Feb 07 2012

Why I Love My Little Pony

Of course, if I’m going to throw a cartoon party on the internet, it’s probably worth talking a little bit about why I happen to love that cartoon…

I tend to fit fairly easily into a pretty standard, archetypal concept most people have of what a transsexual woman is and is supposed to be like. Women like me are not by any means in the majority (in fact it’s often been pretty tough for me to find other trans women who come from a similar background), but we nonetheless tend not to fall too far outside the expectations cis people have about what transsexuality means. I’m straight (androphilic, or attracted to men), my personality and presentation fit pretty neatly into the culturally mandated female gender role and concept of femininity, I “pass” reasonably well (or more accurately, I have the privilege of usually being gendered correctly), I transitioned while still somewhat young, I never considered being non-op and keeping my male genitals to be a reasonable option for me, I took the conventional model of medical treatment, my diagnosis was easily made and my narrative fit the standard criteria, and I identify in a nice, simple, binary, easily understood, totally-female way.

The only way in which I fall outside the (horrible and internally cissexist) concept of “Harry Benjamin Syndrome” is that I previously identified as a gay man and was (a little bit) sexually active during that time. Like many of the ways I’ve gotten very lucky with my transition, fitting into cis expectations and being more or less the most easily comprehensible “type” of transsexual there is (just moving from the M box to the F box, and not clashing too much with society’s standards for that F) has made things much easier for me than they otherwise would have been. The world is a pretty hostile place for trans women who pose additional threats to cisnormative concepts of gender.

But nonetheless, I didn’t really have the archetypal childhood most cis people imagine a trans woman to have. Almost no one does. I wasn’t putting on dresses and playing with dolls and insisting I was a girl from the moment I could talk. Despite the way that many cis people imagine that is how all trans women start out in life, that kind of story is actually incredibly rare. Very few of us assert strong outward signs like that in early childhood… even those of us who came to understand our identity as female before adolescence still usually knew that we wouldn’t be accepted, that it wasn’t allowed, and we had to keep that side of ourselves secret and suppressed lest we be ridiculed or punished or disappoint our parents. We adapt and we hide. Kids are smarter than adults tend to think, they know how vulnerable they are and they want to please the people around them, especially their parents.

Besides, I didn’t have any sisters anyway, so opportunities to play with girl toys and explore femininity as an option were pretty scarce. I mostly just stuck with Lego. I liked making up my own stories and characters.

But that didn’t mean there weren’t moments where I tried to explore, and discovered the scorn with which femininity would be met. My knowing to hide beneath a male disguise wasn’t natural. It was very definitely learned. One of the ways I learned it was through My Little Pony. I liked My Little Pony.

I have a particularly vivid memory of how one day my father came into the room where we had the TV and caught me watching the MLP cartoon. I will never, ever forget the look of disappointment, frustration, confusion and most of all disgust on his face. Whether he really thought it through or not, he made it abundantly clear that it was NOT okay for me to be watching such a show, that it was indicative of there being something wrong with me, and I ought to be ashamed. I got to know that look pretty well. I encountered it many more times over the course of my childhood… the only difference being that over the years the frustration and disgust gradually sank into resignation and sadness (the disappointment and confusion remain even today).

I also remember going to a birthday party for one of my older brother’s friends (I have no idea why I was there… I guess so my parents could get a night of free babysitting and relax). The birthday boy’s older brother gave him his gift, he opened it, and discovered a My Little Pony. The assembled crowd of boys in the room laughed at him, and I instinctively knew that I was expected to laugh along: how gross and awful and horrible and hilarious that this boy would be holding a girl thing in his hands! LOL! It was my first experience of what would later come back to haunt me as the laugh track to Work It. The awful, sickening feeling of knowing you’re supposed to participate in the transphobic ridicule. The boy actually began to sob in humiliation before his brother finally revealed that it had been a joke and gave him his real gift (a Nerf gun).

I knew exactly what lesson was being taught. Kids are smart like that. It was wrong to like girl things, and if you did, you would be mocked, laughed at, hated, shunned, people would be disgusted by you, and you’d be a disappointment to your parents. And nothing was girlier than My Little Pony. I knew I was not allowed to have one, or even dare breathe that I wanted one.

As such, My Little Pony became representative to me of everything I’d been denied. All the joys, desires, and expressions of self I had been forced to hide and suppress. Everything I never got to have. The girlhood I wasn’t allowed to live, that is now lost forever. The years I never lived and the experiences I never had. A missed childhood. All of it summed up in one little toy I wished I could have asked for, and one cartoon my father caught me watching.

It’s not that I think feminine things, and girl toys, or the colour pink or whatever, are synonymous with female identity. My views are quite apart from that, though I am femme. But we all construct, imagine and express our gender with the tools we have available. The value, and the loss, was symbolic.

Years later, early in my transition, when I was a few months into hormones but still presenting as male, I spent a particular Spring morning hanging around on a trans support forum on the internet when I noticed a lot of people were using avatars from the new My Little Pony cartoon that had come out. I loved the art, I thought the ponies were adorable, and I thought it was really cool that My Little Pony was being claimed as a bit of an icon by the younger MtF community, in that for me it was such a powerful symbol for the joys of femininity, and like I said, symbolic of the things I had wished I could have had and wished I could have been but had to sacrifice, symbolic of the girlhood I missed out on. It was a nice morning.

But that day didn’t end up going very well.

