Lilli, 45

My best friend in secondary school was a small cute blonde who used to doll herself up a lot. I was the opposite of her, which I was told often. There was a boy in school who would yell at me during recess that I should get plastic surgery for my face.

I was tall, big, and kind of boyish. I also has a fierce personality: in a PE dancing class the boys would never ask me to dance with them, in their words because I could have punched them or something.

In reality, I think I was just a little childish, and didn’t get the unwritten rules of secondary school at all. That’s probably why I was bullied, and that’s why I lost my temper when I couldn’t quite understand what was going on.

I felt like there was something utterly and completely wrong with me.

But secondary school passed, and in high school things settled down a bit. I found my own style in some way. I was often mistaken for a boy, I guess mostly because of my height and the way I walked.

When I got into university, I soon went to Denmark for an exchange. Something went wrong with my eating there. There had been some trouble with it before, but a foreign environment made it worse. It was probably a reaction to moving away from home and becoming independent.

I gained 15 kilos in a short period of time. They went away on their own when life mellowed out, but the incident affected how I saw myself. If I have stress in my life, I may still quit eating for a while.

My life started over about ten years ago when I broke up with the father of my children. Our divorce was very surprising, like a lightning bolt. I had thought that the relationship was built to last. Our children were still young and I became their single caretaker.

It didn’t take many weeks of the post-divorce turmoil before some old ruminations surfaced that I had had back in the day about my sexual orientation.

I was finally free to give it a thought.

In the process, I re-evaluated my past all the way to my teenage years. In a way, I found an explanation to why I had been the way I was as a teenager and why I just didn’t get the whole thing between girls and boys. These gay things were not discussed at the time, and I didn’t consider yet that I could be gay myself.

I realized that I hadn’t been too big or too boy-like, and that it hadn’t been some crisis of my youth that I should get past. I had been myself, I just didn’t fit that environment.

Since my divorce, I haven’t been in a relationship with men but dated a woman. It has made a positive impact on how I see myself. My partner says I’m beautiful. By that she means something else than those criteria for a straight woman I adopted as a teenager. The beauty she talks about has more to do with how I express my gender, how I combine masculinity and femininity.

Sometimes I still think I look a bit strange, and that experience of being somehow wrong may never leave completely. One reminder of it is buying clothes. Women’s clothes are usually made for people who are ten cents shorter than me. That’s why I’ve started to shop in the men’s department.