You’re my favourite girl

Teddy Matthews is transgender and has autism. Having come to a point in his life where he is proud to be himself, Teddy has told us his story in three very touching and honest blogs, the first of which we publish today.

Throughout my childhood I had a variety of teachers, some of whom were very thoughtful and understanding and others who struggled to understand. At this point I was unable to explain my behaviours with just one word, autism, as I did not get my diagnosis until I was 14. Without a shadow of a doubt the teacher who worked the best with me at primary school was Mrs N, since she has already taught me in nursery and understood my idiosyncrasies.

This included rewarding me for my work by allowing me to organise maths blocks, or pens. According to my mum, at some point during year three, Mrs N mentioned some of my behaviours to her, most likely as a subtle prompt to possibly look into a diagnosis such as autism. However, my mum shrugged this off as I was doing very well academically. The fact that I had little interaction with others at playtime had little impact so long as I continued to perform well in class.

According to my mum, she was relieved when she found out that her second child, ie: me, was going to be a girl. This meant that she had the complete set, the ideal nuclear family, and although logically she believed that she would be entirely happy so long as I was a healthy baby she was apparently tremendously happy upon finding out my sex.

During childhood there are many positive affirmations that your parents will tell you, and they all intend to mean that ‘You are loved’ and ‘I am glad that I have you’ they can often be specifically gendered. One phrase that I remember vividly was ‘You’re my favourite girl’.

When I was very young my mum used to comment regularly on how happy she was that she had ‘a boy and a girl’. It was a common topic at dinner with visitors and I am certain that my mum had absolutely no knowledge on how this could possibly have affected my self-image and my self-worth.

Would things have been any different

This led to a conversation that I remember clearly from when I was very young (I would estimate around 7), when I asked my mum whether things would have been any different if she didn’t have ‘a son and a daughter’. She said that ‘of course’ things would be different. Due to this response I believed that my value in my family came from being ‘the girl’, ‘his sister’ and ‘their daughter’, so I put what I felt aside and didn’t bring it up again for a very long time.

More recently my mum and I have discussed how ingrained the idea of gender roles are in our society, how inescapable they are. Several instances in my own childhood reflect this. For example, from a very young age I could climb exceptionally well, and my mum has told me that at the time she was surprised with my interest and aptitude in something she thought of as being masculine.

At the age of six I also adamantly told my mum that I did not want dolls, I did not play with them nor did I want to. She was supportive of this but decided to put them away instead of throwing them out in case I ever changed my mind, and apparently she kept them for much longer than I ever knew about. Even though she dislikes the idea of gendered societal roles, it is so much a part of her society that it affected what she thought of me from a very young age.

Next time: My autism was blatantly obvious but my mum was in denial

Teddy Matthews

Teddy will be performing at the Autism’s Got Talent, Merseyside, roadshow on Friday 23 November. Find out more here.