What Happens in the Heart Stays There

What Happens in the Heart Stays There

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my abuser. She was the first person I ever dated, but more and more I’m reluctant to call what we had a romantic relationship. I used to think I was in love with her. But I’m starting to think it was more of an infatuation. I was obsessed with her. With getting to know her. With being in her life.

And she took advantage of that. She used that to her advantage. She held it over my head. Even if she didn’t know what she was doing. She abused me. She refused to commit knowing I would stick around anyway. She sucked up all my emotional energy to fuel her ego. She flushed herself up on my concern and my care. And she gave me the bare minimum in return–checked in just enough to keep my energy up, touched me just enough to make me tingle. But she withheld real intimacy. She tallied up my weaknesses and methodically touched each trigger when she needed to set me off, needed to steer me a certain way. She held labels hostage. She set all the expectations knowing I had never done this before. She ridiculed my concerns, making it clear that my requests for clearer boundaries, better times, a stronger connection were unfair and selfish. She told stories of healthy relationships with the side note that those relationships were unrealistic, clingy, and gross. I kept most of my ideas for myself. I trusted her too much. I trusted that she knew where to take us. I trusted that what she said was true, that it was normal for couples to refuse to acknowledge they were together, to refrain from making long-term plans, that it was okay and healthy for her to refuse to invite me to her gatherings with her “other friends.” It was fine that we never held hands, even when we were alone.

I was not allowed to ask for more. I was not allowed to expect more. I was not allowed to feel resentment towards her restrictions. If I complained, she gaslighted me or guilted me into taking it back. I had to follow her rules. I had to stay on her track.

She could talk about the man she was in love with even while she claimed she wasn’t attracted to men. She could spend all her time with me talking about him, how perfect he was, and how much she missed him and couldn’t stop thinking about him.

If I mentioned my self harm, it was treated as trivial and unimportant. Not worth her time to discuss or try to help me. Apparently I just did it too often for her to care anymore.

I could not be weak; I had to monitor my emotions by myself and take her for her word without breaking down. I was not allowed to self-deprecate, because comforting me was just too inconvenient.

And yet I could not be strong: I couldn’t stand up for myself, I couldn’t question her, I couldn’t begin to stray away or do anything that indicated I knew I deserved better.

I had to stay exactly where she wanted me, while at the same time she berated me for not growing up, not taking care of myself, not being the person she wanted me to be.

She never said “I love you” until she was blackout drunk.

She never thanked me for staying with her the night she lost her grandmother and drank herself into a stupor.

She never apologized for making me miss the obligations I too readily gave up for her sake.

She never asked me about the scars or the lowering grades, the skipped classes, the guilt spirals, the emotional distress, the self-abuse (mental, verbal and physical).

Everything was fixed with a tight hug, a mumbled excuse, a reminder of how shitty her life was.

I clung so desperately to what little she gave me because I didn’t know anything else. I was used to being taken advantage of, abused, neglected. I was used to being consistently invalidated and mocked. My parents had been doing it to me for 20 years. When she fell into my life, it just seemed natural to let her do to me the things she wanted to do.

She never made plans; I had to deal with her last-minute texts asking me to drop everything and come to her. When it was my idea, the timing was bad, the idea was wrong, the details were illogical. When it was hers, I had no say but followed along because I thought I loved this person.

For four months I did everything she wanted, everything she asked, everything she needed, because I though that’s what I wanted, I thought, that’s what you do for the people you love.

I thought I loved her.

I never really did.

It felt like love at the time, but since then, I’ve felt what love truly is. I understand the difference now.

I was infatuated with her, obsessed with breaking down the wall she’d so viciously built up. I was sure I could get through to her when no one else could. I was intent on learning every detail of her life so I could examine and cherish it.

Since then I’ve felt real love from my friends, my chosen family, the amazing girl I dated for two and a half months, and the incredible people I’ve filled my life with since the abuse.