At this point, I was terrified to death of coming out and what I was going to do about my roommates. I was in a rooming house, where each tenant was on an individual “lease” (actually just a xeroxed sheet of paper with several typos just saying party A agrees to give party B X dollars ever month). They were strangers. I had no control over who I lived with. They were all men, all straight, and all rather macho. Most had drinking problems. There was only person who I’d yet told, and he’d reacted… interestingly (He was okay with it, but in a horribly patronizing and sexist way, and asked if he could feel my breasts. Seriously).

This roommate was named Chris. He was young and kind of hipster-ish in a really shallow way, made his living off of theft and scamming the Ministry Of Housing And Social Development, was one of the most manipulative people I’ve ever known, and drank a lot.

There was also an older roommate named James. James was a waiter at a fancy restaurant, had some pretty serious emotional issues, and also was a terrible alcoholic (as well as having a pretty huge weed habit, too). He was emphatically pro-life, extremely misogynistic, highly opinionated and domineering, and still very, very angry at an ex-girlfriend who’d aborted the child they’d conceived together twenty years ago.

I was a bit nervous about how the fuck I was going to come out to everyone and what their reactions would be, but my efforts to move out had failed miserably and I was broke. I was starting to look pretty feminine and was already experiencing male-fail (where someone in an MtF transition gets gendered female despite presenting as male). I intended to go full-time within a month or two, and just couldn’t keep it secret forever.

That afternoon, Chris invited over his pot dealer, Dave or something, to make a big sale to James. The two of them invited me out to the back porch to share a joint. I figured sure, what the heck, why not? I don’t smoke very often, but I accept it when offered. After smoking, Chris, who was sitting next to me, looked over at me and started discretely asking some trans-related questions. I indicated I wasn’t comfortable talking about any of that with James and Dave sitting right there. Chris indicated I should stop worrying and tell them. I said I wasn’t ready for that yet. Chris said he’d do it then. I told him not to. He said he was going to anyway. I begged him not to.

Chris looks over at James and Dave .“So I have this friend back in Calgary…”, he began. I was too terrified to be angry. “…and he’s like physically male but chemically female…” (my internal mental facepalm could have shamed the cosmos) “…and is going to get surgery to become a woman. What do you guys think of that?”

“Well I think that’s pretty fucked up” was Dave’s response, plainly stated. “People like that are mentally unbalanced and should be put in psychiatric hospitals.”

James just sat there looking visibly uncomfortable. “I don’t want to talk about this stuff. It creeps me out.”

I could feel my cheeks flushing with blood and heat. I knew there was absolutely no way I wasn’t going to tip myself off through body language alone, so I bolted, making up an excuse about munchies, and headed off for a quick walk.

When I got back, conversation halted, Chris wore a smirk, and Dave and James stared at me in bewilderment, morbid curiosity, fear and disgust. That was a look that, like my father’s, I would come to know pretty well. I knew within seconds what had happened. The moment after I left, Chris had revealed the identity of his “friend in Calgary”. He’d outed me.

I hid in my room for the duration of the afternoon, finally leaving in the evening when things were quiet and Dave had long since left to go grab some food from the 7/11 up the street. At the time, I was wearing a Henley t-shirt, a women’s (but unisex-enough) cropped leather jacket, girl jeans, and a pair of yellow Converse low-tops.

I grabbed a coke, a cup of frosted flakes and a Coffee Crisp and got in line. I stood in front of a really dodgy looking shaved-head white-urban-creep type dude in a really baggy camo jacket. After a few moments of standing there quietly, I heard him say, “Damn dude! Those are some UGLY fucking shoes!”

I just looked back, and gave a shrug and half-smile, not wanting to turn it into a confrontation.

A moment passed.

“I mean, really, those are like the UGLIEST fucking shoes I’ve ever seen! Where the fuck did you get shoes that ugly?!?”

I turned, smiled again, and asked “Do you make a lot of friends like this?”

“Not faggots. I don’t want any pussy faggots like you for friends.”

I turned away. I paid. I began walking home.

So this is how things were going to be from now on. I was openly hated. I was an acceptable target. A pussy faggot bitch. Mentally unbalanced and ought to be placed in a psychiatric hospital. Too weird and fucked up for people to talk about, because I’ll give them the creeps. The best I can hope for is that they might find me interesting enough to ask to feel my breasts instead of just staring in appalled silence. Cool. What an awesome life I was creating for myself. Yay. I wanted to just collapse into my bitterness and self-pity and wither away into a pile of dust and shame, then just blow away in the breeze.

And then I noticed something on the sidewalk. Just sitting there. A few feet outside my front door.

It was a My Little Pony. The kind they made back in the eighties when I was a kid. The kind I’d always wanted. And it was just sitting there on the sidewalk, waiting for me. Like a little message just for me.

A message that said no matter how many awful people there are in this world, or how much hate I was going to have deal with, this whole thing, transition, was still worth it. It was still completely the right choice. Because what it meant, far more than being a target for the scorn of a few idiots, was getting to finally be myself, finally stop suppressing and denying who I was, finally be able to do and be all the things I’d wanted, finally get to live honestly, sincerely, happily, finally not have to compromise myself for the expectations of others, finally get to give myself a life worth living, the life I’d wanted, the life I deserved. No more missed years. Finally be able to say so if I want a fucking pony.

I dusted her off, took her home and named her Serendipity.

