I keep thinking that at some point in life I will cease being surprised by things about myself. Or more specifically, there will be no more surprises. I suppose when my time comes...it will probably be my final surprise.
Today, as I was fixing a snack for my gal and I one of my favorite films of all time came on TV.
"The Magnificent Seven" was a watershed experience in my life. It was released when I was 6 years old, not too long after my awareness of the conflict between my true gender identity and the body I was traveling through life in. It was not only a terrific action film, it was a morality play about standing up to overwhelming odds in order to do the right thing. It was about a few dedicated people overcoming racial prejudice, the strong abusing the weak and standing up to your fears in order to find your true nature. It was a valuable bit of imagery for me to see at that point in my life.
It was also the first time I remember seeing Steve McQueen on screen. I didn't realize it at the time, but he was my first crush...infatuation...boyfriend. In fact, I didn't realize it until a few weeks ago. And that's about, oh, a 47 year delay between 'love' at first sight and actually understanding what was going on.
In those days, as my infatuation with Steve grew more pronounced, so did my internalized homophobia, though it wasn't called that at the time. Almost everyone felt uncomfortable with the very idea of same-sex attraction, so there was no need to give a specific name to society's collective prejudice.
I told myself that I just really admired his 'acting' or that he was just so 'cool'. You know, the words so-called straight guys use when they are trying to explain why they really, really like something about some other guy.
I told myself that right through grade school, junior high school and high school. I 'admired' him in "The Great Escape", "The Cincinnati Kid", "The Sand Pebbles", and "Bullit". I still 'admired' him in one of his final films in 1980, "Tom Horn". Though several years after my transition, I remained unable to openly acknowledge my physical and emotional attraction to him as anything other than admiration. You see...in my mind, liking a boy "that way" still meant that I was, in some way, gay. And in my mind, that meant that I would always somehow be a boy.
Which brings me to my revelation.
As I prepared our snack while watching the film in the background, I began recanting to my partner, for what must have been the 50th time, my obsession with Steve...err....Mr. McQueen. As always, she listened politely, letting me ramble on.
"I realize now that Steve McQueen was the first male I had a crush on when I was a little girl!" I said in mid-stir of tuna salad.
Suddenly, I went silent. My partner asked me if everything was alright. I told her yes and went back to stirring the tuna.
Everything was alright...but it wasn't the same. I wanted to tell her what had just occurred, but I realized there would be little point. It was one of those moments that only certain people can understand. It was a trans-centric experience.
It was the first time I had ever said the words "when I was a little girl" without it having been a calculated re-gendering of my childhood experiences. It was simply the way I remembered it. It was finally, the reality of who I am meeting up with who I was.
I don't expect many people to understand what that felt like. As much as they want to think they "get it", it's the kind of thing no cisgender person will ever be able to truly understand. They will nod and try to empathize, but it's simply so far removed from their life experience as to be incomprehensible.
I don't know if it will last, but for one short moment I felt like who I am was completely connected to who I was, and it felt amazing and...different.
Thanks Steve. I truly did have the coolest boyfriend ever...even if it took me 47 years to realize it.