One of the most frequent questions I get from "civilians" is when did I know I was transgender. Normally, they aren't prepared for the long version of the story, so to spare them the boring details, I go for the short version.
The "short" version is very simple. I knew vaguely from the age of ten or so, there was something not matching up gender wise in my noggin. I'm not even sure if the word "gender dysphoria" was even "invented" in the 1950's at all and certainly not in semi rural Ohio. Of course my gender issues caused me to work to present myself as a girl.
Civilians understand all of that.
I begin to lose them when I say cross dressing wasn't the answer. Since many used to consider I was cross dressed when we talk. To the older civilians, explaining the 1960's and 70's is simple...I had even a bigger problem than gender dysphoria (and the lack of understanding .)- the spectre of the Vietnam War.
Somehow it still shocks people when I say I did serve my time in the US Army, played a little football, did father a child and paid my dues to make it as a guy for 30 years or so. Looking back I guess it shocks me too and I'm not sure how I made it.
Where I really lose almost all of the remaining civilians is when I tell them about five years ago, I accepted the fact for the first time in my life I am transgender.
I tell them, yes, I was in my 60's before I had my "A-Ha" moment.
The good thing is today, the feminizing work of HRT on my body teamed with the seemingly weekly news another public person is coming out as transgender (Andreja Pejic, Lavern Cox, et all)- I'm not the celebrity I once was.
Yes, it's a wonderful feeling!