And later I pulled open my laptop and began watching Friendship Is Magic. Which turned out to be every bit as awesome as I possibly could have hoped. As the weeks passed, I began proudly purchasing the new toys whenever I had a spare $6. That is how I fell in love with My Little Pony.

Yes, there’s all the cool, awesome, beautiful artwork and animation of Lauren Faust. And yes there’s some terrific, very positive messages in the show for girls. And yes it has some inspiring feminist elements, particularly the underlying message that there is more than one way to be a girl. And yes, the degree to which it’s been embraced and loved across demographics shows that we’ve arrived at a society much less constrained along its lines of gender than the eighties were, and makes me think about how much nicer things may now be for kids who want the “wrong” toys and like the “wrong” cartoons. That’s all true. And it makes the show terrific. But for me it’s also a lot more personal than that.

For me, it’s about one really bad day that ended on one really perfect note.

Serendipity in center, between Totoro and Mog


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  1. 1
    Ace of Sevens

    Wow. That is some high-grade assholery.

    1. 1.1
      Ace of Sevens

      To be clear, I meant Chris, who hits levels of assholishness here usually reserved for the villains in movies about high school cliques.

      1. Emily

        I really must agree. I don’t think I can state strongly enough how utterly disrespectful, assholish, and just plain wrong it is to go and out someone behind their back, especially after being explicitly told not to.

        1. Ace of Sevens

          And after trying to exploit the situation for a free grope.

  2. 2

    That was heart-wrenching and beautiful. As always.

    I’m a straight(-ish) cis-guy who loves MLP now and also played with the 80′s ones as a kid. I got picked on for it a lot, but I was never into the ‘boy toys’ of soldiers and guns. It was ponies, Sylvanian Families (anyone else remember those?) and occasionally Lego (easily my most ‘boyish’ thing ever).

    I’m glad you got through it all and decided to be yourself, not what others expected you to be. I’m trying to learn that lesson too! I know you probably get this a lot, but you’re an inspiration, even for those of us who aren’t trans. Thank you.

  3. 3

    Your story is beautiful and doesn’t lose from being re-told. Your jargon leaves something to be desired. What is Harry Benjamin Syndrome. I tried Google and got to this site: http://www.shb-info.org/hbs.html which seems to be very positive and promote the syndrome as standard terminology. Your description of it as “horrible and internally cissexist” leads me to believe there’s something more to this than just puppies and sunshine. That this syndrome is not the way trans women prefer to view themselves. So, what’s the story?

    Personally I’m an adult male who likes My Little Pony. My only problem with it is that they beat me over the head with the morals at the end of every show. But I understand they’re not written for adult males with a background in philosophy. The stories are typically well-written, the animation is good (not that I’m a connoisseur) and the characters are likeable (except Pinkie Pie, who needs to die).

    But I know I will be jeered at by my male friends when they discover my taste for ponies.

    I’ve also learned not to listen to Ozzy Osbourne while watching MLP. I ended up dreaming that Fluttershy bit the head of a bat.

    1. 3.1

      The problem I personally see with HBS is the “true transsexual” bit. It is cissexist because they require transfolk to fit strongly within either the male or female gender roles (you know, imaginary social constructs) or else you are a horrible pervert.

      From the site you linked, this part is an example of what is wrong with them:
      “They are not seeking to defy societal norms of gender or sexuality as is the case of transgender and most who call themselves transsexuals today, but only to affirm their sex within themselves.

      People with Harry Benjamin Syndrome as a group are naturally opposed to ambiguous groups of sex and/or gender such as transgendered persons and most who call themselves transsexuals. People with Harry Benjamin Syndrome are not a part of a supposed continuum of gender ambiguity these others purport.”

      At a glance they seem okay, I admit, but they are horrible people and contribute to making the lives of non-conforming transsexuals hell.

      1. Anders

        So they are ‘safe transsexuals’?

        Something like this:
        “Men are born as men and women as women and the differences are precious and natural. Sure, there are some men born as women, but they still have all the precious differences so they’re really nothing new. You don’t have to go outside your head and think, because we have already thought for you. The computer is your friend. The computer wants you to be happy. Are you happy, citizen?”

        1. Natalie Reed

          Pretty much.

          HBSers are sort of the Quislings of the trans community. They seem to feel that if they play along with cisnormative standards of gender then they’ll be accepted and embraced while the rest of the icky “mere transgenders” get thrown under the bus.

          HBS also contains some pretty basic sexist elements. If you say, for instance, that being straight, femme and having a vagina makes you a “truer” transsexual than others, and more of a “real” woman, then you’re additionally supporting the belief that cis women who are lesbian or butch, and intersex women, aren’t “real” women too. It’s a pretty fucked up belief system. There’s additionally some rather awful classist implications, given that not everyone is able to afford SRS.

          It just internalizes and perpetuates the same standards of transphobia and cissexism we get from the outside. It’s awful. It’s like prisoners who agree to help the guards because they might get a couple extra cookies on their lunch tray.

          1. Jaime

            This may be Poe-tacular but in the Third Reich’s concentration camps “prisoners who agree to help the guards because they might get a couple extra cookies on their lunch tray” were called Kapos. The More You Know can be really depressing sometimes…

          2. Natalie Reed

            That’s not Poetacular, it’s Godwintastic. :)

    2. 3.2

      “Dear Princess Celestia.
      Today I learned that one of the secrets of friendship is to not be a total shithead and out your room-mates without thinking extensively and talk to said room-mate about it beforehand. And respect what she says. Or Big Macintosh will kick my fucking head in.

