I am me.
You think it would be that simple. You’re born ready to declare yourself to the world; zero doubts about who you are and who you are meant to be.
Alas, that’s not the case for most of us. We’re born, and others try to decide who we are for us. Our parents try to mold us into their image and society tries to ensure we stay in line. The framework you are born into is supposed to fit like a glove, but it doesn’t always. It doesn’t make sense but buried deep inside yourself is a truth that’s longing to break free and you can’t explain why.
This is how I feel about most aspects of my life, but today we’re going to focus on gender. Gender identity, in general, has always perplexed me. As a child, I could not, for the life of me, wrap my head around gender roles. Girls wear skirts, boys wear pants. You’re supposed to be donned in pink and enjoy playing with barbies. I did like playing with barbies, I liked to cut off their hair and take off their heads (am I doing it right, mom?). Growing up in a Latino household, my grandmother would try to teach me to comply with the machismo culture. We are to serve the men; we cook, they work; we serve them, they need to relax after a long day; we clean, and we ask them if they need anything else. I was to be ladylike while my brothers were told to be macho and learn different ways to get what they want. For me, that wouldn’t fly. In my heart, you couldn’t tell me I was any different than my brothers. We all played tackle football, swapped clothes, when we weren’t in uniforms, and had similar interests. Why weren’t they in the house washing dishes? Why were they able to play outside every day? Well, the answer was simple, they were boys.
Like most little girls, I was called a tomboy for wanting to do what everyone else was able to do. Being a boy seemed to come with an air of freedom and I wanted that. It appeared to be in reach, but my tiny fingers could only touch the windows to the outside. In the house, we didn’t have a problem. We were always play fighting, playing basketball, or digging in the dirt. It seemed like every time we had to venture out, I had to change my clothes, brush my hair, and be a sweet little angel. Having to do all those other things I was “supposed” to be doing never felt natural. It never felt right. I was a child actor playing the part of a little girl and that wasn’t fun at all.
It didn’t hit me until the end of middle school and the beginning of high school that my peers had eyes on my gender. I was constantly being coaxed to hike up my skirt to show more leg or wear tighter pants when we were able to dress down. That was not my style at all! I was quietly angsty when I was in middle school and had discovered alternative rock music and the color black. After school, I would engross myself in music videos. In the videos, there were boys wearing eyeliner and eyeshadow, screaming their pain and I truly related to that. Girls were wearing neckties, cargo shorts, and suspenders. It was beautiful! I just wanted to mix-and-match and dabble in areas that were “meant” for the other gender. After a lot of convincing, my mom finally let me shop at Hot Topic and I fell in love. I thrived in Tripp pants, oversized shirts, and converse. Of course, it became because I was black I couldn’t dress like that, but that’s a different story.
I talked about it a little here, but high school was not the place to be fluid about your gender. Boys and girls were constantly giving me a hard time about how I presented myself. I was just being me. I wasn’t trying to be a boy. Then I made the mistake of joining Myspace in hopes to be more relatable, but that only opened me up to cyber-bullying. I was tired of being made fun of for being a nerd, a possible lesbian, and an overall loser. Instead of just sticking to my guns, I decided to try and blend in. Now that I know what gender dysphoria is, I had it. Trying to present myself as being super feminine (well at least for me) backfired. I felt unnatural, my anxiety was through to roof, and I wanted to hide. People left me alone, but I felt bad about myself. I hated every compliment and approving glance. I wasn’t being authentic, I was only being what I knew everyone else wanted to see. Here I was again, acting.
I Silently questioned my gender for years; I never felt right or comfortable. I was androgynous, but that felt more like a style than a way of life. On and off for about 5 years, I questioned if I was a transman, that would explain a lot. But, that didn’t feel completely right either. Sure, I had a lot of male aligned characteristics, but who doesn’t? What does that even mean? Why does everything have to have such a rigid categorization? I don’t find myself fitting into the man or woman category but keeping the young woman label was safe. It wasn’t 100% accurate, but it’s what I knew.
It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I heard the term “gender nonconforming”. It was like music to my ears! It was the kind of term I was looking for my whole life. I could have it all, finally! I wasn’t unique and there was solace in that. If they took the energy to create a term, that means there were other people like me out there. My heart was satisfied. I wasn’t confused, I just refused to conform with society’s expectations about gender. My soul knew this, but my brain didn’t have the language. Every time I tried to put myself in a box, every fiber of my being wanted to rebel. I didn’t have to be a girl just because I have a vijay. I could be everything and nothing! Ma’am, sir, young lady, little boy, I don’t care! My only issue was that gender nonconforming was a mouthful (get it!). I didn’t verbally say it frequently. Saying ‘GNC’ reminded me of vitamins and supplements, so I didn’t say that either. I didn’t have to fret long because like a spring flower, the term non-binary blossomed and I was all for it. My dilemma with gender identification was over.
Society’s grip on gender, unfortunately, is not over; that’s still a dilemma. With so many gender-variant individuals, maintaining the construct of a gender binary is ridiculous. Yet here we are, our siblings are being stifled and murdered because folks are unwilling to open their minds and change their ways. If seeing someone be true to themselves makes you that angry, you need to search deep inside yourself. People are people, we’re not constructs.
I love being me! It’s taken some real soul searching, but I am finally at peace with myself. I am non-binary, I am comfortable with any pronouns, but I keep it simple with she/they, and I love it! I know I don’t have to put a label on myself, but it feels validating to know one exists.
I want you to be comfortable with yourself too. I am in your corner no matter what you deserve happiness, validation, and respect!