I was not a very happy child. I was sensitive and I already knew that I was different but I could not understand why, which children probably perceived this as weakness, because they repeatedly bullied me. Once, I was attacked physically: three kids grabbed my arms and pushed my head onto the ground to make me eat grass. Can you imagine? I was scared as hell and it traumatised me for a while but I got over it. Later on, the situation did not get any better because I went to an all boys’ school and I did not want to play the macho games that other boys liked to play, nor talk about the things they talked about, so I became more and more isolated. But I learned to accommodate; I went into my own world, I read a lot of books, I listened to a lot of classical music and I was not very social, so you can imagine that I was not very popular.
The bright side is that since I studied hard and stayed focussed, it actually paid off and I was able to get good grades and achieve what I wanted in my life. I did not necessarily know what I wanted to become but I surely knew what I did not want to become. My father is a judge and that for example is a path that never appealed to me – you know, with all the strictness! So, since I was always interested in science, I found my path through medicine and I ended up in reproductive medicine. After a while I thought : this is exactly what I want to do, because I love the way it deals with women.
I was forty when I decided to fully become the woman that I knew I was. Though, because of this decision I lost colleagues, acquaintances and even some of my friends. The sad reality is that even adults get bullied and discriminated against. But I was accepted in my working environment, I was accepted by my partner and I found love, so I feel lucky. In fact, very few people in my situation had this luck. I find it so unjust that people suffer simply because of who they want to be. Ah, I probably internalized my father’s sense of justice after all!
(Petra is a member of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium.)