      Twilight Sparkle”

    3. 3.3
      Sometimes Different

      Have a nose at the Benjamin scale on Wikipedia:


      (This may or may not, of course, be what Natalie is referring to, it’s just my take). Just a few things to note: assumptions about the sexuality of a person: there’s no such thing as a lesbian or asexual transexual on that scale, there’s no such thing as a gay transvestite (which is kind of ironic, given the popular public perception is that all transgendered people are transvestite perverts and all transvestites are gay). There’s also the idea that you can ask a transgendered person a list of questions and say “Right! You’re here -> <- on this scale, and have these attributes", that's nothing remotely like reality, which is always messy. I'd probably fit somewhere on the 4~5 on that list just by trying to find a closest match, but it still doesn't remotely describe me!

      1. Anders


        It’s actually not a bad scale, as such. I’ve constructed one scale and analyzed a few in my work and the craftsmanship is pretty good. But does it correspond to reality?

        1. Sometimes Different

          I’d say that it’s very carefully, and very methodically wrong :-D

        2. Miri

          Ugh, really? It looks pretty horridly shithouse from where I’m sitting.

          It’s just terribly offensive at every step. It only discusses MtF trans people, and yet it exclusively genders the people it’s referring to as male. Continuing in that vein, it refers to trans women who are gynephilic as heterosexual, and those who are androphilic as homosexual. Apparently being asexual means you can’t experience genital dysphoria… *shaking with rage*

          As a lesbian-leaning panromantic asexual trans woman, this ridiculous scale is utterly invalidating of me at just about every turn… And I’m sure countless others have too. It conflates socially stereotyped gender roles with gender identity, and freezes out anyone who doesn’t fit. It has, and in some places still is, used to bar people from transitioning. I know that I wouldn’t have been eligible for medical intervention in years past, mainly because of idiocy like this…

          1. Natalie Reed

            Yeah, pretty much this exactly.

            It doesn’t correspond to reality in the slightest. It only corresponds to the narrative people seek to impose on our reality.

          2. Anders

            It has a clear hierarchy, well defined criteria, deals (mostly) with observables, doesn’t do sum score… as scales go, it’s well constructed. Obviously I only glanced through it. An instrument can be bad in two ways – it can measure something real in a bad way or it can measure something fake well. And from the criticism I gather that the scale does the second.

            Has there been a study on whether playing with girl toys, etc. actually predicts transsexualism later on? I suspect that the methodological problems would be formidable.

          3. Xanthë, Amy of my threads

            But Anders, there’s little or no evidence it fits anywhere near the whole range of trans* people, just those whom Harry Benjamin was willing to “fit” into his view of the field. It obviously doesn’t apply to any trans* people who are FAAB.

            Mind you, if you really want to see what warped views of the trans* spectrum from outsiders look like, I’ll just mention the names Ray Blanchard and J. Michael Bailey.

          4. Natalie Reed

            Oh no… Cath… why did you have to mention those names? Those are my Kill Words. Like the queen of hearts in The Manchurian Candidate.

          5. Anders

            What you are talking about is called coverage, and it’s probably microscopic. And validity (a related concept) is also probably low. But what I’m talking about is reliability – if two doctors see the same patient, will they give the same diagnoses? And from what I’ve seen I’d guess it’s probably quite high – as long as it is a patient covered by the scale. So we are talking about different ways in which a scale can be good, and I mean ‘good’ in a specific, technical sense.

      2. Alexis

        There are many “Gatekeeper” stories from “the old days”, some may be HBS and some may be an individual clinic’s standards. Among them were no MtF over 6 feet or 200 lbs. I met a person on a chat line some years ago who was upbraided by her therapist in the early 70s for wearing bluejeans, when nearly every woman her age was wearing blue jeans. In another post Natalie has noted how some clinics required a transitioning person to move to an place where they had no past history presumably to make it easier, but cutting off all prior social support. Some clinics required at least 2 suicide attempts or body self-mutilation attempts. Women traded info on how many pills they could take to create a valid looking attempt, but not be fatal.

        1. Miri

          “Some clinics required at least 2 suicide attempts or body self-mutilation attempts.”

          I know a girl who was told by her doctor, only a few weeks ago, pretty much this, that her lack of suicide attempts caused him to doubt her, and made him hesitant to refer her for treatment… FFS :/

          1. Anders

            Now we’re getting into ‘legalized torture’ territory again. >:(

  4. 4
    The Lorax

    I liked you for liking My Little Pony.

    I love you for having a plush Totoro.

    Excuse me whilst I go grow another hand so that I may give you three thumbs up.

    1. 4.1

      I’m quite partial to the mog and rhinovirus, mostly because they point to extreme (and therefore awesome) nerdery…

  5. 5

    My brother told me I had to climb the big tree in our yard, or no one would like me, everyone would tease me, and I’d never have any friends. He was five years old and I was three at the time.

  6. 6

    *snif* this is the best everest essay evar. EVAR.

    …I don’t have much to add but that you explained another thing – kids “instinctively” know that they’re expected to join in the shaming. I guess non-neurotypicals don’t, because I didn’t… I only saw something unfair, or something that made no sense, and thought all I had to do was point it out. I didn’t realize that all the other kids already knew they were supposed to condemn before they even thought of fairness or sense. I didn’t “get it”. So, I was pre-hated before I’d even opened my mouth. It’s good to know, I guess, that it was never my fault as such… the game was rigged.

