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Wellness

An Open Letter to My Gender

I think in a lot of ways I’ve known I wasn’t cis-gender for a while. When someone is cis-gender, it means they identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. For me, that definition never really fit. I never really liked being called a girl, but I didn’t have the word to describe how I felt. I often dressed like a “boy” as a kid, but I wasn’t really a boy either. The older I got, the more I wrote these feelings off as something most women must feel. However, this wasn’t the case.

It’s normal to question your gender and sexuality; healthy, even. By the time I reached high school, I was pretty sure I wasn’t straight, but at that point, I had shoved the question of gender deep down. It wasn’t something I wanted to think about because it has always confused me so much. I found myself consistently saying “other people, but not me,” when friends would come out as non-binary or transgender. Truthfully, I probably didn’t fully understand what these terms meant. If I had, maybe I would have come out sooner.

Nonbinary is loosely defined as “being a person who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that is neither entirely male nor entirely female.” For different people, that can mean different things, and gender doesn’t necessarily correlate with someone’s appearance. That last part always confused me; I like wearing dresses sometimes and doing things that are seen as feminine, but that doesn’t invalidate the other feelings I have about my gender.  

The pandemic has given me, and everyone else, a lot of time to think. What else is there to do when you’re in yet another two-week quarantine? I found myself scrolling through Tiktok a lot, and I kept getting Tiktoks talking about what it meant to be nonbinary. For so long, I had thought of nonbinary and androgynous as the same thing. However, all of a sudden, these nonbinary content creators were all over my “for you page” breaking up these stereotypes and redefining how I saw gender. This led me down rabbit holes of YouTube videos and articles about gender and gender expression. After a couple of months and a few conversations with friends and my therapist, it started to become really clear to me; I wasn’t cis-gender. I was nonbinary.

And for a while, I kept this to myself. Coming out is hard in any context, but I felt like I had built this image up of myself as a strong, feminist woman, and I was nervous about how my loved ones would react. I’m still not out to most of my family members, but I think after several months I’m more comfortable with this new image of myself. It’s more comfortable, and in a lot of ways, I feel more like “me” than I ever have. Still, there’s a sense of nervousness about being seen for who I am: a bisexual, nonbinary person.

Of course, there’s still a lot of confusion for me. Right now, I use she/they pronouns, but sometimes I wonder if I’d rather use they/them. I haven’t changed my first name, but sometimes I wonder if I’d want to. And even though being nonbinary doesn’t mean being androgynous, I’m ever curious about presenting as a little less feminine sometimes.

There’s still a lot of questions for me, and I can tell that every question won’t be answered as quickly as they come to me. For me, being nonbinary means existing off of the traditional gender binary, in a space that is neither female nor male. Some days, it can be difficult to dress more feminine, and other days it feels perfectly fine. I’m still finding my balance and my expression, and that’s okay. This process is long, but it’s worthwhile. Gender is a funny thing, and I don’t expect to figure it all out during the span of the pandemic.

I would encourage everyone, no matter how cis-gender you think you are, to explore your gender and challenge the ways you think about gender and sexuality. It helps you know yourself better, and I think you’ll always come out better for it.

For more information on gender and gender expression, check out the following links:

https://www.hrc.org/resources

https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/

Sarah is a sophomore at Pitt majoring in English and political science with a minor in film. She is originally from Center Valley, Pennsylvania. In her free time, she enjoys playing with her pets, reading, and going hiking. Sarah is interested in pursuing a cottage core dream in the future.
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