I always knew something was wrong. Something was different about me. I remember a thought when I was very young - maybe 4 or 5 - thinking that I wanted to be a woman when I grew up. I was just beginning to grasp that this wasn't a thing that I could pick, like a job or a partner or a house or a flavour of lolly.
Later on I remember feeling deeply uncomfortable and hurt when female friends treated me differently once we began to hit puberty and gender became a part of our lives. Same thing again when male friends would talk to me about women like I wasn't there. That's the way it felt, though it took years to unpack that. I felt uncomfortable, and began to try and make "sense of girls". In a sense that was like most boys my own age. But I also saw it as a very confusing problem.
I verbalised it later on as "I wish I was a girl", even if just to myself.
Thing is, I kept seeing sentences like "I always knew I was a woman".
These kind of sentences threw me, and actually fed into my fear of being 'found out'. I felt, "Well, I know I am not a woman, so that means I can't possibly be trans." Of course, I was looking for reasons to ignore it because I knew (or, thought) it'd be a devastating life change, and something I didn't think I could handle - or even actually do.
While everyone's experience is, of course, very different, I keep feeling that this kind of sentiment being parroted (especially in articles by cis people for cis people) can be problematic.
So many people I know struggling with their gender dissonance now say things that amount to, "I'm not sure I'm trans enough".
Like I did.
I spoke about this a bit in my post "I Can Cope".
But the fact is I didn't "think I was a woman". My rational brain prohibited that. I could clearly see that physically I was male. Which meant that I would write off dreams where I was female, finding myself unable to get off without picturing myself in a female body, or even occasionally accidentally walking into the wrong gendered toilet. When the rational part of my brain telling me "you are male because all evidence points to this, don't be silly" was having a nap, my subconscious took over and did it for me.
Once I met trans people, read papers on it (even psychology ones) and began to understand what gender dissonance was, I began to realise that because I "knew" I was male didn't mean that what I was experiencing wasn't gender dysphoria, or that I "coudn't be trans".
If I have one wish, it's that I'd had this explained to me earlier.
That yes, you can still be trans yet not "know you're a woman" either in the past or in the present. Gender dissonance doesn't work that way, and if you're desperately trying to talk yourself out of a difficult truth about yourself... that may be an extra reason you can't make that mental leap.