I thought I had no regrets. I comforted myself with the belief that everything happens for a reason.

I’m sick and tired of excusing her. I’m sick and tired of refusing to admit the regret I feel for every time I let her shove me down. I’m furious that my society had me convinced that in the long run my abuse was worth it, because everything happens for a fucking reason.

Sometimes things just happen.

And you can be angry as hell.

And that’s okay.

Because sometimes there’s no good reason for things to happen. All the lessons I leaned from my abuse, I could have learned from having loving parents and a secure support system. I could have learned it from a better social life growing up, from a few casual dating experiences I was never allowed as an adolescent. I could have learned it from so many other events.

There is no good fucking reason I had to suffer at the hands of a selfish cunt for a year and a half because society allowed me to be stupid enough to believe that I DESERVED IT AND IT HAPPENED FOR A REASON.

I want everyone to take a minute to reflect.

You don’t owe the universe anything.

Sometimes shitty things happen.

And it’s okay to be fucking angry about it.

Because there was no good reason. It just happened.

Allow yourself to feel the extent of that pain, because no matter how shitty it may feel to know you were hurt without there being a positive outcome, it’s so much better than lying to yourself and excusing the actions of your abuser to defend the idiotic idea that people getting hurt is okay.

This Summer

This Summer

This time last year I was celebrating the end of a huge milestone in my life. I’d gotten through the most difficult summer of my life so far. I still felt like crap most of the time because I was dealing with fresh wounds from my ex, an unsupportive bio family, and the emotional aftermath of saying goodbye to my summer camp family. But even with all of that I was able to look back and feel a twinge of pride that I had made it through—despite enormous lows, recurring bouts of self-hatred, chronic self-harm and a suicide attempt. Despite struggling to make connections with my kids and utilize my support system. Despite the huge changes that were coming my way. I’d made it through and could feel myself growing stronger.

Now this year the summer is once again coming to a close and once again I find myself looking back at what I’ve accomplished. I thought nothing could be worse than last summer, but this one was—somehow it found a way. Once again I was getting over a breakup, both easier because I knew I would be okay and harder because I was saying goodbye to a beautiful healthy partnership instead of an abusive one. Once again, I had recurring bouts of self-hatred and self-harm, intense lows, and difficulties connecting with my kids. But this time I had more experience with all of that and was able to work through it in a healthier way. Even so, the tangles were harder to unwind and the emotions harder to unpack. And on top of all of this, I was going through identity crises related to my gender (or lack thereof), my name, my role in life, my ultimate goals, and my relationships with the people in my life.

And this time when I tried to kill myself it was a much more serious attempt, one that would have landed me in the hospital if the bottle had had more pills in it.

This summer I was forced to distance myself from the kids that meant the world to me. I spent as much time with them as I could, but it never seemed like enough, and the pain I felt was physical when I saw my friends acting the role that should have been mine as well.

This summer I was given a new group of kids to work with, and struggled to work with volunteers who didn’t care as much and kids so needy they cried over the slightest things when I knew something much bigger was the cause.

This summer I witnessed internalized racism when working with my students of color, and heard real-life stories from all of my minority students about what it’s like to be in high school as part of a marginalized population.

This summer my heart broke when 49 of my queer siblings died at the hands of hate.

This summer my reality was changed when I saw more and more people of color brutalized by the systems that have oppressed them for centuries.

This summer I felt keenly what it’s like to be a queer person in America, from feeling thrills of pride at my local celebration to being mocked on the Internet to questioning my very existence as a non-binary human.

This summer I connected on a deep level with another animal, my soul mate, my emotional support animal, my love.

This summer I experienced crisis counseling and prevention plans when I felt the keen and terrifying option resurfacing.

This summer I became even closer to the most important person in my life as we began our journey as roommates.

This summer I helped organize programs for my school to raise awareness for the struggles faced by queer students.

This summer I spent days alone in my apartment without even a job to look forward to, cast out in a limb by the summer camp I had depended on not only for employment but as motivation for life itself.

