I am a gender fluid person. My preferred pronouns are they/them.
This is difficult for me to say publicly. I’ve been trying to find the right time and the right words for over a year now.
Most of my life, I’ve known deep down that I didn’t fit into the traditional male gender role or expectations, even if I didn’t understand what that meant. I was often insulted, ridiculed, or harassed on a regular basis for being myself. I learned through trial by error how to “blend in”, and suppressed other emotions or behaviors for fear of how I would be perceived by everyone else. There wasn’t a lot of introspection involved–just reactions to external judgement. Without the vast array of media that’s now become available to everyone these days, I don’t know that I could have fully understood who I was even if I’d tried. I just didn’t have the conceptual framework or cognitive tools necessary to unpack notions of gender roles, let alone to analyze how they affected me or my own position within them.
But now I do, and I’ve become more aware of who I’ve been all along. The past few years have been a slow awakening and acknowledgement of how I feel and what truly makes me feel happy. It’s complicated, and I don’t claim to have a full definition of who I am, but I like to believe it includes some combination of courage, femininity, intelligence, empathy, and emotional strength. I’ve started to embrace this in what I wear and how I express myself as a person. I’ve bought and worn more “women’s” clothes, shoes, and accessories in the past two years than traditional “masculine” items, and it’s been absolutely liberating. Some of my closest coworkers, friends, and family have seen a small number of these over the past couple years, but I suspect most have not realized what they were seeing, because they only see what I’ve been willing–or felt safe enough–to share with the rest of the world.
I live in daily fear that expressing my true self in public may result in uncomfortable, dangerous, or even deadly consequences. Transgender, non-binary, and queer people face incredible risk in our society, just trying to live as who we are. As we become more visible in society, the number of hate crimes being committed against us is increasing. Even in progressive areas, I’ve witnessed name calling and harassment of queer people by bigots who thrive on intimidation and violence. This is absolutely unacceptable in our society, but it “works”; fear is an effective tactic. I’ve refused to wear overtly feminine clothes in public, because no matter how many allies I have in this world, it only takes one asshole to ruin–or end–my life, and I can’t know who they are until it’s too late.
Coming out here won’t change that. I already expect to see harassment–or at least be treated differently–by those who read this. I’m prepared to delete comments, and block people online or in real life, that refuse to accept me for who I am. Being visibly queer will most likely carry a stigma and risk for the rest of my life, but maybe it will also let me be more comfortable around those that do accept me, and that alone will be worth it to me. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel safe being myself in public, but I’m fortunate to now have a full-time remote position at one of the most diverse and accepting companies I’ve ever seen, increasing the time I can spend with my best friend, being the person I’ve always been. Over time, I’m sure that how I express myself will change and adapt as I learn more about myself and what makes me happy. I hope that some day I can feel safe enough to share more of my authentic self in public as well.
I’m truly thankful to have an amazing best friend, wife, and soul mate in Angela, who truly accepts and embraces me for who I am. She is, and always will be, the love of my life. At every step of this journey, she has been my rock and my guiding star, and I will never be able to express just how much it means to have her support.
I would also like to thank my friends, coworkers, and every other visible queer person I know that took these steps before me, so that I can more easily understand who I am and who I want to be.