Everyone has a social filter on his or her actions. Just like an air filter that catches pollutants and does not let them through. This filter catches things you want to say or do, and does not let you act. This filter is that voice in the back of your head asking questions and making you not do things you want to do. Questions might be like “Is this acceptable?”, “Am I fitting in with society?”, “Am I manly enough?”, “Am I pretty enough?”, “Does will this make anyone angry?”, “Does this make me look fat?” That filter will cause people to censor themselves in the name of… anything really. Political Correctness causes people to filter themselves. Wanting to be a “good person” can cause people to filter themselves. Wanting to get that next promotion or raise will also cause people to form filters. People do not curse out their boss even if they want to because it might cost them their job, or promotion. Good filters keep you from doing things you know you should not do. Bad filters keep you from doing things that you should do to live the life you want to live… I have been living my entire life under one of the bad filters. The problem is most of this filter happened at a point where I did not even notice it happening. I expect most filters; good and bad happen at a level of the subconscious.
For me, my filter created a completely different person. I created a man over the woman that has always existed. About a year ago (around my 28th birthday), something did not feel right. My life should have been happy. I had a relationship with someone I wanted to be with forever. I had a nice apartment, a good job, and a good group of friends. By all accounts, I should have been happy… Yet I was still anxious and depressed a good deal of time. I did not know why. Then I started looking at what I did versus deep down what I wanted to do. I found myself censoring myself repeatedly for no explainable reason… In addition, I was even censoring myself in places that did not make any sense! Over the last year, I have been piecing together what this filter was exactly and what it has done to me. Every step of the way I’ve gotten more anxious about the filter being there at all until I finally came to the conclusion that the filter was designed to hide to woman I am from everyone, including myself.
Society has a bad habit of labeling your gender and your sex as the same thing. It’s a label put on you quickly. Society and everyone around me labeled as a boy before I was even born. When I was young, I did not have any concept of gender differences. People were just people to me. When I was in kindergarten, my best friends were girls. However, it did not matter who was who we all played together. As early as first grade the genders started dividing themselves. Girls started hanging out with girls, and boys started hanging out with boys. That is when I started feeling out of place. I had to fit in… I did not really fit in with the boys because my mentality was different my interests were different. I did not fit in with the girls, because society had already labeled me as a boy. I already wore clothes for boys; People introduced as a boy. I went by Joey a name that, in all honestly, could go either way. Around that time, I started learning what are and are not appropriate actions in society. The filter started forming. However, I also added into the filter the things that would help me fit in with the people that society said I should. It was easier to change what I did and said than how society saw my gender… As I grew, so did both filters. I observed the boys around me and acted like them. I said things I thought they would say. The whole time I was watching the other side of the room seeing the emotional connections starting to form and wanting to be a part of them! As time went on, that feeling went away. As the filter formed, it also hid itself. Some would say that that was growth and change. Being a boy did not come natural to me… Being a boy was a learned skill and some of what I have learned I am sure will always stay with me.
The filter formed in such a way that being a boy became part of what was “acceptable” for me to do normal society. However, I was in a school and a place where boys could be somewhat feminine. Though fifth grade I attended a private school. That private school had large classes with multiple teachers. There were no periods or schedules. You were with your class the entire day and as long as you got though all the activities/lessons you were supposed to do you were fine. Teachers would check up on progress and be guides, but your teaching would come from trial and error and friends. You asked others for help, went to teachers when friends could not help. It was a place where you could be any person you wanted to be socially, emotionally, etc. The filter started filtering out things that were “obviously girly” like my desire to play with dolls. I did not have any sisters or siblings. Which meant I could not share toys and compare and contrast differences or similarities socially or emotionally. I just did not talk about the desires and thoughts I had that I thought society would see as girly. By the time I got to fifth grade I was growing into a normal, albeit feminine, boy. I did not like or play sports. I spent most of my time on things like swing sets or playing tag. I was playing, and losing myself in video games. All the characters I made were female. All the games I loved had strong or lead female characters. Even as a feminine boy, I fit in fine. They were not aggressive games like First Person Shooters but puzzle and adventure games. I did not feel any real emotional pain from the filter itself. I also had not experienced any sex/gender education at this point. I experienced no real distress due to the mismatch between my gender and my sex to this point. That I think is what made it even harder to identify later in life.