This summer I put myself out there as I searched desperately for a job to be rewarded with a $60 check every two weeks.

This summer I was unable to earn $12 an hour for my internship because my dad messed up my financial aid.

This summer I nailed the best interview I’d ever gotten and received word that I had been hired for an amazing job working once again with underrepresented youth.

This summer I visited my sister’s family and experienced for a week what true familial bonds should feel like.

This summer I avoided contact with my family as much as possible when the only interactions we had were upsetting and toxic.

This summer I said goodbye to my brother as he left the state for the first time on his own.

This summer I panicked when I thought I saw my ex, broke down when I saw her one social media, and finally, miraculously, was able to calmly tell her off when she attempted to contact me one last time.

This summer I celebrated her announcement that she would not be returning to my school.

This summer I showed my blog to people for the first time and made the difficult decision to put myself out there as a writer under the name I wanted.

This summer, I told people what my real name is.

It’s terrifying and it’s not over yet. In many ways I’m just getting started. I have a lot to work on from here. But I’m stronger now and I realize that. I’m going to make it through.

500 characters or less

Describing my passion in text while applying for still more jobs. Justifying my passion. Trying to figure out how I stand out.

Who else from my trip still talks, a year later, to that kid from South Dakota who admitted to self harm and suicidal thoughts?

Who else noticed the red flags and drew the supervisors’ attention to the girl who otherwise may have suffered without resources?

Who else gets through to the queer kids in a way that they understand and appreciate because I accepted each part of them openly, celebrating each facet of their expression?

Who else recognizes the tiny subtle signs of mental illness, emotional abuse, low self-esteem, self loathing, in the quiet kids, the ones who are not overt “troublemakers,” but who sit on the sidelines, or interact casually, but who hold back in the tiniest of ways, in ways that most people either don’t see or choose not?

Who else sees the flaws in the entire system surrounding child rearing and fights to uproot the ideology that children are the property of caregivers, that they are a chore, that they are a challenge to be overcome?

Who else sees the massive importance in the small things they express, the tiny details of their personhood?

Hopefully everyone. Hopefully every single person that applies, that in any way interacts with a child, has all of this and more.
Hopefully I have these, as I feel I do, and hopefully they are as beneficial as I feel they are.

I’ve seen the evidence of my positive influence on the kids I work with. But it’s almost impossible to express that. Time after time potential employers seem not to believe me. For the first time since I started writing, my words are failing me.
Something like this can’t be expressed, but only shown, and in a field where I myself barely understand the impact of my work, how can I possibly show it in the fifteen minutes or 500 characters I’m allowed?

