Like most people, my journey to self-understanding was a long one. Unlike most people with journeys like mine, I didn’t spend my entire life knowing I was different. A little backstory: I was raised by people from religious families, people whose beliefs revolved around heteronormativity and gender roles. I played with dolls as a child. My brother played with cars and action figures. Pink was for girls. Blue was for boys. I “played along”, as a young child with limited understanding of the world. Whatever my parents said, went. I didn’t question, my mom and dad were always so strict when I was younger, always so condescending and manipulative. I knew better than to get on their bad sides.
I’ve had anxiety as long as I can remember. I’ve always blamed it on my parents’ name calling, the shouting matches they’d have at me through my door. As a preteen and a teenager, my mother was always adamant I could tell her anything, and she loved me unconditionally. After awhile I realised that was a lie. She loves me, sure, but only the parts of me she knows. I only show her the parts she’d like. When I got older and began to talk to her about things, our conversations almost always ended in lectures, or yelling, I was always the scapegoat. Eventually I stopped talking to her about anything personal at all. She still wondered why.
I was a tomboy as a kid – or at least, that’s what I chalked it down to. Ever since I was a young kid, I’d wear clothes that were stereotypically boyish. I remember my mother asking why I’d never wear a dress, and me explaining I didn’t like how girly they made me feel. I never wore makeup as a teenager. I never dressed up. I’m just a tomboy, I’d say to myself and to everybody else, and for years none of us questioned it. Living with my parents was hard, I could never really expres myself in the ways I wanted to, I could never really experiment with hairstyles and fashion. I was a straight, cis-gender girl for more than twenty years of my life.
I remember asking my mother, about ten or so years ago, what she would do if I were a lesbian. I remember her looking at me, making a face, and saying she would take me to a psychiatrist. I remember my father hearing that the lead actor in his favourite show was gay, and promptly refusing to continue watching it. I think, in those days, I was so conditioned to heteronormativity and so deeply terrified of my parents that I managed to fool even myself for years. I’d get crushes on girls at school, and I’d convince myself they were only platonic crushes, and that’s how it was for most of my life. It wasn’t attraction, I didn’t even consider that it could be, this is how every girl feels when they want to be friends with another girl. Thinking about it now makes the whole thing sound ridiculous. I suppose after long enough, lying to yourself becomes second nature.
Ever since I was old enough to know what attraction was, I’d find myself drawn to the women in movies, books, television shows. I liked them because they were ‘pretty’, or because I ‘wanted to be friends with them’. There were even times I’d wish I were a boy, so I could date a pretty woman I saw. I knew lots of queer people growing up: my cousins, my friends. Fun fact: two of my best (girl) friends, who are now married and trying for kids, had only just begun dating when I befriended them in middle school.
In college, I cut off all my hair, and left the sides of my head shaved. I still lived with my parents at the time. I remember coming home and my father instantly commenting, the same judgemental way he would when I wore fitted clothing, or didn’t shave my legs. It was scary for me, I’d had long hair my whole life, and in an instant all of that was gone. It was an incredible feeling. I’d leave my hair uncombed and dress in hoodies and jeans from the men’s section of stores. I felt like myself. I came out as transmasc to my closest friends, and I began to experiment with new names. I’ve changed my name a lot over the years. Avery, Emory, Jack, Finn, Danny, it took awhile before I found one I felt comfortable with.
When I was twenty three, I moved out of my parents’ home. I had a three year old and I’d grown tired of the harassment and my mother trying to over-parent me. I lived in a basement suite with my son for a year, and the freedom was liberating. I’ve kept my hair short through the years, always shaved on the sides; eventually, my parents stopped hassling me about it. Something was missing, though. I was identifying as male, but still I didn’t feel satisfied a lot of the time. Was that normal? I had crushes on girls all through college, and I told myself the same shit: it’s just a friend crush. Only what if it wasn’t?
The feelings I had became very conflicting. It was hard to determine whether I was drawn to women because I was attracted to them, or because I wanted to look like them. My gender usually stays the same for quite a long time. When I started feeling the urge to put on dresses and grow my hair back out, I was confused. I’d spent all this time identifying as male, and I’d been so happy doing it, and now I wasn’t. It made no sense. I thought it was a phase, maybe, I’d just been experimenting, but I think deep down I knew that wasn’t it. I had some identity crises. I talked to a lot of friends. In my later years of college, it finally clicked. I’m attracted to women, and men, and everyone in between. I’m not a girl, or a boy, but sometimes I’m both.
My whole life, I’ve only dated men. There’s a huge part of me that feels like I’m missing out, or that I’m not worthy of calling myself LGBTQ+ if I’ve never been in a same-sex relationship. I guess I’m too afraid, of my family, of strangers, of judgement. I guess I need to learn to devour that fear before I can really be true to myself. I feel regret for never having done more exploring into my same-sex attraction. I feel like an outsider, sometimes, like I’m posing for attention or whatever else. It sounds silly. There’s a pressure to conform; I’ve always been terrified of not being liked by people. I’m not out to my family. I’m still far too anxious of even the thought of bringing it up. It’s challenging, sometimes. I’m afraid of what people will think of me. I’m afraid of offending somebody. In today’s day and age, it’s impossible not to.
When I was younger, I resented my parents. I resented them for the way they raised me, for the stress and anxiety they’ve caused me. I’ve forgiven them, now, but it’s a shame, all that time I wasted being afraid of them. We’re on better terms these days, although I still wouldn’t say my relationship with my parents is “great”. It’s decent. It’s frustrating. They are stuck in their beliefs, and I am stuck in mine. I don’t really need them as part of my support group: I’ve got wonderful friends, and I’ve got a partner who accepts me just the way I am. I’ve learned there’s no use trying to change people who don’t see a problem with their ways. I’ve learned you won’t always be liked or accepted, and I’m still coming to terms with that, but I like and accept myself now, at least, and that’s something.
I just want to take this one last moment to say that it doesn’t matter what you look like or how you were born. What matters is how you feel on the inside, and you should pursue that, despite what people think. It’s easier said than done, I know that. It’s hard to be yourself in a world that’s always trying to make you into somebody else. I wish you took more pride in how you looked, my mother would say, I want my daughter to dress up. (News flash, mom, I’m not your daughter, not all the time, anyway). It’s hard to explain to people who aren’t willing to understand. Your identity is yours, not anyone else’s. Your sexuality is not a phase, or a gimmick for attention, or a disgrace. You’re valid.
That’s all I wanted to say for today. Stay true, everybody.