Since I was about eleven, I’ve thought about gender and what it meant to me. I vividly remember thinking - what does being female feel like? That’s still something I think about a lot, whether I choose to or as a general thought that crosses my mind. What’s it like to feel completely set in your sex? To feel as if, without any doubt, that it’s you? That it’s who you’re supposed to be? With more and more pressure to know exactly who you are by the time you leave your teen years, it gets stressful. More so than it needs to be. Finding yourself takes time t, and it’s never too late to really figure it out. What's most important is that you’re happy and healthy.
When I was fifteen, I started to realise that I’m not cisgender. In a panic, I suppressed that. I ignored it and that’s probably made the situation worse. I can definitely say that putting it off doesn’t help. Neither does just ignoring it. If anything, it makes it worse. It definitely made it harder for seventeen year old me to grapple. Throughout those two years where I ignored these thoughts and feelings, I would go back and think that I was cis, and despite everything, I still do. I still question it, but I know that my heart isn’t in it. It’s more something I wanted to be rather than accept how I really feel.
During lockdown, I’ve had a lot more free time to think about these things, and as amazing as that’s been, it was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. Though I can now say I’ve figured out my sexuality, my gender is another story. No matter how much I think about it, no matter how many times I send myself into a breakdown over it, I can’t figure it out. I can’t label it, and I don’t know if that’s something genuine or if I’m inadvertently stopping myself from labelling it. Something I will always say is that you don’t need labels, as long as you’re happy then that’s okay, but when it comes to myself? Not knowing makes it harder. Overthinking it is a massive problem for me, one that I don’t know how to overcome. It’s as if I’m scared that gender comes with a rule book and if I don’t fit into that rule book then it’s wrong. I don’t know if that’s me being paranoid about societal standards, because society’s expectations of non-binary people are just androgynous, and half the time that’s not me. Society’s expectations made it so much harder, but seeing my friends come out as gender non-conforming and being femme or masculine helped a lot more than I think anyone realises. Even now, even when I’m vaguely confident in my gender identity, I still question it. I don’t think I’ll ever stop. Even though I’m pretty sure I’m non-binary, I think my mind will always question that, no matter what my heart says.
As much as I want to say that questioning was the hardest part, coming out isn’t any easier. The truth is, I’m only out in TWE and to my closest friends. In September of this year, I went through my social media and changed my pronouns to she/they, just as a slow transition. I stopped referring to myself with the feminine words such as daughter, woman, and replaced them with child, person, things like that. It was slow, but it felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. On my first day of uni, we were asked to share pronouns and I said she/they, the first time I’ve ever said that out loud, and as scared as I was, I’m so glad I did it. I remember getting a few messages asking about preferences, and the fact that people cared enough to ask made me pretty happy.
One person in particular keeps referring to me with they/them pronouns. Any time we’re together, she does that. I didn’t realise how happy that would make me. I don’t think she realises just how much it means to me either . We’ve had the pronoun chat and I’ve always said I have no preference because I was scared to say anything, but it’s as if she knows. My flatmate referred to me with they/them pronouns the other day, and that was different. I’ve known him for two years and hearing him say that when I never thought he’d ever accept me was incredible.
Now it’s December. We’re about two weeks away from Christmas and I’ve almost finished my first term. Even through this, I’m not fully confident in my gender. It’s a long process and as I’ve said, I know I’ll probably keep questioning it for a while. No one back home really knows my pronouns, which I didn’t think would bother me, but I’ve spent three days in rehearsals where I’m referred to with she/her pronouns and it feels wrong. I’ve never felt that to such an extent before, but it’s uncomfortable. I don’t know what that is or what that means, but all I know is that I don’t like it. Despite that, despite all of the questions and the stress of trying to figure this out, I know who I am. It’s whether or not I’m ready to accept that just yet. Maybe I am.
My advice to anyone trying to figure out their gender identity would be - don’t rush it, don’t overthink it, don’t torture yourself about it, and make sure you’re safe. Express yourself when you’re comfortable, but make sure you’re safe as well, too. Especially now when there are so many debates over gender identity, your safety is the most important thing. It probably probably won’t be easy. Not with society being as it is. Even with that, don’t isolate yourself. Don’t keep this to yourself. I’m fortunate enough to have friends that I can count on, especially to have one who’s been through this already and has been absolutely amazing throughout all this. Don’t be afraid to experiment. of experimenting. T That’s such a big part of this but it’s often overlooked. Experimenting is the best way to figure it out. , so don’t be afraid of doing that.
I don’t normally like writing about things that leave me so vulnerable. I’ve never really opened up about my struggles with gender identity, but it helps me to write it out, and if I can help anyone by sharing my experience, then it’s worth it. Something to remember is that you’re not alone. Even if you feel like you are, there are so many people around to help and support you. Even now in the media, there are people coming out and being so unapologetically themselves. Even though things aren’t great, they’re getting better.
If you’re struggling or need any help with LBGTQ+ / mental health issues, here are some helplines / general information. You’ve got this, I believe in you.
General LGBTQ+ helplines-
Worldwide helplines -