My name is Michelle Phuong Vu. I am also known as Phuong Vu to my family, Michelle Vu in my education career, and Michelle Phuong in my design pursuits. In my nineteen years of life, I have always struggled to identify myself. Worry, worry, worry. It’s all I seem to be good at. Picking and choosing the “right” decisions for me have been a large part of how I’ve navigated through my existence thus far.
Did they think what I said was weird? They’re unhappy; what did I do wrong? Am I doing enough? Who am I?
The amount of unanswered questions that go through my head is concerning. They never seem to become resolved either. As a naturally reserved, doing-their-best kind of person, I live through an inner world of sorts. In turn, I can easily and comfortably spend time alone. It maybe is not as fulfilling of a life, but it is at the least a contented one. My anxiety is mostly rooted within my socialness. I’ve slowly been coming to realize that it’s been led by my inability to believe in who I am.
“It’s a girl!”
I’m not a girl though. That title doesn’t fit quite right. Who am I? Maybe I’m a boy. Maybe I’m non-binary, or genderqueer, or genderfluid. I don’t know who I am, and neither does Google, apparently. My anxiety has followed me through many aspects of my life. There have almost never been any moments where I have been absolutely decisive about any two choices and I always get nervous about whether or not I’m making the right decision.
In the past few years of life like this, the lesson that I’ve learned is that there is no right decision, and whatever decisions have been made can always be re-resolved if desired. This is especially true when considering gender. The binary is so open and flexible in allowing those who identify within the spectrum. One day you can be non-binary. Tomorrow you could be female. There are no rules to follow or break when identifying yourself and no one from the queer community is going to judge you for it.
The most flexible gender term that I have found thus far is gender-queer, which I currently identify as. It’s the most umbrella term that I could find. It is defined as:
“denoting or relating to a person who does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions but identifies with neither, both, or a combination of male and female genders.”
I embrace my queer self wholeheartedly nowadays and have overcome the fear of looking androgenic. My hair has been cut to a mop-like length, my pants mainly come from the little boys’ section at Goodwill, and I purposely dress as boxy as I can. It took a lot of work to get here though- there were years of purposely expressing myself as feminine as possible. Conforming to the standard was my way of trying to fit in and being one of the accepted members of society.
Those who are queer can probably relate to being in the closet at some point in their lives. It’s heartbreaking to think of all the children who’ve had to present only pieces of themselves that would be rewarded in our society. I think many queer individuals can relate that there is a point where hiding yourself makes you feel as if you’re not enough. Fear builds up as you realize your loved ones might not love you any more if you were to come out. That’s the reality that many of us still have to face.
There’s no real message for this story of mine. I haven’t found the magical answer to finding and accepting yourself, and I’m not here to share it with you. This article was written because
I felt like it.
It was always helpful for me to read about other people’s experiences with gender identity. It made me feel less alone in my journey.
One day, I hope, someone will find my story comforting to them.
Gender and sexual exploration is a common theme throughout the college journey. Stay willing to explore because we, as people, are more than just a binary.