    1. 6.1

      The best point in the essay for me was right after Natalie found Serendipity, and discovered that the transition was right for her because she was finally becoming herself, despite the idiots.

      I wish I could remember the day I decided that, if there was a deciding moment. I would make the anniversary of that day into my own personal holiday. The day I finally said “I’m not letting your bigotry get to me any more. If you want to be a hate filled scumbag then it can be your own damn problem.”

      I still maintain that the best thing that happened to me as a child was the development of thick emotional armor and withdrawing behind my masks. I don’t think I could have survived without the ability to redirect the abuse to a mental construct, the withering of my emotions, and the realization that I was not and will never be a “normal” human being.

      It set back my social development by many years, I’m still less socially adjusted in some ways than a high school student. That sucks, but I think it’s a fair price that I payed for avoiding death to myself or others.

      I wouldn’t wish my childhood on anyone. Being different is hard, but when someone copes it’s a bright spot in the world. Unique things are beautiful, and unique people are what make life worth living in the morass of crap that is today’s world. They provide hope that maybe eventually the world isn’t going to be a horrible place, that we actually have a future.

  7. 7
    Sometimes Different

    Beautifully told Story, if only a too common one. I’m not transexual (I consider myself transgendered, but usually identify as male, if only because that’s the easy route out), but I’ve had my own experience of being ‘outed’ by people I didn’t want to find out about me. It’s a truly horrible feeling to know that such personal and intimate decisions about your life have been taken out of your hands; worse still when it’s by people who have the worst intentions in mind. Glad your story had such a touching end :)

  8. 8

    I’ve seen a couple episodes of MLP, a friend and a former friend are fans of it. It seemed alright, and while I haven’t really watched any on my own, I’m all for shows that manage to be entertaining for adults while having good themes for children. I’ve recently been watching Heartcatch Precure, which seems to be an analogous anime example(a series typically geared to sell toys to young girls, but manages to have more general appeal).

  9. 9

    Another very moving article. I especially like the bit about…

    OMG Totoro!?! I love Totoro!

    Sorry what?


    PS Did you ever get to tell Chris he’s an asshole.

  10. 10
    a miasma of incandescent plasma

    Sometimes I come across a post that is at such a deep level of introspection that they really should just close down the comments, cause there’s nothing that can be added to the end that would make the post better.

  11. 11

    Oh geez, the part about Serendipity made me tear up a bit.

    It makes me glad that the show can have so much meaning to you. It is a great show for all the reasons you listed, but it’s nice to think that it’s even greater than that.

    Also, slightly unrelated- but is that a giant microbe plush I see in that picture?

    1. 11.1
      Natalie Reed

      Indeed it is! A rhinovirus (the common cold) to be precise.

      It was a Christmas present. My friend Carrie gave me a cold.

      1. Miri

        I was planning to give my brother herpes, but I ended up not having money… he may not be so lucky next time though…

  12. 12
    Gemma Seymour-Amper

    Our narratives are so different, and yet not so very different. Your experience with living in that house tracks closely with my experience living in a house just like that with my older brother and four other guys in Ocean City, NJ, in the Fall/Winter of 1988 to 1989, just after I dropped out of college. This was the house I was living in when I first admitted to another living soul my feelings about my gender. Fortunately (I suppose?), it escaped the notice of the extremely misogynistic tattooed punk rock dudes I was living with.

    Although I never developed an interest in My Little Pony, I certainly recall that the things which did attract me had to be kept hidden, especially my yearning to collect the rarely-seen-in-the-wild (at that time) Hello Kitty. Once I discovered Japanese anime in the early 1990′s, it became even more difficult to hide the fact that it wasn’t the sicko tentacle porn that I was after, as most people would assume when I mentioned the subject, but the romantic comedies.

    I absorbed the intended lessons well. Too well. And so, I hid in plain sight, denigrated by my peers as being something of non-entity in the masculinity sweepstakes.

    “I didn’t really have the archetypal childhood most cis people imagine a trans woman to have. Almost no one does. I wasn’t putting on dresses and playing with dolls and insisting I was a girl from the moment I could talk. Despite the way that many cis people imagine that is how all trans women start out in life, that kind of story is actually incredibly rare. Very few of us assert strong outward signs like that in early childhood… even those of us who came to understand our identity as female before adolescence still usually knew that we wouldn’t be accepted, that it wasn’t allowed, and we had to keep that side of ourselves secret and suppressed lest we be ridiculed or punished or disappoint our parents. We adapt and we hide.

    But that didn’t mean there weren’t moments where I tried to explore, and discovered the scorn with which femininity would be met. My knowing to hide beneath a male disguise wasn’t natural. It was very definitely learned.”

    This. A thousand times, This.

    “So this is how things were going to be from now on. I was openly hated. I was an acceptable target. A pussy faggot bitch. Mentally unbalanced and ought to be placed in a psychiatric hospital. Too weird and fucked up for people to talk about, because I’ll give them the creeps. The best I can hope for is that they might find me interesting enough to ask to feel my breasts instead of just staring in appalled silence. Cool. What an awesome life I was creating for myself. Yay. I wanted to just collapse into my bitterness and self-pity and wither away into a pile of dust and shame, then just blow away in the breeze.”

    This is what they teach us. This is what they make us bottle up inside for fear of our obliteration at their hands. The risk of a slow and extremely painful psychological death, or the risk a quick and equally painful physical one.

