Growing up in Richfield right outside Minneapolis, I was exposed to many types of personalities, sexual orientations, and gender identities. This gave me the confidence to understand more about myself and my identity. However, that is a difficult journey to partake in when you’re shy, don’t have many friends, and want to go through life being a shadow.
During my time in high school, I struggled with my identity and how I wanted to present myself. I went to a suburban high school full of diversity, but that same high school made me afraid to express who I really was. In every classroom, there was a gay rights sign. That gave me hope. That small sign in classrooms showed me who I could freely talk to about my own gender identity. Did I ever actually discuss it? Absolutely not. I would rather hide under a bed. It did however give me an invisible rope to that individually showed I was allowed to come forward whenever I’m ready.
Now, let’s take a step back to when I was a child. Between the ages of 2-8 I was in love with the color pink and all things deemed “girly” by an elementary standard. I loved princesses, dance, Barbie, pink, purple – you name it. But, there was a shift when I turned nine. I don’t remember what exactly caused this change or when it exactly happened, but I suddenly hated the color pink. I transitioned from pink to black, pop to screamo, and I became the “outcast” kid. I remember kids in school would joke about me behind my back, to my face, and call me maybe not so nice names, thankfully I don’t remember them clearly. At the time, I had no idea my identity was changing. I thought I was some weird kid that no one wanted to hangout with. I went through middle school and high school with that mentality. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was so scared and lost that I forgot who I was entirely. I ended up wearing grey and navy blue everyday just to blend in and not draw any attention to myself.
Something changed when I entered college. I met more people that encouraged me to express who I really was. Those people, specifically my friend Rose, gave me room to truly discover who I was as a person. At first, I simply thought I was struggling with my sexual orientation. Wrong. I began taking all of these quizzes, watching videos, TedTalks, etc. to figure out what I was missing in my life. I found it.
I wasn’t missing anything. I simply had locked away my identity so far away that I forgot more identities existed than male, female, and non-binary. This was the moment the world was hit face first with a pandemic. While my friends struggled with being kept from their friends and social situations, I was so grateful for this time to be completely alone to figure myself out. I began researching various gender identities and tested out different pronouns to see what felt comfortable. When I finally discovered what being genderfluid meant, it felt as though these large pearly gates opened up. But, I didn’t tell anyone. I was incredibly discreet about it at first with changing my name on Snapchat, Instagram, and my email signature. Then I changed my pronouns on every platform I could. Did anyone pay attention? I don’t know, and I honestly don’t care. I didn’t feel as though I needed to tell people unless they asked.
Let’s go back to the subject of college. Mankato, Minnesota is located in rural Minnesota. I absolutely love it here and wouldn’t trade it for the world. However, trying to explain to people that I don’t identify as one specific gender is a really scary thing to do when you’re out of your element. Me being afraid to tell someone about such a personal aspect of myself made me feel as though I was trying to dismiss my own gender identity. In a way I was. I never told anyone even if they asked, I avoided the topic at all times, and at one point, removed my pronouns from everything when we were able to return to school. The thing that scared me most is the fact that how someone would react was out of my control. I couldn’t make that person understand and refer to me by my preferred pronouns. I was too scared to correct people when they used the wrong pronouns. I was terrified. I had to go through the entire journey of being comfortable with who I am when we all returned to school. It was a rather bumpy ride.
Aside from everything that held me down and kept me hidden away, I would not change my gender identity journey in any way. The biggest lesson everything has taught me is that at the end of the day, I’m me and nothing can or will change that. I was never not genderfluid. I was simply too young and too scared to embrace who I really was. I still get a little nervous when asked about my pronouns or how I identify, but progress is still progress. Despite living somewhere away from my comfort zone, being in a new city and surrounded by new people has allowed me to fully embrace who I really am.