Hark! The trauma phone rings! Triggers must be afoot!
Say no more. I'm on it.

Suit up, BelowTheBelt. Back in time we go.

Enter 1990, stage right. I am 4, maybe 5 years old, surveying my kingdom of hot wheels, action figures and rocks laid about the living room of our cramped Air Force-issued house awaiting my command to unleash maximum playtime. My brother Jason is in his play pen, chewing on a stuffed cat. His training is almost complete. In time he will make an excellent second in command. The big shiny white thing in the sky begins its ascent. Soon it will be bathtime. We must strike soo—what's this? A tiny man in one of those green and browny suits my dad wears all the time. He's holding a gun, I think they call it. Oh, the gun comes out of his hand. How intriguing. How did you get here? It is of no conseqence. Are you prepared to have your head and body smashed with a rock? Fantastic. Welcome aboard.

These memories are from before I learned how to properly subtitle them, so for argument's sake let's say we're now in 1991, though we might in fact still be in 1990. Santa Claus has visited our school to inquire as to any requests we may have for gifts and the like. After ensuring that we are on a secure line and my information cannot be intercepted by that meanie stupidhead Trey who keeps hitting me with his backpack, I relate to the old man my predicament: I want paint, or more LEGOs, perhaps some paper dolls, piano, oh or one of those lunchboxes with the rainbows and hearts on it, much better than this G.I. Joe lunchbox I have. Whatever you do, wise old wizard, please don't ask my parents what I want. They'll tell you I want more of those men with guns and it's all lies. They're useless! They don't actually do anything.

On Christmas Day I am brought before the firing squad of army men, tanks and miniature jet planes. My father stops recording. “You're enthusiasm's killing me”. Action. Cut. Smile more. Be happy. Action. Rinse and repeat for years and years and years. When I'm 20 and successfully convince my college professors that I'm suffering from narcilepsy (known amongst truth tellers as “a habit of recreationally using prescription painkillers and listening to Frou Frou) and need more time to turn in my assignments, I will look back on those Christmases with my father and do something like but not necessarily smile. But at this very moment I wish he was dead, that I was dead, and the ice cream man didn't constantly run out of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle ice cream bars I like so much. I spend years 6 thru 10 with a closet full of toys I never play with. I never realized they were meant to be instructional. When I was 16 my father told me all my life he was grooming me to join the military, to die for my country, and that if I didn't enlist after I got out of high school he'd kick me out of the house. The only reason I was able to stay at home while attending college is because the war in Iraq called and was like "hey man, you should come out to the middle east for a two year solo stint, dude, this place is rockin!" By the time he returned to the States for good I was already in college and couldn't back out of the loans I had signed up for. That reminds me. I should check my mail today. And then pretend I haven't. In years.

Present day-ish. My girlfriend and I are browsing a local old-fashioned toy store. I recognize nothing (metaphorically speaking, of course, I'm 25, I know what a fucking top is) on the shelves, except for some tiny statuettes of zoo animals. I remember those, I think. I am wrought with the urge, a giddy compulsion, to buy something, anything, from the store and run as fast as I can back home to see what it does and make it do it again and again. My future self, the one writing this article right now, will wonder if playing with gender-neutral toys and eating from a hello kitty lunchbox will actually soothe the pain of my forced masculization or if it will only agitate my memories, forcing me to relive even more of them and heighten my feelings of self-loathing. Who discovers they like coloring and playing with LEGOs when they're 25? Isn't the point of all this therapy and shit to help me pokevolve into a functioning adult? What does it all mean, computer?

In normal circumstances, I would simply handwave this, say “fuck it, it's future me's problem” and stride out the door with slingshot or dominoes in hand to the tune of “Crocodile Rock” by Elton John. (Un)fortunately, depending on whether you ask my emotions or my wallet, I'm not sure I'm ready to bring my girlfriend along for the safari to recapture my youthful spirit. Instead I go home, cry, watch an episode of Rocko's Modern Life and try folding a few paper toys from cubeecraft.com, but it's just not the same.

Helping me set realistic goals for myself and gently nudging me to make good on my commitments is one thing. Watching me process my childhood and gender identity while I play with toys or build a sandcastle is a unicorn of a different color. I'm not wholly convinced I'm ready to involve a partner in that sort of incidental therapy.