My Struggle

All the other camps I want to apply to are either full-time off campus positions (which I can’t take if I want to be a teacher for TRIO, and I want to maintain any connection to my kids that I am allowed) or already fully staffed and no longer accepting apps, or have values that are so drastically different from mine that I would not feel comfortable or safe in that environment. I know there are a lot worse things that could be happening to me right now and for the most part I am a very lucky person. But I can’t help but feel discouraged and undervalued. My kids are my life. I thought I was doing well enough that people could see that. Is it just that my methods or mentoring are so bizarre to people they can’t trust me in that role? Is going out of my way to empathize and understand those that I work with so uncalled for? Is taking time to have extra conversations with the ones that are usually ignored really that horrible? Is disagreeing with what my co-workers say and do and trying to have a constructive conversation about that an instant fail? I know I had my off days where I got short with a kid or a co-worker, but doesn’t everyone have those? Why aren’t I allowed that? Just as my self esteem was beginning to blossom I get shot down again because my philosophy on working with kids isn’t exactly the same as theirs. I’m blocked from the Pine Ridge trip because of stupid politics and someone who seemed bound and determined to bring me down by targeting the thing that was most important to me–my work with kids. I was prevented from even applying to CESA 6 and their Youth Mentor Program because my fucking anxiety won’t allow me to be a safe driver. I can’t do TRIO because of “something to do with group dynamics” and a few remarks from kids about me picking favorites when the majority of their comments were positive, saying I was nice and friendly and interesting and even logical. Logical! Do you have any idea what that means to me after years and years of being written off as an emotional nobody with nothing valuable or important to say? At least one kid out their respected the fact that I took time to explain things and went about doing things in a way that made sense to me (and them too apparently).
And now I can’t do any other summer camp that’s come my way, because I missed app deadlines because TRIO took their sweet time letting me know they didn’t want me back, or because I disagree with the mission of the camp, or because choosing that camp would force me to choose between it and maintaining what little connection I still have with the kids who I promised would see me again.
I know that I’m young. I know I’m still learning. I know I have room to improve. I know that, for the most part, I have nothing to complain about.
But I’ve only recently figured out what is most important to me. I’ve only recently begun to take action on it, get myself out there, make myself known. And I am being blocked again and again for reasons that I don’t understand or agree with.
I’m not unused to this. I grew up surrounded by people who loved to shoot me down. Who told me I could do whatever I wanted and then laughed at me whenever I did what I wanted, or showed any semblance of passion or talent.
I guess the difference now is that I’m not going to let stupid petty people get in my way. I’m going to keep fucking trying. Because I might not have the confidence to believe in myself but fuck anybody who thinks I don’t love my kids more than anything else in the world, and fuck anybody who thinks I would ever, EVER give up on them. I won’t be shot down, I won’t be shoved aside, I won’t be disregard or laughed at without fighting back. I study this shit. I know it’s hard on kids to lose a mentor figure even if all that figure was is a familiar face. Let alone a trusted friend, role model or support, which I know I was to at least some of them.
People tell me that it will all make sense some day. They say that this is all a strength test and I will come through better for it in the end. But having started with so little confidence, so little strength, and sop little support, I am constantly afraid that I may physically be unable to come through at all. Things that seem like small obstacles to other people can seem like insurmountable challenges to me, because I have so little experience to go off of. I have only recently discovered my sense of self. There’s not a lot of me that I can carry around or save when things go wrong. I’ve had to start over so many times in the past three years after doing the exact same things day in and day out for seventeen years. I don’t understand life. People terrify me. Relationships terrify me. The future terrifies me. I wonder if I am capable, emotionally, physically, to continue with anything I do. If I am capable of actually being. I let people walk over me constantly. I let people take advantage of me. I let them think I am fine, I am okay, I don’t care, go ahead, you’re more important than I am. And they believe me. I let them think it does not bother me that the things that are most important to me are taken away. That it’s okay for them to define me as something that I am not, as someone who I am not. To pass me off as unimportant. Because guess what? I believe them.
I want to keep going. I want to keep trying. I want to keep fighting. I want to say FUCK YOU to anything and everything that gets in my way. If I don’t have me kids, I feel like I won’t have anything. They are my purpose ad my life.
But I’m scared. I’m scared if I can’t. I’m scared if the day comes and I no longer want to. I’m scared if I lose my support. I’m scared if everything I believe in once again falls apart and leaves me to deal with the pieces. I know that a lot of people have gone through so much worse than I have. I feel petty and stupid even complaining about this. But I am small. I came in here with nothing to go on. I had no self concept except this image of a horrible, selfish, stupid, worthless person. A person with nowhere to go.
But now I’ve found where I want to go. I want to say that nothing can stop me now and these obstacles are just roadblocks that I can overcome. But I’m not sure. I’ve been wrong before. It’s hard for me to remember a time when I was right.

Things My Ex Taught Me

During that awkward time we tried to be friends, my ex kept telling me I’d taught her a lot in our time together and she knew she’d taught me as well. But she never specified what it was we were supposed to have learned. I came up with this list the other day when I was feeling especially vindictive. I realize a lot of my distress stemmed from the fact that I was too afraid to speak up or share my real emotions, but there was no doubt a power play in our relationship, and she absolutely had the upper hand.

