Letters to My Gender

Living in between is exhausting; I always have to validate my existence to others, for many of them to still refuse to hear me out. For my family to tell me to settle for “she/her” pronouns, so it’s not “too confusing.” For those who are not willing to understand that reply with “there are only two genders,” with the intent being to undermine my existence (and my area of study). It hurts to be referred to as “ma’am” by strangers who aren’t intending to invalidate me. However, it hurts that no matter how androgynously I present, “ma’am” will always be the assumption.

 It hurts that I need to be misgendered on any state form of identification. It hurts that some family members think it is “so radical” that some paperwork we were filling out had the option of “gender-nonconforming.” So radical? To acknowledge that my existence is real? To me, that’s the bare minimum.

It hurts that I can’t be myself in my family; that I may forever be referred to as “she” at every family gathering, while they’re unaware of how much it hurts that they can’t know how I really feel. 

It hurts that some people that DO know refer to me as “non-binary” and “she” in the same breath. It hurts that as an athlete, my coach admitted to their inability to be “politically correct” in using they/them pronouns. WHY does my existence have to be considered “political?” 

I’m sick of being scared to tell the people in my life that don’t know… fearing that I’ll lose them. I’m scared that as a professional, I won’t be taken seriously. If the society I live in can’t take me seriously, what does that mean for my professional life?

I hate that I can only be myself “sometimes.” It won’t always feel right; sometimes, I’m forced to settle for being seen as a girl, and that’s my current reality. It feels so disempowering that I’m not yet comfortable with sticking up for myself in these situations… even with those who would understand. 

However, I’m thankful that I am who I am, and for those that actively do validate these parts of me.  I’m thankful for my influences that have helped me come to my understanding of myself and have helped me come to my voice. I’m thankful for my friends that don’t treat me differently. I’m thankful for my friends that educate their families and people around them, even though they themselves may not be non-binary. I’m thankful for my friends that have adapted to my transition without questioning its validity. I’m thankful for my therapist, who, before I even mentioned my gender identity told me that she has always seen me as non-binary. She may not have known it, but that was the validation I needed. I’m thankful for those who don’t understand much about what it means to be non-binary but are always willing to listen and learn. I’m thankful for those that ask me what I’m comfortable with being referred to as. I’m thankful for my partner, who has been there with me along my journey with gender.  I’m thankful for the work of Alok Vaid-Menon, which put things into words that I couldn’t yet. 

I’m thankful for all of the experiences, people, love, and learning that has brought me to myself. The journey to my gender identity is full of ups and downs, but I have found my personal path to belonging and happiness. I’m so thankful for that.