Pay no attention to the Nintendo 64 and Super Nintendo that I have acquired and set up in my bed room for her and I to play in private standing behind the curtain. You're confused, and thirsty. Once you have some kool-aid you'll see that it's just another cynical attempt to reject mainstream consumerism by embracing outdated and obsolete technology to impress my friends and partner and not immersing myself in an activity that I enjoy and find solace in because it is something I enjoy, and is not a byproduct from a learned behavior from my childhood or a reaction to a learned behavior from my childhood. My girlfriend will tell you I get giddy and bounce my legs and rub my feet and cheer when I play, but that's only a loving torment intended to provide me with a healthy level of humility appropriate for a woman my age. That rumor about me outright refusing to buy or accept donations of military-inspired or certain sports games is a lie intended to sell more newspapers. I'm glad you gave me a chance to clear my name. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a super honest truth tellers support group to attend.

Circa right now. September 30, 2010. I turned 25 a few days ago. Every year since I came out, someone somewhere has asked me if it's my real birthday or the day I began transitioning. A “tranniversary” as some would call it. While initially dismayed by such an invasive and invalidating question, I've warmed up to the absurdity of it, of being able to say that I'm 3, and that the last 22 years were of a buggier, earlier version of myself. If there is not a pill or therapy that will alleviate this weight of my “past life”, then maybe starting over will. Being denied employment because my presentation doesn't match my documentation and seeing myself portrayed in the media as a deceptive sexual trickster goddess is the fresh start I need to wash away the “be ridiculed as a child for wanting to do traditionally 'girl' things” blues. Coming out was the greatest day of my life. It brought me closer to my family and friends, helped the world make more sense, made shopping for myself easier. I want to remember and celebrate its anniversary for the rest of my life. Happy Opposite Day.

It is now the future. Enough people have misinterpreted Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind that such a procedure is now available to the public. Down with toy tanks and having to sit through Full Metal Jacket when I was 6 and constantly being denied activities and hobbies because I "wouldn't need that shit when I joined the military", up with never squicking at the sight of a G.I. Joe ever again.

I am manically jotting down a verbal patchwork of anecdotes and memories of my father and being raised a boy, the good and the bad. I don't trust myself. I might succumb to bliss and have it all deleted from my brain. It will not occur to me, the beauty in enduring such experiences and still retaining my humanity, my love, my joie de vivre. Though I may indulge my cynicism and say that my family taught me there's no such thing as “unconditional love” and being raised the wrong gender taught me how everyone wants you to play a certain part or character in their own little life's puppet show and those are important lessons to remember especially if and when I ever become successful in whatever it is I end up doing, I will likely neglect to realize that most if not everyone is hung up on their memories, and it doesn't make me defective, but a well rounded bag of mostly water just like everyone else. Forsaking my memories of being a boy will not make me more of a woman. Only herbal essences can do that. These are important facts, the stuff that epiphanies are made of. Too bad once I'm whitewashed I'll forget I wrote those memories down in the first place and will probably delete them to make more room for downloaded sound files of popular songs done in Mario Paint. And the guy who did this “We Didn't Start The Fire” DIDN'T EVEN GET THE DAMN MELODY RIGHT.

That is not the future I want for myself or whoever the hell would come out of that mindwiper procedure in my body. Too bad this time machine is only a narrative device and not a way to like, solve my problems. Even if I could see how this plays out, I'd just change it anyway because I'M NOT AN AUTOMATON I HAVE FREE WILL YOU DAMN DIRTY APES.

In situations like this the correct answer is always the most difficult, potentially vulnerable option which unfotunately isn't “create dinosaur in a lab and train it to be ridden”. Pointing how and why you you cut yourself doesn't automatically patch it up. You still have to put the band-aid on yourself. I will have to consider the possibility that feeding my inner child after midnight will not make her a gremlin. That doesn't mean I have to like it. I probably will, but I don't have to.

So maybe I get some LEGOs or build some models or some other alternative option that I will not upon pain of death say out loud in the public forum. Maybe I feel like I've made amends with myself, can forgive my younger self and my parents for the misgivings of my childhood and move on with my life. And maybe being okay with myself and providing adequate self-care makes me realize the good I bring to my relationships and I can correct the thinking error of telling myself nobody will be effected if I commit self-harm to myself and I accept that I'm of value to others. The mere thought of that makes me uncomfortable. That probably means I should do it. Goddammit. Otherwise, I'm out a few bucks and maybe a few years of my life after they send me to Azkaban for casting a curse on whoever tells my friends they saw me playing with lincoln logs.

I present to you a deal, Professor. I will grant you your freedom from the repression box if you accompany me on a dangerous voyage of self-discovery that may or may not feature a montage of us learning to overcome our differences and work together to brave the elements and survive in the wild. And then we can fight a robot or something.

Why yes, I do believe we can get the rights for “Closer To The Heart" by Rush.

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