My childhood as an alien
Alex Clare-Young’s childhood in a body that felt like an enemy
‘Here comes the minister’s daughter’ to the tune of ‘Here comes the bride’ greeted me every morning for years as I tentatively entered my primary school classroom, dreading the day ahead. Just one of many incidents, thoughts and feelings that convinced me I was an alien in my childhood years. My difference was marked out by belittling songs and chants, social exclusion, the signed list of things that the ‘other girls’ hated about me and the constant attempts to get me into trouble. Every isolating incident added to my overwhelming loneliness.
The songs and chants weren’t random, they were a mirror held up to show me that I, the shy, stuttering, geeky child of a Church of Scotland minister, was just plain weird. The exclusion didn’t just hurt, it led to detentions because I read my book in the corridors or practised the recorder on a bench instead of joining the others in playground games. The list that they made me sign wasn’t just childhood teasing; as I signed it, I accepted that my apparently masculine traits, social skills and interests were not acceptable – I was not acceptable.
I didn’t in fact punch Sofia in the stomach, as my teachers and peers claimed. Rather, I accidentally knocked her as I struggled out of the grip she held on my wrists to keep me from running away whilst the others stood in a suffocating circle and taunted me, occasionally darting into the centre to pull up my skirt. When I told my mum about this incident, aged 25, she was shocked to realise that her understanding of her ‘daughter’ had been wrong. I wasn’t a bad child; they had just made me look like one.
Many children are bullied, and all bullying is bad. It hurts because it is specific. As much as some might say ‘Children are just cruel’ or ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’, words do hurt, because they target the core of who we are. I wasn’t bullied because children are cruel, I was bullied because I did not conform to the expectations and stereotypes enforced on girls…
Alex Clare-Young is a postdoctoral student and minister of churspacious.com, a hybrid social media-based church. This article is an edited extract from Transgender. Christian. Human. published by Wild Goose Publications in 2019. www.urcshop.co.uk
This is an extract from an article published in the October 2021 edition of Reform