When sixth grade came, it was quite a shocker. I transferred into a public school. Everyone in my class had already been in the same grade in the same school together since kindergarten. That by itself is a cause to for people to bully me. To make things worse I fit in with nobody as a feminine boy. Everyone in the class had sex education for the first time in 5th grade (the year before) whereas I still knew nothing about gender/sex other than what society told me. I knew nothing about puberty. I knew nothing about what genetics assigned me to become. I was a boy and was supposed to hang out with boys… Well, I did not fit in with these boys. They liked sports. They were manly, much more than I was. At that time in my situation my society saw boys based on how masculine they were, everyone was excited to grow up and was trying to show the things from the increase in testosterone that puberty brings. However, I also did not fit in with the girls because of the fact that society saw me as a boy and I had now created this filter to fit in with boys… The filter was not good enough in this new school. I became a loner and both boys and girls bullied me. I had one person who I could hang out, but he did not really ever defend me. I was different from everyone else. I did not fit quite fit in with the boys; I did not quite fit in with the girls. I was alone. This was the first time the gender problems starting causing me pain. I became depressed and anxious. My mom saw that and took me to various psychologists and did various testing. The depression and anxiety was showing in my grades and that lead to testing for learning disabilities and other issues like that. All the testing said I was fine. I knew I was not, but this was just the beginning.
One of the things that they used to bully me in sixth grade was the femininity that was acceptable in my private school. They used that femininity to call me “gay” as a way to insult me and make fun of me. At the time, I did not even know what being gay meant. I did not even know what sex was at this point in my life. I knew that boys were supposed to like girls, and girls were supposed to like boys but I did not know why or how. I did not have feelings for either at this point in my life. Not once during 6th grade did I fit in. The closest I got to fitting in was when a movie came out… That movie was The Titanic. I loved the movie. (I even went to see it in theaters five times) At the time, I did not know why I liked the movie. It was a romantic movie; I had no idea what romance was or was supposed to be. Shortly after that movie came out all the girls loved it, all the boys hated it… I had no idea why. I had to say I hated it to fit in, so I did. Yet I had one conversation; it was with a couple of girls on the playground after the movie came out. We were talking about how much we liked the movie and then there was a comment of “Isn’t Leonardo DiCaprio dreamy?” My filter (which I had buried at that point) kicked in and said, “A boy shouldn’t be involved in this conversation.” I wanted to stay… but the filter did not let me. I exited the conversation, and at that moment, the girl inside of me died… I started calling myself, and forced everyone around me, to start calling me Joe removing all gender doubt from my name. (Until recently) The filter was getting stronger…
Sixth grade was without a doubt one of the worst years of my life. People made fun of and bullied me all year. Constant depression and anxiety over not fitting in made me lose concentration on my studies. I could not do or say the things that were acceptable for a boy even a year ago. The bullies called me things I did not understand. If I swore then I would have asked, “What the hell happened?” Did society change what it sees from a boy? Why was everyone so eager to be a man? I spent all year trying to retain who and what I was… I felt pushes from every side for me to change… I did not belong where I was. I thought I did not understand what society was so I started to change myself (again) to fit in… My only solace that next year in seventh grade many elementary schools filtered into a single Junior High. I could have a fresh start at trying to fit in…
In seventh grade, I spent the first couple of months being a fly on the wall. I made no friends; I just watched other boys and tried to figure out the qualities that made them accepted. Then I started trying those qualities, one at a time. The most accepted boys were those that played sports. I tried but could not do that. I tried very hard to throw a football… I could not do it (I still cannot) and where that gave me pain and got me made fun of at the time… I am happy with it now. I have no need or desire to throw a football properly. I tried very hard to fit in with every group of boys… The jocks, the bullies, the adventurers, the teacher’s pet group, I did not really fit in with any of them. I fell in with all the other people that did not quite fit in… However, good news: I found my group. There were many people like me this time, not just me. I still tried to be masculine. Seventh and Eighth grade were the two most masculine years of my life… I liked Star Wars. I took wood shop… I joined Boy Scouts. I played First Person Shooter video games instead of the puzzle and adventure games of my past. My grades still suffered, my anxiety, and depression continued… However, I was at least giving the outward appearance of being happy now.
It was also during the time of seventh and eighth grade that I had my first sex education class. I learned some of the differences between boys and girls. I learned about puberty and I was disgusted to find out which one I would grow though. I did not want my voice to get deeper. I did not want more hair. I did not want more muscles. I did not want anything that the male puberty was going to bring. Yet I saw on the female side the ability to grow pretty. I saw the ability to be strong emotionally. I saw the ability to be a mom and bring new life into the world. I saw a period every month that I could claim as proof that I am still who I am. I saw everything I wanted on the female side of puberty. The boys in the class and the girls in the class were all happy, or at least accepting, with what changes were going to come to them… I was not. When I was going to say that to my parents the filter kicked in “It’s not acceptable for a boy to not like the male side of puberty” I did not speak up. I cried myself to sleep.
In late eighth grade puberty started… I was becoming a man… and the real pain would begin. I had laid the foundation for the creation of a fake man.
Continue to Part 2 – Testosterone Poisoning