Things my Ex taught me

  • It’s unnecessary and excessive to be open about a relationship
    • Ignore each other in public
    • Don’t talk about each other to others
    • Refrain from referring to each other affectionately
    • No physical contact unless we’re alone
    • No couple selfies
    • No profiles pics of the two of us
    • Because only gooey, mushy, clingy couples do things like that
  • The person with the most relationship experience has authority over the relationship
    • They get to decide what’s okay
    • They get to tell you how you should feel about things
    • If this is your first romance, you don’t know what you’re doing, so anything you think and feel is likely wrong
  • It’s okay to dwell over your ex with your new partner
    • And it’s okay to constantly compare them
  • It’s okay to hold your partner hostage emotionally by:
    • Refusing to commit to the relationship
    • Talking openly about other crushes
    • Insinuating that if your partner asks for “too much” you won’t want to date them anymore
  • It’s okay to exclude your romantic partner from your friend groups
    • All of them
  • It’s okay to deny your partner the labels they want and reject all labels rather than coming to a compromise
    • And then go around using your own label without your partner’s consent
  • It’s okay to refuse to admit you might be together for a while
    • And normal to assume that you won’t
  • It’s better to be roundabout with emotion
    • If you’re upset, don’t tell your partner—wait for them to find out and ask you about it
    • If you think your partner is upset, don’t ask them about it. Wait for them to tell you exactly what’s wrong up front
    • If you start talking about emotions stick to the theoretical and avoid the practical
  • Ignore patterns of behavior. Get hung up over the little things
  • Your partner’s concerns and fears will become unimportant if you treat them like they’re not important
  • It’s okay to simultaneously take advantage of and be irritated by your partner’s lack of experience
  • Even though you’re more experienced than your partner, and they’ve never had sex before, and they’re really self-conscious about it, don’t be the one to bring it up or open the discussion. Wait for them to make the first move.

 

I was so shocked that anyone would want to spend any amount of time with me at all, let alone even entertain the idea that she might want to spend the rest of her life with me–that when she refused to commit to me, refused to commit to a long-term relationship, said it was unrealistic for me to expect that of her–or of anyone–I believed her. I believed that no one would want to be my life partner. I believed that she was totally in the right to keep her commitment hanging over my head. Emotional blackmail. I thought it was okay. Because I loved her. And I was waiting for the day she’d say she loved me back. It was worth waking up every morning afraid today would be the day she left. It was worth the emotional tug-of-war. It was worth consistently being told that I was wrong. It was worth the pain of never knowing, only guessing. At least I thought it was. I felt lucky she was giving me anything at all. I thought it was okay. Because she said it was. And I believed her. Because I loved her.

 

Selfie Culture

People tell me I will feel better about myself if I accept the fact that I am pretty and my body has few flaws. I notice I take more “selfies” when I am feeling especially pretty or especially upset. I try to capture the moments when I feel good about myself so I can look back on them and know that they exist. A weird thing about our culture is that older generations complain when our generations post too much gloom and doom on social media, but they also complain when we post too many “selfies” or “groupies”, which for many people serve to capture the positivity that tends not to last nowadays. So we’re not allowed to be negative OR positive, essentially. We can’t point out the flaws in this world or the good things we see about ourselves and others.

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I know it can be annoying to see pretty much the same pictures of people over and over again, and it’s rough getting criticized by the older generation who says we’re attention-seekers whose happiness is dependent on how many likes we get on a given picture. I’m not going to say some people aren’t victim of that, but try thinking of it another way.

I’m not posting these pictures for you. I’m posting them for me.

I don’t care how many likes I get on my pictures because it doesn’t matter. I know who likes me, and I know who loves me, and pressing a button on a web site doesn’t change that.

I don’t care who sees my pictures, but it matters to me that I have the confidence to put them out there.

