my first pair. "How would I have coped with this if I didn't have this?" is a question I asked myself a lot during my childhood.

Since then, I've figured out an answer. I wouldn't have. I just wouldn't have made it half as far as I have now. And so sometimes that begs the question, "Why me?". Why did I get opportunities that other's didn't? Why didn't I have to find out how pickles and peanut butter taste together because I literally couldn't afford anything else? I don't think there is an answer or a reason, but that is not a question I'll try and answer for you.

These things, my need for extra care because the society around me was never set up to work with me correctly, and the fact that I had a lot of things my parents never did, have been with me all my life. I have known them ever since I could remember. But realising I was trans was different. Shockingly different.

Suddenly I started to see microaggressions in daily life. The sexism, queerphobia and racism have always been there, but I had never been able to see. Let me tell you, it still wrecks me occasionally. I still remember thinking, "Is this what it's always been like for people?" I believe that the moment I figured out I was trans was when I started to become interested in things like intersectionality and started identifying with the anti-racism movement. Not because it's a movement for me, but because I at least in some sense understand a little better what it's about now. It was pretty formative.

This is a tough cookie for me to chew when it comes to trans things. When cis women talk about their period or what it was like for them growing up in an environment of sexism, I feel like shit. I don't feel dysphoric, that I don't have periods or that I will never bear children or things like that, but I do feel dysphoric about not sharing that experience. I feel guilty, like I am claiming some culture that is not mine. It feels like I'm erasing other people, which is usually the moment my crippling empathy kicks in. It also doesn't help that this is a favourite talking point of TERFs and other transphobes who know just enough about feminism to be dangerous.

You might reasonably think that this is pretty whiny. In the grand scheme of things, problems like these might seem stupid, but you know what? Fuck you, this is my website, and I get to complain about this stuff if I want to. This stuff makes me feel like shit. I don't think you can imagine what it feels like if you haven't seen both sides of that coin in some way or another. There is no honest answer to this. I don't think there is a way to make any of this disappear, not until we somehow manage to equalise across a lot of axes of oppression. It's a shitty discussion of a shitty subject, and sometimes that's all you can say about it.