Gabriella, or gender nonconformity revealed

Q: How did you become aware you had a different sexual orientation or gender identity?

A: Well, it wasn’t that hard.

At three I walked past the gates of my nursery school for the first time and saw the girls and the boys. They looked so different to me. I thought, ‘Who am I going to play with now?’ So I went back home and asked my grandmother for a doll (which would shortly afterwards become the first victim of many unforgiven doll abductions) to go and play with the girls – I was incredibly popular among them, a true Princess and Heartbreaker.

At five I would jump around on the sitting room sofas twittering to the astonishment of casual guests, ‘Please, call me Gabriella, Gabriella!’ An inexorable doll by my side – Maria, my black doll.

By the time I was six the idea that there was something wrong with being like me had sunk in, right there, the stealthy, poisonous darts of indignant masculine winces, condescending grown-up words, embarrassed smiles had transfixed. There was no turning back. But who was I to give up on my favourite games?

At six, then, with somewhat greater discretion, I would spend my days planning extravagant fashion shows using towels and scarves I found lying around the house. My favourite act was ‘The Bride’. Total white, très chic.

I was a tall, skinny boy with matchstick legs, pale, freckled skin and shiny black hair trimmed in a bowl haircut. But I liked my name that way.