Check the box (PRIDE) - Tracy Wang (png file)

Boy or girl?

I can confidently say I’ve never been able to answer this question and feel 100 per cent comfortable with my answer. Something always felt off, like when you realize the clothes you are wearing are a size too small, but I pushed it to the back of my mind. I always told myself that every kid feels confused about who they are at some point in their life, or that they feel that they don’t fit into any box when everyone else’s check mark is perfectly placed.

There was nobody that I knew that felt the same way that I did. Everyone was okay to be put into these boxes and could confidently say "yes" when they were asked what they liked to wear, what their gender is and other unnecessary questions that nine-year-olds certainly did not have to answer. I felt really trapped, scared, alone and I just wanted to be like everybody else. Why did I say “I don’t know” every time I was asked to put myself in a box?

When I was 15, my friend Matt came out as trans. He said that he always felt like he was being put in the wrong box, when he needed to be put in the other. He told me about his dysphoria and how it would be so bad that he would hurt himself and not leave his house for days. He told me about how he wanted to cut his hair short and wear boys' clothes, and he did. After he came out, I could see the weight being lifted off of his shoulders, I could see his scars fading and I could see that he was finally who he was meant to be. That was the first time I had ever heard the word “transgender.”

When Matt was telling me about his experiences with discomfort in his box, I told him about mine. How I constantly felt out of place, how I didn’t feel like I fit, how I didn’t want to be called by my name, how I didn’t want to wear certain clothes, how I longed to have short hair, how I wanted to wear the craziest combinations of things so that people didn’t know what box to put me in. He listened to me and told me about a word: non-binary, to be exact.

Non-binary is an umbrella term to describe a transgender individual who does not identify with the binary genders of male and female — somebody who exists outside the boxes. That is who I am.

Suddenly it clicked. “Yes,” I told Matt, “that’s how I feel.” I graduated eighth grade and chopped off all of my hair and started to recognize myself in the mirror a bit more. I wore weird clothes and bright colours because I could. I kept pushing myself to try new things as I got older, to use my gender as a creative outlook that confuses people, making them question the binary. I shaved my head, I got a piercing, I got a tattoo, I changed my name and I changed my pronouns. I did anything that I could to make myself feel more me, and before I knew it, I finally knew the person staring back at me in the mirror.

Non-binary for me represents the freedom I have to be myself. I can be as creative as I want and I don’t have to exist on strictly masculine or feminine planes. Coming out as non-binary taught me a lot about myself. It taught me that the shorter my hair was, the better I felt. It taught me that the reason I put so much pressure on myself is because I tried my whole life to fit in when I feel like I didn’t. It taught me about how fluid my sexuality is. It taught me more about fashion and expression. It taught me how to communicate to others about what I need or what I am feeling. It taught me to not put others in a box and that not fitting in is actually pretty cool.

People didn’t really understand me, and they still don’t, but that doesn’t matter because I finally found the language to describe myself. And for somebody who hadn’t fit in a box their entire life, it feels really fucking nice to have one to put myself in.

Mattie Cliche, first-year sociology

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