Last year, in the throws of my identity crisis (Part I), my therapist told me it was possible to find stability in fluidity. I didn’t believe her one bit. I’m a person who appreciates stillness in every sense. Too much activity in one moment makes me panic; too much change has the same effect. My therapist may have been right about some people, but I only knew how to find stability in stability.
Enter identity crisis (Part II). I came out as gay five years ago – though it seems like an eternity – and came out publicly as a genderqueer just a few weeks ago. The responses I received after my most recent coming out were nothing but supportive and encouraging and I am thankful for the incredible people who have come into my life over the past several years.
However, shortly after I blasted the gender announcement on Facebook, I found myself re-questioning things. I’m still comfortable with the non-binary identity, but I realized that despite years of forethought, I wasn’t 100% sure of anything.
Simultaneously, I began questioning my sexuality. Suddenly, I was back in the same place I’d been mid-high school when I began making sense of things. I’m so comfortable with identifying as “gay.” The identity has become such an integral part of myself that it feels unnatural to imagine being otherwise. Though I am still absolutely attracted to women (cis and trans), I have also had feelings for trans men and non-binary folks. I shuddered at the idea of coming out…as not completely gay.
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how I identify in either regard. Gay works, but it doesn’t tell the entire story. Bi? No. Straight? Nope. Pan? Maybe. Queer? Absolutely.
As I grappled with the idea of entering the re-identification process, I received a photo from an amazing human. The photo featured a sign perched among some rocks and sand before a beach in Puerto Rico. The sign read “Embrace Impermanence.” Sometimes, God sends the perfect messages right when we need them most.
“Embrace Impermanence” has been my mantra for the past couple of weeks. I made it the lock screen on my phone so I see it countless times every day.
Of course, embracing impermanence (something I generally don’t enjoy) has been a struggle. I’ve made an effort not to be quick to assign labels to my identities or anything else, but even that is difficult as I love attaching words to things. A huge part of my obsession with labels stems from the idea of building community with people who identify similarly. If you don’t have a specific word to call yourself, it’s hard to find others who share your experience. As a person who lacks parental support of my identities, the community building piece is huge.
On the other hand, letting go of labels has allowed me to examine identity from an entirely different side of the lens. Rather than calling myself gay and trying to make myself fit that mold (not that there should be a mold in the first place, but society), I’ve been able to analyze my experience in fragments and decide what it means from there. This goes for everything from identity to emotions. Instead of focusing on the name, I observe physical sensations and thoughts as they pass through and make a mental note. Nothing more, nothing less.
That being said, I’m far from perfect at doing all of this. I often make observations and immediately try to label them, but that’s okay; at the very least, I’m more aware of this tendency.
With the effort not to label myself, I’ve realized that things have changed since I first came out so long ago; I’ve had countless opportunities to form a clearer picture of who I am and bits of that have changed with time. This is also okay. So many parts of ourselves evolve with us, so why shouldn’t sexuality and gender identity?
I have some hesitations in writing this post: I’m scared of doing a disservice to the LGBTQ+ community by depicting queer and trans identities as phases or by diminishing the reality that some people’s identities are truly very static. It’s important to mention that I do not speak for the entirety of the community and am only sharing my personal experience. However, I want to stress that such an experience is valid.
Impermanence can be difficult for anyone under a plethora of circumstances (changing jobs, moving, turning a year older), but it’s a very real component of being human. I have many more thoughts, so look for a follow-up post to appear in the near future. Until then, I’ll be working to wrap my arms around the seemingly un-huggable thing that is impermanence. I’m becoming more comfortable with it already.