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Doll on Growing Up: "I don't care what people call me. Whatever the term, I'm proud to say I've finally found myself."

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Introducing Doll, Racked's first transgender guest blogger. Always secretly wishing he'd been born a Barbie, Doll was a young army brat who grew up and became a citizen of the world. After landing in Manhattan, he became a New York fashion insider, working in a high-powered industry position, living a life worthy of a feature film.

After mysteriously vanishing from the scene, Doll recently resurfaced and has embarked on a new roller-coaster ride of a journey. Follow his transformation, week by week, right here on Racked.

Doll: People always ask me what made me what I am today. Growing up with a mostly-absent father and attached at the hip to my mother is the easy answer—my father was never around enough to instill in me a sense of masculinity, I say.

I wish it were as simple as that—I wish I could blame someone else, but there is no one to blame. The fact is that, just as I was born into a family of political distinction and privilege, I was also born with the wrong body.

My family has been working in government and politics for generations. If I’d had any masculinity to begin with, it was certainly fostered and nurtured every opportunity to develop—I always wondered why I had to play with G.I. Joes and wear my hair short. As a child, your actions come without a second thought. Children's behaviors are unpretentious, unguarded, and mine were distinctly, naturally feminine.

At home, my parents enforced conservative Catholic values, encouraged me to participate in sports like golf, martial arts, and basketball, and showered me with boys' toys—forbidding anything that bore even a trace of girly. While my two older brothers—who were both very macho, testosterone practically oozing out of their ears—indulged in all of this, I'd prance around my room with a scarf or T-shirt over my head, twisting it into one long tail that I let hang over my shoulder, stroking it, pretending it was my hair. Caught by my mother, I'd always be swiftly reprimanded with a healthy dose of Catholic moral guilt.

"You’re a boy and this is how God made you," she told me when I was four years old. When scolding didn't work, there was always good old childhood taunting. Even when I played video games, I'd be teased for picking female characters. Every night I'd dream and pray that things would magically change—that I'd wake up as a girl and my parents would finally buy me Barbie dolls. I watched Disney Princess movies all the time and dreamt of a prince of my very own.

For as long as I can remember, friends, family and neighbors called me gay. One of my first memories of playing in a sandbox, another little boy called me gay. I came home puzzled and innocently asked my mother what he'd meant. But instead of giving me an explanation, my mom widened her eyes in shock and demanded to know, “Well, are you?”

I didn’t know how to answer my mother's question, but realized, from that moment on, there must be something about me that was better left unspoken.

My parents always taught me that gay was wrong and went against the way God had created the world—they did their very best to repress my identity, the real me. I grew up waging a constant battle between my desire to please my parents and the urge to be myself. My face and mannerisms already betrayed too much sweetness for a “regular” boy. But I learned how to put on a masculine charade befitting a young Catholic. Unfortunately it wouldn't be playtime forever. As I got older, my familial responsibilities also grew.

In the conservative community in which I grew up, appearances are everything. The parents of gay children were the favored targets of ridicule. My father has always been a very well-respected pillar of society and everyone around us regarded him as a very upstanding man—a solid father with deep-rooted principles. To him, a gay son would have been a smear—a mark of failure. My mother constantly told me that if I were gay, I'd be disowned. I felt stifled, but I didn't want to disappoint my parents. I retreated into my own shell and waited for the right time to make a mad dash to freedom.

The third pillar of parental indoctrination—after devout Catholicism and homophobia—was the value of education. My parents always emphasized how crucial a good education was to my life's success. I heeded their advice and turned making good grades into my highest priority. My efforts were rewarded with high marks, and I easily passed entrance exams for several prestigious schools. I became an overachiever, always striving to excel and be number one in everything. I just wanted to make my parents proud. You might say that I bribed them for acceptance with my good behavior, which probably is true, but I don’t see it that way. I think I just try to do the right thing by me—I studied hard, not just to please them, but because I knew it would pay off in the long run. And it has. People respect me because I am well-educated, I do my job well and I never settle for mediocrity. I don’t mind having to work a little extra for that respect.

At school teachers always liked me—I was always teacher's pet—and other kids thought of me as kind and caring. I knew there were a few other gay boys at my school, but I was too shy and scared to interact with them—let alone make friends with them. A part of me wanted to reach out, but I held myself back for fear I'd tarnish my reputation and, ultimately, bring shame to my family name.

The high school I attended was a co-ed private catholic uniform school—boys in polos, ties, slacks and girls in blouses in skirts. I wanted so much to wear the skirt—governed by priests and nuns. Adolescence is confusing for most people, but I think it was especially bewildering in my case. I wanted so hard to be myself, but was terrified to be perceived as some kind of freak, when all I wanted was to fit in.

