I hope, in years to come, this will all make for an entertaining episode of The Gender Games TV adaptation. It started last week, when my new boyfriend told me his mother was reading my aforementioned memoir. It doesn’t scrimp on detail from my sexual past and I almost died of shame. I made him swear he’d retrieve the book before she could get to the incriminating section.
But it was too late. His mother had already googled me and stumbled upon the darkest secret of them all: somehow the all-seeing search engine knew my real age.
It all started innocently enough. I got my first book deal the year I turned 30 and an industry person suggested my publishing accomplishment might sound more impressive if I was still a twentysomething. The media does have a penchant for very young authors, it must be said. It makes a nice story. And so we shaved a couple of years off.
I came out to my friends as trans in 2013, when I was 32. At the same time, I made a secondary decision to stop ageing. This came from somewhere darker. I only have one major regret in life and that’s that I didn’t initiate my transition in my teens. I fully knew I should have been born a girl and failed to act on it for 30 years. It boils my piss that I wasted about a third of my existence, living a wholly unfulfilled half-life. I wanted those years back, frankly.
I was a woman, but I wanted to be a young woman.
And you already know why. As a culture, we value youth in women beyond all reason. The second I’d changed my gender on Facebook, I was bombarded with a plethora of ways I could “halt the ageing process”: serums, lotions, moisturisers, botox, fillers, peels – all modelled by girls barely out of school. I watched the Gucci SS19 show in bed last night; the models looked like children. Fashion presents pubescent girls as actual models of what women are supposed to look like. But that’s probably a whole other column.
By culling four years, I erased four years of writing, four years of dating, four years of growing and learning
I dimly recall a Sex and Evolution module from my psychology undergrad degree. The lecturer was a letch. I remember he told us that men are attracted to young-looking girls because our Selfish Gene evolutionary urge to reproduce is telling them that younger women are fresher, healthier, more ripe-of-egg for baby-making. How sinister. How Handmaid’s Tale. I do not have a “biological clock”, obviously, but I am highly dubious of anyone linking a woman’s reproductive status to her overall value.
I was complicit. By setting my Tinder age to 30, I was playing along with the patriarchy. I knew that a lot of men filter out any woman over that age. I’m just getting started and I’m sure I speak for lots of women in their thirties when I say I do not feel like day-old bread. Still, to play along is complicit.
Moreover, I want to take my very real shame at my age and turn it into something positive. My age is also my experience. By culling four years, I erased four years of writing, four years of dating, four years of growing and learning. I don’t mean to patronise younger readers, but I know things now, I can do things now, which I couldn’t have dreamed of when I was 21. In short, my twenties were about getting my shit together; my thirties – on balance – have been a million times more fun. I know myself now.
What possible reason is there for celebrating youth in women and experience in men, beyond satisfying male desire? We need to see women being valued beyond their youth and end the Logan’s Run of women in film, TV and fashion. This means is we need female writers, directors and photographers to create work for women over 30. Killing Eve is a great example of what happens when we get women to write for women.
I did lie to my boyfriend, though. It was not a “fib”; it was an outright lie and I am truly sorry. Lying about my age meant I was propagating the myth that younger is better. So, I’m done. I’m coming out. I’m Juno Dawson and I’m 37 years old.