    And not for nothing, but many of those of us who knew from the very first stirrings that we were lesbian were taught just as well that we would *never* be accepted without question among our sisters and potential lovers. No place for us here, no place for us there. So we hid, and sometimes took what comfort we might posing as straight men, clinging to a lifeline, praying she doesn’t discover the truth, knowing that eventually, she will.

    1. 12.1

      I have a similar experience with anime. While I enjoyed some of the more action oriented examples, I always loved most the ones that had strong relationship based story lines. My favourite series is Super Dimension Fortress Macross, which ostensibly is about a desperate war with giant aliens involving bad ass transforming space planes, in reality it’s more about love and the relationships between the characters that happen within the context of that war, and how love and music are stronger than a several billion 30 foot tall genocidal clone soldiers… The later parts of the franchise, for the most part emphasize this even more… I also loved Ranma 1/2 (for several reasons), and secretly, all the while mocking it for it’s girly lameness, loved Sailor Moon (I know… it’s almost stereotypical…)…

      1. Natalie Reed

        My dad mocked me for watching Sailor Moon, too.

        1. Miri

          Crap. In a way, I think I’m kind of lucky that my dad left us when I was 8… sure, it meant we had to live in back of my primary school’s school hall for two years, but at least I didn’t have much of that parental gender policing going on… I did enough of that myself as it was…

    2. 12.2

      Oh, and Hello Kitty… I was always so jealous of my ex’s Hello Kitty stuff… and now I get told off for liking it, because she’s grown up now and over that… *sigh*

    3. 12.3

      I feel so sorry for you all… *tears up* I just want to take you to a safe place. Somewhere where you can be yourself without fearing bigotry and hatred. But there is no such place. So I suppose we will have to build one.

      1. Pteryxx

        “Home is run no more.” -from WE3

  13. 13

    General Zoi’s Pony Creator: http://generalzoi.deviantart.com/#/d47efz4

    And I’m Timberhoof!

    You go, girl! Hugs and nuzzles and whinneys and skritches.

  14. 14

    Oh, this is probably my favourite post of yours so far. I was crying from when you mentioned what happened with you father all the way to the end.

    Obviously, we all have different stories, but a lot of what you wrote, especially your experiences, resonates really strongly with me. I was always interested in girly toys and cartoons (not exclusively so, but pretty strongly), but I always felt I had to hide it, or cover it with mockery if it were ever noticed. I spent most of my life mocking the things I secretly loved… and now everyone thinks I’m crazy because I want to fill my house with plush toys and various cutesy paraphernalia… It’s so out of character from an external perspective.

    1. 14.1

      Also, I forgot to mention, Totoro is so awesome… I’ve wanted one of those for years. I saw some key rings the other day that were the little black soot-puff things from the movie…

      I love your toy collection, that is so cool ^.^

      1. Natalie Reed

        This is the other half:


  15. 15

    Please count me in as really loving this post and finding it really enlightening (also: My Little Pony = squee!!!), but I was a bit bothered by this:

    He was emphatically pro-life, extremely misogynistic, highly opinionated and domineering, and still very, very angry at an ex-girlfriend who’d aborted the child they’d conceived together twenty years ago.

    I’m sure that “aborted the child they’d conceived together” is exactly how the guy in question viewed the situation but it seems problematic to privilege his viewpoint. The idea that abortions affect ‘children’ is part of the narrative used to shame women who avail themselves of this particular medical procedure. It does provide a great example of exactly the type of domineering opinionated misogynist that James was, but as written it seems to me like Natalie is espousing this description as an accurate reflection of reality rather than just James’ view of reality.

  16. 16

    I’m chuckling to myself right now. See, I’m a 51 year old, straight, white male and I love using a pink, My Little Pony as an avatar. It throws people off, especially homophobic type men. I become an enigma for them because I’m quite a masculine male. I ride motorcycles, play sports, work on race cars. I was also a single Dad for many years (until they grew up and moved out), so I have a softer, feminine side that I am simply not afraid of. It really bugs some guys. Women seem to find it interesting and exciting (which also bugs some guys LOL).

    I accept everyone and treat everyone the same. I try to get that message across but some people, mostly men, want nothing to do with it. It’s a shame because they limit themselves to the same type of interaction all the time. I often feel sorry for them.

  17. 17

    Wow, your former roommates were world-class idiots. Truly despicable wastes of perfectly good oxygen.

  18. 18

    You have some of the same Final Fantasy mini figures that I have! Tifa, Cloud and Basch. Do you have others? I have a bunch. :P Also yay for another awesome person enjoying the new MLP cartoon! It is so great. Rarity is my favorite.

    And of course, great article. Some really sad parts, but happy in the end, and just as well written as all your work.

    Keep being awesome, Natalie. ^__^

    1. 18.1

      Oh hey, you posted a pic in the comics of more of your stuff. Penelo and Vaan too! And you have all the main pony characters. Great times!

      I’ve made the hair similar to the show’s on Pinkie and Rainbow… but haven’t spent the time to do the others yet. :/

      1. Natalie Reed

        I have all six characters from 12, actually. Balthier and Fran are just between the two shots, standing in front of the photograph of my family (with the ladybug magnet on the edge of the frame).

        In total:

        Painting thingy with hormones on top
        Wind-Up Grim Reaper
        Border Collie (named “Laddy”, have had him since I was 10)
        Photo of family
        Ladybug Magnet
        Princess Peach
        Arctic Fox
        Dr. Strange
        The Doctor
        Terra Branford
        Found Art Incomplete Sculpture Of Human Torso
        Wine Bottle converted into candle holder
        Water Bottle
        Jar of Pennies
        Rainbow Dash
        Twilight Sparkle
        Pinkie Pie


        1. Chirico

          But do you have 80′s Cheerilee?