Because here’s the thing.

I already know I’m pretty.

I’ve known since I was little, and I’ve always appreciated the fact, because everyone kept telling me how pretty I was.

But it was never that important to me.

It actually got kind of annoying how hung up people got on that.

It got embarrassing. It made it seem like they thought that was the only important thing about me. How I looked.

It backfired. I started hating my face. My body. My shape. Everything about me on the outside.

I wanted people to appreciate what they couldn’t see. I wanted to be smart, to be clever, to be artistic, like my brothers were.

Because on the outside I’m perceived as a girl, the language about me changed.

It took me a while to reclaim my appearance. To remember that I’m not trying to be pretty for anyone.

Not even myself.

I’m not trying to be pretty at all.

I don’t feel like I have to be.

That’s not what’s important to me.

I post pictures of myself when I feel good about myself or especially upset, and I do it to remind myself that my ultimate goal is not the number of likes I get or how good my face looks.

My goal is to be loved and wanted for who I am inside.

And more than that, my goal is to make a positive impact wherever I go in this world.

And that has nothing to do with the way I look.

There are many reasons I still dislike the way I look but none of them are because I don’t think I’m pretty enough. I learned that about myself kind of recently. I don’t feel my current body reflects who I am on the inside, but it has little to do with societal conventions of beauty.

I already know I’m pretty. And yes, it’s nice to hear that, especially since current society’s definitions of “beauty” are so strict. My body has flaws that few people ever see, but I’m lucky that for the most part I happen to fall into this mold of “pretty.”

But that’s not important to me.

The reason I’m smiling in these pictures is because I know I’m a good person. I know that I try my hardest. I know that I’ve already started to make a positive impact. I know I have a lot to look forward to, a lot of work left to do. I have good people in my life. I have people that expect good things from me.

People tell me I will feel better about myself if I accept the fact that I am pretty. What they don’t know is that I’m past that. I’ve tried that, and at this point, for me, the “feel better” I get from thinking I’m pretty doesn’t last nearly as long, nor have nearly as much of an impact, as the feeling I get from reminding myself I have worth as a human being.

It was really hard getting to this point and I’m still struggling to stay there. I’m struggling daily to remind myself what’s important to me.

But I have moments to fall back on that help remind me. I take pictures like this to capture the light of those moments.

I don’t like everything about who I am. I don’t know many people that do, and those that do tend to be self-centered, terrified of life or boring. Knowing that I can dislike parts of myself and still like others gives me more strength than just looking in the mirror and thinking “Yeah, I’m pretty.” Being able to look at my reflection, turn away in dissatisfaction, and remind myself that actions speak louder than appearances, is what I need the most right now.

Being able to be dissatisfied with my appearance but know that it’s okay, that I have more important things to focus on, gives me more confidence than saying “I’m pretty” and believing it.

I dress up or down for myself. I opt out of makeup not because I believe it’s a scam but because I just don’t feel like wearing any. And when people tell me I should I shrug it off because that sentiment doesn’t matter to me. I might play around with it and enjoy it but right now I’m fine not putting any on in the morning.

I wear clothes that hide my shape because I happen to like loose baggy clothing. I think it’s more comfortable. And when people tell me it’s a waste of my curves I don’t pay much attention because I know what feels right to me.

And then there are days where I do feel like dressing up, I do feel like wearing skirts and leggings or fancy shirts, and when people tell me they wish I’d dress like that more often because I seem so confident, I look at them and wonder what is it about them that prevents them from seeing that same confidence when I wear my normal clothes. They may not see it but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel it.

I don’t care how I look to other people. Society tells me I should. That’s what I struggle with the most. Living in a society that tells me I have the wrong priorities, that I should care more what people say about how I look. But I don’t, really. I care what people say about my actions and my character.

I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this; it turned out a lot longer that I thought it would. But it’s my two cents for the day. I hope you got something out of it.

Who Am I?

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.