I’ve told some people. The words roll off my tongue a little easier each time: “Gender non-conforming/non-binary/genderqueer/trans.” They used to stick in my throat, like the lump that forms before crying, and I would swallow them back down with a nervous gulp.
During my elementary school years, it occurred to me that I was not a girl. Without the vocabulary to describe what I felt, I told myself that my brain was divided with one side being “girl” brain and the other “boy” brain. Sometimes, one side was dominant over the other; sometimes, they shared the dominance, working in harmony or clashing in conflict.
I didn’t learn the word transgender until several years later and even then, it didn’t resonate with me. For a long time, I understood trans to mean people who identified either as male or as female and transitioned accordingly. By that definition, I was not trans.
My first-year-of-college identity crisis led me to discover the trans identities that fell outside my binary definition. It was exhilarating and terrifying. I had words to say who I was, but I didn’t want to use them. Coming out as lesbian had been a tumultuous experience in itself and I wasn’t ready to revisit the process.
My gender exploration
breakdown journey led straight to the concept of gender pronouns. I hadn’t thought about pronouns since 8th grade English class, but they began to my mind on the daily. “She” felt right – mainly because I’d never been called anything else – but I may have confused right with comfortable.
In the summer of 2016, I started binding my chest. Binding allowed me to present myself in a way that better aligned with what I felt. Seeing myself in that light sparked another pronoun revolution. I’d mentally narrate my life in the third person, experimenting with “she,” “he,” and “they.” I wasn’t a he.
If you follow me on Snapchat, you know I just spent the past two weeks at grad school interviews. Since I wore my usual fancy getup – necktie, mens shirt, size 6.5 mens dress shoes, hair in a bun – I definitely didn’t exude straight cis lady vibes.
During and after interviews, people generally referred to me using “they” pronouns and I liked it. There were no problems with being called “she.” For me – at the stage I am in my identity development – “she” isn’t misgendering or invalidating…though that certainly isn’t the case for all trans people. “They” happens to work equally well.
I’m attracted to people whose gender matches the one I was assigned at birth (mostly women) and given my anatomy (I haven’t pursued medical transition), I continue to identify as gay. I prefer the word gay to lesbian because lesbian denotes a woman attracted to other women, but it’s not the end of the world if someone uses the wrong term.
Queer works, too.
Yep. Someone told me that. Over Yik Yak (shocker). I tried to defend my university’s newly established gender neutral restrooms and revealed my gender identity in the process. The comment hurt, but I moved on. Still, that message – along with loads of other not-so-friendly replies – is why I remained hesitant to open up about my gender at school.
A few close friends know how I identify, but beyond that, it’s not something I share often.
In light of recent events (ehm, bathrooms), I’m choosing to own my identity. I’m choosing to own the process and the uncertainty and the days when I have doubts and wonder if coming out was the right thing to do.
It’s scary, but I do have a lot of privilege in that I feel comfortable using women’s restrooms because of my appearance and am not afraid of encountering hate or violence there, so the bathroom stuff doesn’t really affect me. Given my current positions and the ones I will hold down the road as a Student Affairs professional, I feel compelled to be visible and to put a face to a label that shoulders a lot of hate.
This is what trans looks like.