I think I was about ten or eleven when I got the triangle scarf. I was part of a theatre group that were performing a Christmas pantomime. I was in the younger group and the younger group really looked up to the older one.
I didn’t have many friends in that theatre group. The girls were snobby and cliquey and weren’t interested in hanging out with a boy. The boys were usual boys and thought I was weird. It didn’t really phase me. I would sit with some other stragglers and listen to people’s conversations without weighing in. I blended into the background, just wanting to rehearse and perform and be a part of something that I loved.
One day, the older group were performing and I noticed that a couple of them were wearing these stylish triangle scarves. I fell in love with them. I wanted a triangle scarf. I wanted to be like that older group. I wanted to be stylish.
When I got home I told my Mam about said scarf. After explaining it to her repeatedly, she finally realised that it was a square scarf that had been folded into a triangle.
That weekend, she brought me into our local Penneys and I ran straight to the men’s scarves. They weren’t there. I was devastated. My Mam, seeing how much I wanted one just smiled. “We’ll check the women’s section.” I looked at her quizzically. I didn’t know boys could get things from the women’s section. Taking my hand, my Mam led me across a threshold that I would be crossing an awful lot in the coming years. The line between the men’s and women’s section.
“When it’s for stuff like scarves and hats, it’s okay to buy them from the women’s section,” she told me. This would be the first step for me. I would figure out the rest on my own.
We found one that I adored and I was overjoyed. Mam took the tag off the scarf before we left the shop and I wore it for the rest of the day.
I wore it to school and to the shops. I wore it when I stayed at home or when we went visiting family. I wore it when I was out playing alone in the back garden, thinking of stories that I could play out (yes I was still doing this at 11).
But when I went back to the theatre group I was surprised by the reaction. I walked in feeling stylish and grown up before the boys in my age group raised their eyebrows and asked “what is that?” They all laughed.
I blushed. “It’s a scarf my Mam got me,” I told them defensively. “It’s gay,” a particularly nasty boy responded. I had never particularly liked him but his words still hurt. “Why do they even care?” I remember thinking. I took the scarf off and stuffed it in my bag, joining in with the laughter.
They dropped it once I obeyed. They went back to ignoring me when I conformed. They no longer cared when I did what they wanted.
It was an intense period of rehearsing. We all saw each other constantly. Not that anyone really spoke to me anyway. Mostly, I just read my book until we were asked onstage. Now that I think about it, it’s strange. I think being in that group was the only time that I wasn’t popular, and it didn’t even phase me. Even back then I knew it wasn’t my problem if I didn’t fit in with them.
I used to wonder whether I got my sense of self-worth from my popularity but perhaps that means that I never really did.
Every time I showed up for rehearsal I would be wearing the scarf. And every time I wore it someone would pass a comment. And every time someone would pass a comment I took it off. And every time I took it off I would vow to stand up to them next time.
It went on like this for a while. Until, I made a decision. I decided to stop caring (for the first time ever). I remember getting ready before a show. Packing my bag with my different outfits, a bottle of water and some food. I dressed in the black clothes we were required to wear and over that I threw my scarf.
I stared at myself in the mirror and told myself that I would stand up to them. I wouldn’t take it off this time.
The theatre was buzzing with activity when I arrived. People were running around, organising costumes, squeezing in final rehearsals or chatting with their friends. I was ignored when I got there. Honestly, I was a little bit disappointed. It was quite anti-climatic not to be able to stand up to them when I wanted to.
Soon, I had to take the scarf off to go onstage and I resigned myself to not having my moment of standing up for what I wanted.
But, after the show, when I was packing up my stuff, I put the scarf back on. It didn’t take long for someone to say something to me. I can’t remember what it was. It was what you’d expect an unoriginal eleven-year-old to say to the “weird” child who wasn’t conforming.
“I actually really like this scarf,” I told them. They were shocked. For a second they didn’t say anything. I decided to add “I’ve always liked it, even if it is gay.” Then I walked away. I was terrified and excited and shaking and smiling and I liked myself just a little bit more. Even when I head them burst into mocking laughter, I relished in the feeling of power that I experienced when I felt their shock.
This signified the beginning of years in which I would stand up to people who tried to dictate what I wore. This signified the beginning of me choosing my own happiness over the desire to be liked by everyone. This signified the beginning of me learning to love myself.
I have no memory of where that triangle scarf went. Knowing me, it was just another one of my passing obsessions. But when I think back on the me that wore that triangle scarf; the me who held my Mam’s hand as I walked from the men’s section to the women’s section, I’m incredibly proud. And since that day I have never looked back.
Read my interview with a crossdresser here.