For as long as he's remembered, Mineta has wanted to be around the girls. He means that in the most literal way. His earliest memory is at some mother and toddler group, waddling over to a girl with long, silvery hair, and tugging at it with his pudgy child hands. His mother quickly swept him up and away as the girl started crying at her rough treatment. His mum gently chastised him, explaining that unlike his "hair" pulling other peoples' hurts, and apologising on his behalf to the girl and her mother.
"Don't worry about it," she laughed, "Besides, I think you're going to have a rough time of it when he's older, if he's chasing after the girls already."
The words fade from his memory as he grows older until only the meaning remains. The feeling of that long silky, hair remains pristine in his mind, along with the disappointment that his own isn't like that.
As he gets older but before girls and boys start to become too different, he spends a lot of time playing with girls. Unlike the other boys he doesn't mind when the girls want to play dress-up and practise their makeup skills on him. He enjoys they way they bring him into their group and treat him like one of their own.
His dad sighs whenever he picks him up, nails sparkling and cheeks blushed. "There are better ways to get sleepovers with girls, son."
"Oh leave him be," his mother will say, snapping pictures, "We need something to embarrass him with when he's older."
(When he's older, just about to start UA, he'll find the album with those photos. He won't be embarrassed. Instead he will puzzled with how happy he looks, how it's been so long since he looked that way. How much better things were when the girls liked him.)
Puberty hits. Sort of. It hits the girls first. Suddenly they start gaining curves and padding they never had before. It's a fascinating change that captivates all the boys and Mineta finds himself watching the changes with intense focus. The girls are captivating and elegant and there's a want deep inside of him that he can't explain.
"Who're you crushing on," asks one of the boys.
"All of them. I think." There's not a single girl he hasn't admired the body of.
Unlike the girls and later the boys, Mineta doesn't change much. He doesn't grow taller, or more muscled, or hairier. Honestly, he's kind of grateful. Puberty is difficult enough to deal with when his body isn't changing drastically. There's more important issues for him, like how the girls he's always been friends with suddenly decide it's weird to hang out with him. Spending time with him is suddenly uncool and sleepovers are definitely a thing of the past.
At first he's lonely. He's never really had to get along with guys before. Up until this point his only friends have been girls. He quickly learns though that his admiration (obsession) for the female body will get raunchy laughs and a goodnatured elbow to the ribs. At home though he'll paint his nails like the girls used to do to him. Then he'll wipe it all off again.
Pretty soon he's locked in a cycle. He'll act crass and lustful in order to keep his male friends so he won't be alone, the girls will find him off putting and keep further away, and the less contact he has with them, the more he loves the female body.
He never really wonders what he desires about the feminine form. Or thinks too deeply on it. Though in quiet moments, usually in the dark of the night when he's alone and curled under the covers, there's not really a thought yet but a nameless feeling that crawls close and dangerously to the surface. It comes with a sick feeling, bubbling up in his throat. Sometimes it only lasts a moment but others it lingers for hours. In those moments he'll usually curl up in a ball, arms wrapped close around his chest, and gently squeezing one of his quirk balls in each hand like they were always meant to be stress balls.
It's not until the training camp in the first year of UA that he starts to question things. It's starts small with tiny whispers of jealously in the back of his head at how confidently Tora wears a dress as part of his hero costume, reminding Mineta of those long ago sleepovers. It continues further with learning that Tora's a transgender man. Mineta's first reaction isn't anything like the others voice. His first thought instead is 'Why would anyone choose to be a man?'.
He probably would have thought a lot more about it but the training camp suddenly went to hell and there were other more important things than a se- a sexu- a mental crisis to figure out.
By the time things have calmed down enough to think about it, the moment of epiphany has passed and Mineta clamps down on any thought that tries to break the status quo.
One day after training he falls asleep halfway through painting his nails. He forgets to take it off again and forgets all about it until breakfast when he keeps getting strange looks from the others. When he follows their gaze to the sparkly varnish, his heart stutters, and he shoves his hand out of sight. The air seems to vanish from the room the room and he feels like he can't breathe.
A gentle hand on his shoulder brings him back to reality. "That shade really suits you, Mineta," Ochako smiles. "I can never get mine that neat. You'll have to join us one night and show me how."
Mineta calms, nods, and hurries away. Nobody mentions it or brings it up, but the next time the girls are doing a stereotypical "girls night" in the dorm lounge, they invite him along to do nails. Then they start on the hair and makeup. When he was younger, it was so easy to let the girls around him paint his face and his eyes. Now it feels like it means something if he agrees.
"You don't don't have to if you don't want to," Mina says calmly, squeezing his hand. The whole evening the girls have let him close and not once has he tried to cross the boundaries he would usually. Partially because he's afraid of losing this again and partially because that desire seems to have heavily abated just by being around them, though not completely. He thinks his younger self wasn't completely wrong in thinking he had a crush on all the girls.
"It's not that I don't want to," he mumbles.
"It's okay if you're not ready either."
No. Mineta's not ready to name that feeling he has inside. But, as he helps braid the long and silky strands of Momo's hair, he get's the feeling that when he is that everything will be alright.