          1. Anders

            I would be interesting to see your book collection… anyway, do you have the dreaded cthulhu-pony?


  19. 19

    Thank you for sharing this story with us. I’m sorry your roommates were dipwads.

    Also, Totoro, Moogle, Einstein, MLP, Cloud, giant plush microbes, and dino figurines? (And stuff I can’t see well, but are probably also badass.) Our toy collections would totally be BFFs.

    1. 19.1
      Natalie Reed

      Einstein? Do you mean the guy in the bowtie? ‘Cause that’s the Doctor! :)

      1. nekohime

        Oh, no, not The Doctor–I thought the dog in your first toy pic was Ein, the corgi from Cowboy Bebop. Now that I saw your list though, I realize that it was a border collie. It’s cute that you kept it for so long! :)

  20. 20

    This is the first time I have ever not rolled my eyes at My Little Pony. And now I want to buy you all the My Little Ponies in the world.

  21. 21

    Frankly, I believe HBSers are trying to convince themselves the hardest of their normality, despite the fact that that belief is completely at odds with what they know. In my experience, they tend to be mostly older or more conservative transitioners who have a highly religious background. The amount of effort they put into something as ultimately futile as Sisyphus’s eternal rolling stone gig is in my internet psychologist opinion indicative that they’re fighting themselves for acceptance, not larger society. Society is going to see them — and of course, non-binary yet transsexual freaks such as I — as, well, they have been doing until they learn more about *all* our experience. Name calling has nothing on education.

    And fuck, I’m sorry about Chris… but glad you found Serendipity :D

  22. 22
    Michael Brew

    *Sigh* This really makes me want to give MLP a shot. Never really cared that it was “girly” or anything. Heck, I loved Sailor Moon when it came out (and Ranma 1/2 and Macross for the same reason as Miri said above, actually). But I always got the impression that it would be a fairly vapid representation of stereotypical femininity as well as being thirty minute toy commercials. But, heck, Beast Wars managed to be pretty good, so I guess this might be alright, too.

    1. 22.1

      Sir, I do believe YOU are the target audience of a skeptical-feminist-humanist MLP marathon. ~;>

    2. 22.2
      James K

      You might be interested in this review of the first couple of episodes by Sci Fi Debris. While he didn’t end up a big fan of it, he thought it was a well written show with properly developed characters.

      1. Michael Brew

        Sweet. The fact that the person behind it was involved with PPG and Foster’s explains the appeal, too. I loved those shows.

  23. 23
    James K

    Reading this post leaves me at something of a loss due to the difficulties I can have figuring out what makes other people tick because I read your description of the behaviour of Chris and your former room mates and … I have nothing. I cannot figure out what could possibly make people behave like that, that kind of cruelty is literally incomprehensible to me. We are a bizarre species.

    Though I would like to say, principally so I can end this on a high note, I do like your toy collection.

    1. 23.1
      Natalie Reed

      Well, Chris had a kind of mild sociopathy. And I mean that rather literally. He very openly used and manipulated people… like had no qualms dating lonely girls he found on the internet for the purpose of borrowing money from them and not returning it. That kind of thing. People were to him what he could get from them: sex, money, resources. He stole bikes on a regular basis, with absolutely no remorse. He was actually PROUD of it, and would brag about his latest thefts. He even exhibited a bunch of the “classic” signs of sociopathy, like the “outwardly charming” thing and cruelty to animals. But he was reigned in by his alcoholism and the fact that he wasn’t all that charismatic or good at it. If he had been, he’d have been dangerous. But personally, I didn’t have much trouble figuring him out pretty soon after meeting him, and I was able to spot his lies and manipulations pretty easily: he wore it all over his face.

      So in understanding his motives, you can throw out both cruelty AND misguided compassion. In all likelihood? He was just stoned and bored and wanted to see what would happen.

      1. TomeWyrm

        Speaking from personal experience, sociopaths are scary people if you can’t see through their camouflage. The curious ones are the most terrifying, they’ll do something just to see what happens. Some people like to take apart objects and see how they tick, like a watch or a VCR. Some sociopaths do the same with people and their emotions.

      2. James K

        OK, well that makes sense. Some people just want to watch the world burn /michael caine

        Mind you, I don’t get your room mates reactions as far as considering you an “acceptable target”. So many people seem to spend way too much time concerning themselves with what other people do. I really don’t get that: as Jefferson put it (OK, he may have been American, but he did some good work), it neither picks my pocket, nor breaks my leg. I don’t understand why people get so invested in things that don’t concern them.

      3. Anders

        I think Alice Cooper sang about Chris and his wife… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYtmvZDRAOU&feature=related

        Also, when I ‘submit’ my comments, do I submit to Natalie? Because that doesn’t sound right. :)

  24. 24
    Gemma Seymour-Amper

    Speaking of Ranma 1/2, I was actually pretty terrified to be seen as liking it “too much”, if you know what I mean.

