I don’t think I’m ever going to be secure in my identity. Every day I encounter a situation, a person, a comment, an emotion, or an expression that makes me question how I present my gender. For almost a year now I have known that I am neither male nor female but some interesting thing in between. Some days I feel masculine or feminine but for the most part I feel comfortable outside of these expressions. But it is a struggle every day knowing that this is not the norm. It is a struggle every day fighting against ignorance and assumptions; attending large events and being left out when the speaker addresses “ladies and gentlemen” or speaks to “our young men and women.” This binary distinction leaves me and others like me out of the discussion. It is a struggle every day dealing with friends and family who tell me I “would be more comfortable” if I “embraced my femininity.” No, I would be more comfortable if people like you would accept me for who I am.
I’m terrified of telling people I want a different name and pronouns. I have been asked multiple times by some awesome people what my pronouns actually are and each time, though I usually tell them I’m “fine” with the pronouns assigned to me at birth, I feel a little more safe knowing that there are people out there who will switch without a problem if I ask them to start using they/them instead. But unfortunately these times are outweighed by the number of times someone reads my “Ask Me About My Pronouns” button and laughs because they think it’s an “English Major joke” or get uncomfortable when I tell them what it really means.
Like, why should my identity affect anyone else at all?
But then who am I kidding: a huge part of why I’m still hiding part of my identity is because I’m afraid no one will ever be comfortable enough with who I really am to spend the rest of their life with me, or even date me at all. How will they be able to explain me to their friends and family? How will they feel about themselves dating someone who doesn’t have a gender? How will they deal with my fluctuations in gender expression, my panic attacks when I feel like I’ll never truly be accepted in this society, my insecurities, inconsistencies, eccentricities, and emotions?
And do they even have to be a romantic partner to feel uncomfortable? What if my friends reject the real me, too?
It’s only been a year, but it’s been one of the longest years of my life and there are (thankfully) many yet to come. I’m powering through what I can and leaving be what I can’t, and I’ve learned to rely on my friends as best I can. I have support, and I have some privileges, and I have the security to know that, right now at least, I am relatively safe. I could be myself if I want to.
I don’t know what will happen. Maybe I’ll come out to everyone tomorrow; maybe I’ll wait for years. I’m almost positive I won’t be able to tell my parents until I have no obligations to visit them anymore. Most of my supervisors already know. I’m hoping to go into this summer at camp with everyone knowing as well. But telling them will be terrifying. I love my summer camp so much it would be awful to be turned away, but I love it so much I feel like I can’t go back hiding my true self from my kids.
I still have time but what comfort is that knowing I will go back to work and class on Monday hearing people use the wrong pronouns because I’m too afraid to tell them otherwise, and dealing with stupid remarks from classmates who just don’t get it? I hate feeling like the only one who knows anything about being non-binary and the only one who bothers to speak up about it. I hate having to hide myself when everyone tells me I should be authentic. I hate living in a world where what you say, what you do, how you act, and what you feel is restricted based off parts of your body you have no control over. I hate how almost everything and everyone who is the least bit “different” is seen as some kind of threat.
In some ways it would be easier to keep hiding. But I also know that hiding is exhausting. Is it more exhausting than constantly fighting to defend and validate my identity? I don’t know. But I will never know until I try. And I’d rather die knowing I tried and failed (but hopefully won) than die wondering what life would have been like living it as myself.