I even tried to play basketball, like the other boys at school. I'd mimic their mannerisms and the way they'd talk. I was living a double life—trying to keep my femininity intact while trying to assimilate into guy-culture. I was also beginning to explore my sexuality and sense of gender placement—I was always in the company of beautiful girls, but found myself wanting to be them, not be with them. Around other boys, I felt the awkward discomfort of desire. I reveled in horseplay and brute interactions. Seeing other male bodies excited me.

When I finally moved to New York City to pursue a career in fashion, to get as far away as I could from the eggshells I'd been walking on, and to further explore my sexuality, not only was I taking my life into my own hands, giving myself a chance at a better life, but I was also embracing self-expression for the first time. When I first landed, I still behaved like a man, but after finding many like-minded people and friends, this pretense of masculinity began to melt away.

I had my first sexual experience with another man when I was 20. He was a bisexual 23-year old who told me shit like giving him blue balls would give him cancer. Me, being naive and inexperienced, believed him. We stayed together for six months when my mother came for an extended four-month visit that eventually placed strain on both my illicit love affair and my relationship with her.

I started dating more men—gay, bisexual, and closeted. Hanging out at nightclubs, getting hit on, having one-night stands—it wasn't enough for me. Although I'd developed crushes, none of the objects of my affection ever fulfilled my need for companionship—they'd always treat me like a the girl in the relationship. All of my dalliances during this time were ultimately just a sexual outlet, nothing more.

One of the most unbearable episodes during this experimental period happened when I met a man who expected me to penetrate him. I couldn't bring myself to perform the dominant male role. I later found that this isn't an uncommon sentiment in the trans community. I don't even want to touch my penis when I'm going to the toilet.

Around this time, I started having the urge to dress up and play with makeup at home. A friend took me to a tranny club. I was clumsily made up—I was an amateur. When Halloween rolled around, I dressed up and the attention I received from men was intoxicating—I was on cloud nine. Eventually I started investing in and acquiring women's clothing and playing with makeup more and more.

I'd become restless, bolstered and filled with a need to express myself. One day I met a woman I now call Mama—all stunning looks, lithe limbs, oozing natural charm, intelligence, and confidence. She embodies all the social graces that good mothers wish upon their daughters and blessed with a well-rounded personality, generous spirit, and incredible candor. After meeting Mama, I started researching other trannies and began seeing how beautiful and glamorous they are. It was that moment that I realized I no longer wanted to be a man. I had to find my true identity.

I want you to know, though, that despite all this, I haven't lost touch with my upbringing or my religion. I still believe in and practice Catholicism—but not in its entirety. I keep the parts of my religious background that fit in with my new way of living. I want to stay connected to to friends and family, living my life as best I can. For me, it's imperative to be morally grounded—to feed and nurture my spirituality—but I can't bring myself to practice principles I don't believe in. It's complicated, but in some cases it's better for me to partake and conform.

In the last two years, I've come to terms with who (and what) I am. It's been tremendously liberating and I've found some peace of mind. In the past, I'd wear suits, cut my hair, and act manly to conceal my true self. Now, I'm happy wearing dresses and letting my hair down. I've found peace with myself, my friends, and the family I was born into. The only thing that matters is that I live life as my true self.

I've since started this journey of transformation. Despite some negative side effects and an underlying fear of getting cancer, which is something my doctors warned me about, I religiously take my pills and administer my own hormone injections. I had to get over my fears because I know that the end result will be worth it. It's the price I have to pay to become a woman.

I remember once being asked, "Do you want to live your life as an uninspired half-man, half-woman? Or live happily as a woman with a few years off your life." I choose a happy life, and have reconciled myself to the idea that it's perfectly fine if that means it will be a shorter one.

More often than not, I suffer severe dizzy spells and I feel like I want to vomit all the time. I experience acute food cravings, want to sleep 14 hours every day, and am plagued with short bouts of paranoia and some irrational mood swings—all side effects of the estrogen. But my desire to attain that female physique is stronger than anything, stronger than fears, risks, and warnings. Nothing in this world can pull you away when you're set on a goal like this. It's like crossing the Rubicon, I've reached the point of no return.

It's not easy to be who you really are, especially when society forces you into a category as ridden with camp media stereotypes as "tranny." But I don't care what people call me. Whatever the term, I'm proud to say I've finally found myself. I see myself as a psychologically heterosexual female. I know, physically, what I am, but in my mind I'm absolutely female and I desire a romantic relationship with a straight man. That's why I intend to fix this dichotomy that exists right now between my mind and my body.

What matters most is that I'm happy and comfortable in my own skin without troubling others. I just want to walk on my life's path as steadfastly as I can, uninterrupted by prejudice and naysayers around me.
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