    1. 24.1
      Michael Brew

      I can understand why, but I don’t think you’d have needed to worry. Heck, if anyone liked Ranma 1/2 too much, it was me. I was nicknamed Ranma in highschool, in fact (and I had three friends who went by Ryoga, Kuno, and Akane as well). Even talking about it now gives me the nerdy shivers. It’s actually kind of coincidental for me, because I was wondering just before I read this post what Ranma 1/2, given its main character’s “curse,” would mean to a trans person. I mean, on the one hand I could see it being inspirational, somehow, but for all I knew it might have had some insulting tropes that I missed.

    2. 24.2

      Ranma 1/2 never really gave me much worry… I suppose it was because it was relatively popular among the anime nerds (all 10 of them) at my school, so it didn’t really send any trans signals, or anything. I think also, is the fact that it’s based on a shonen manga (which I actually liked a lot more than the anime, but that’s getting away from my point and giving away too much of my nerdness :P), and the fact that the main character is pretty shitty with the whole turning into a girl thing, kind of made it a very safe interest, in the way Sailor Moon, or any of the stuff based on CLAMP manga, would most definitely not have been (although I still watched/read them… I just never told anyone).

      1. Michael Brew

        The anime was crap for character development, unfortunately. I thought the manga was really interesting for showing the main character’s bad attitude at having to become a girl and trying to act as manly as possible to gradually “giving ground” on the masculine image. At the end I got the impression that Ranma was about as comfortable in a female body as a male body. Not only that, I don’t think the anime ever got to the resolution with Ranma’s mother. I thought it was quite touching that she still felt Ranma fulfilled the contract even when in a girl’s body half the time and… definitely not displaying many of what she thought were manly traits.

        Also, kudos for the good taste in CLAMP. They’re frakkin’ geniuses.

        1. TomeWyrm

          That’s actually a fairly common trend in manga-anime translations. Media translation not language… though those tend to wreck more of the story too. The visual media is different, yes, but they think it requires mucking with some of the foundational pillars of a story. So characters change, sometimes drastically. I’ve preferred manga to anime for basically ever since I realized they translated them into English. In fact manga are a major reason I want to learn to read Japanese.

      2. TomeWyrm

        I never noticed a particular stigma for certain anime, it was anime in general around where I grew up. Ranma and Sailor Moon were on equal discriminatory footing with Naruto and Bleach. Of course I was already a freak by the time I was introduced to anime, so I likely missed a lot of the sentiment.

        Having an odd group of friends (once I finally got some real friends) probably helped shield me too. The vast majority of people in my life have been female, so many of my pursuits and traits have been (and are) feminine. So the stereotypical MtF trans story seems normal in some ways to me.

        1. Michael Brew

          I found anime a little more accepted in my various schools… at the very least, a couple of the popular guys would like Dragon Ball Z. I’m with you, though. I’m definitely male both physically and mentally (whatever that means), but certain interests of mine could definitely have pegged me for a potential trans person, it seems. At the very least, I was occasionally mistaken for gay.

  25. 25

    Natalie, those old roommates sound fucking horrible and I hope you got away from them as soon as you could.

  26. 26

    Buried in snow but still smiling.

  27. 27

    The birthday boy’s older brother gave him his gift, he opened it, and discovered a My Little Pony. The assembled crowd of boys in the room laughed at him, and I instinctively knew that I was expected to laugh along: how gross and awful and horrible and hilarious that this boy would be holding a girl thing in his hands! LOL! It was my first experience of what would later come back to haunt me as the laugh track to Work It. The awful, sickening feeling of knowing you’re supposed to participate in the transphobic ridicule.

    ^^ THIS.

    It’s a horrible feeling, being trapped in a group who seek to attack someone you would rather be reaching out to ….. and knowing that if you show any sign of dissent, the group will turn on you instead.

    The inverse of the IQ of a mob seems to be equal to the sum of the inverses of the IQs of each of its members.

  28. 28

    Any lingering snobbery I had about “oh, I like the NEW My Little Pony, not that old stuff” just died a well deserved death. That’s a hell of a story.

  29. 29

    This is an amazing story. I’m glad you shared it.

    It’s kind of strange, but for me, MLP was sort of like coming home after being gone a long time. I’d actually completely forgotten until recently that I used to have (more than a few) MLPs as a kid. Admittedly, they tended to play along with my Jurassic Park dinosaurs and Boba Fett, but nonetheless it was sort of the one gender-variant thing I was allowed growing up in a very religious and conservative household. (I think mostly I could have them because my mother loved horses and we kept a few off and on over the years on our land).

  30. 30

    I got here through a google search for “How to accept that your children are in love with My LIttle Pony.” It’s all my child will talk about. I wasn’t expecting such a heartfelt story, and I teared up when you found a pony on the sidewalk. I’m so sorry you had/have to deal with such awful people, and I thought I’d let you know I have a new appreciation for the ponies.

  31. 31

    Natalie, not sure if it’s the hormones I’m on, but this posting made me cry.. in a good way. Thank you for your honesty and light; my life is immeasurably better for having found your blog.

  32. 32
    Doctor F

    Wow… just wow. I found this article while trying to check a value for a flawed pony I was thinking about customizing. It actually made me tear up.
    I’m not LGBT, but I am a pagan, so I’ve been on the receiving end of people who hated my lifestyle plenty of times. It’s a hard world for anyone who doesn’t ‘fit in’. But I think it just provides an even stronger incentive to resist societies attempts to mold you into something you are not and never will be.
    Stay strong.

  1. 33
    Resources page | nonviolentrage

    [...] Why I love My Little Pony by Natalie Reed: on symbols of a lost girlhood, on expressing the gender with the tools available, on pain and self-determination. [...]

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