At about the age of three years old, "It's just a phase, she'll grow out of it" and "your daughter is such a tomboy" are just a few of the things I imagine my mother hearing throughout my childhood. At this age, I started choosing what to wear; my first choice always being clothes that closely resembled something out of the boy's section or my brother's hand-me-downs. I started choosing what to play with, how to talk, how to act. I never liked dolls, but I also never liked action figures, and my persona never wavered from being that of a playful boy.
But there was one thing I didn't know I could change, and that was my gender. I remember spending nights before going to bed wishing that I would wake up and be a boy. I remember insisting to my mom and my siblings that I was a boy. I remember wanting to change my name and cut my hair off. And I remember always visualizing myself as a boy when I thought about being a teenager or an adult.
At this age, of three years old might I remind you, it's very unlikely to see any signs of mental disorders in a child. Most mental disorders aren't prominent until middle school, high school, or even college. While gender dysphoria is part of the DSM-5, most psychologists and therapists hate referring to it as a "mental disorder" - because it isn't one. In my opinion, they label it as such so that transgender patients are able to write off their prescriptions via their health insurance. Regardless, gender dysphoria is primarily something that can cause a lot of anxiety and depression because it is a very painful thing to go through and being on the right hormones can help diminish it.
On another note, as a three-year-old, there are only so many choices that you are aware that you can make. You can choose what foods to eat, what games to play, what to wear. But one thing you can't quite wrap your head around at that age is gender. This is an age where you know that girls and boys are different, but you don't know why. Even without knowledge of what exactly differentiates boys and girls, I still knew that I wasn't a girl. I had the body of a three-year-old - a body without a gender yet - and the brain of a boy. But the genitalia I was given, was not mine.
Eventually, society taught me that since I was born female, I had to continue my life as a female. I shoved these thoughts and uncontrollable feelings into a deep and dark part of me, where they didn't even have a chance to resurface until my college years. I filled my life with the focus of school, sports, and girls, as if I was living my life as a teenage boy without even really realizing it. I ignored my female parts and hid them under men's clothes. But as I became to explore further into life and learn about the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community, the three-year-old inside me that knew my true identity resurfaced, and I was finally able to become who I truly am - and I've never been happier.