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My Queer Story

My Queer Story

Growing up, I had a family that was incredibly open and understanding of minority issues, except when it came to the members within that family. There was a portion of my life where I questioned my gender identity, going so far as to cut my hair, engage in typically male activities, and even expressed a desire to change my name. With this transformation and the recognition that my gender identity might be in question, I began to experience resistance from my family. My mother in particular was adamant that I was 100% a girl. Due to this, any desire I had to express a gender identity other than the one I was born with was bottled up deep inside me, for fear of rejection from my family. In many ways, this highly impacted the way I viewed sexuality and gender studies, gaining a more severely negative view of the spectrums. This negative view of sexuality lasted well into my 20s.

I remember the first time I thought that I might be a boy. I was never very girly growing up, trading in my barbies for video games, and my dresses for baggy jeans. Growing up my mother would say, and this became her shining mantra, that it was all ‘just a phase’. But the first time I thought I might be a boy, we were at Toys R Us, picking out a new dollhouse for my sister. I was 11. I wandered over to the outdoor activities just to lay my eyes on a skateboard. This skateboard, it would later be noted, would become the snag in the fabric that was my femininity. I brought that skateboard with me everywhere and, with it, I started to loosen the shackles of my ever-present gender identity. Once those flood gates were open, there was no stopping the incoming tide of transformation. I cut my hair short, much to my moms disapproval. I started wearing skater shoes, hoodies and cargo shorts. I even picked out a masculine name for myself – Jake. With this ever growing transformation, I started to eschew all things feminine. In doing so, I was attempting to create an identity for myself that was more reflective of what I felt inside. I took this as an opportunity to truly examine my feelings and narrow in on who I was as a person, as an identity, and as a player in this confusing thing we call society.

I remember specifically being ridiculously content any time someone would refer to me as male, especially if it was organic. All the while mumbling that I was a girl – all to appease mother. Or, and this was even worse, having my mother announce loudly that I was a girl and ‘wasn’t it such a shame I had cut off my long hair’. In this way, she started to prepare me for the humiliation I would endure over the upcoming years. And it was relentless.

One occasion that sticks out specifically was the awards ceremony for my brother’s basketball team. Here was a whole group of people I had never met before. I could be anything and anyone I wanted to. I went to the event in full boy mode, excited – and nervous – at the prospects. While there I enlisted one of my sisters to aide in my quest; they were to help me spread the word that I was a boy. She played up the act better than I had ever imagined; by the end of the meeting we had the entire team convinced I was a boy. I remember feeling so joyous at the thought that they thought I was a boy, finally feeling comfortable in my own skin. However, once we were safely in the car, my mother released her furry in a way I had hardly seen before or since.

As is fairly self evident my mother, for as understanding as she is with members of society, had a tremendous issue with me desiring to identify as male. She would continuously comment on how it was ‘just a phase’ and that ‘I would grow out of it’. She refused to call me by any name other than my birth name, insisting that she had picked out the name herself and it was just fine. She reinforced that I should like boys, when it was girls who grabbed my attention. In many ways she vilely refused to acknowledge that I might be anything else but what she envisioned me as. Up until this point, I was commonly referred to as the ‘pretty sister’; I was thin, had long hair, and perfect skin. Over my entire adolescence she continuously imposed this identity on me, regardless of my wishes. It should be noted here that my sister was the ‘smart sister’, a label she has long tried to shed. In my mothers eyes she had gained the whole set; one pretty sister and one smart sister. Any attempt for us to cast off the labels she had placed upon us was met with disdain.

So, it is easy to see why she had such a negative view of my desire to express myself as a boy – it invalidated her neat little boxes she had spent so much time fitting us into. Every act of resistance further pushed her into the idea that what I was doing was wrong, and I should resign myself to the life she had planned for me. Many times she would humiliate me in front of strangers or loved ones, making various degrading comments about my appearance. By doing so, she reinforced the idea to me that I was an abomination, something to be neglected and embarrassed by. She placed me in such a position that I had no other choice but to fight back and resist further, or retreat into my cocoon of heteronormativity.

As is fairly self evident my mother, for as understanding as she is with members of society, had a tremendous issue with me desiring to identify as male. She would continuously comment on how it was ‘just a phase’ and that ‘I would grow out of it’. She refused to call me by any name other than my birth name, insisting that she had picked out the name herself and it was just fine. She reinforced that I should like boys, when it was girls who grabbed my attention. In many ways she vilely refused to acknowledge that I might be anything else but what she envisioned me as. Up until this point, I was commonly referred to as the ‘pretty sister’; I was thin, had long hair, and perfect skin. Over my entire adolescence she continuously imposed this identity on me, regardless of my wishes. It should be noted here that my sister was the ‘smart sister’, a label she has long tried to shed. In my mothers eyes she had gained the whole set; one pretty sister and one smart sister. Any attempt for us to cast off the labels she had placed upon us was met with disdain.

So, it is easy to see why she had such a negative view of my desire to express myself as a boy – it invalidated her neat little boxes she had spent so much time fitting us into. Every act of resistance further pushed her into the idea that what I was doing was wrong, and I should resign myself to the life she had planned for me. Many times she would humiliate me in front of strangers or loved ones, making various degrading comments about my appearance. By doing so, she reinforced the idea to me that I was an abomination, something to be neglected and embarrassed by. She placed me in such a position that I had no other choice but to fight back and resist further, or retreat into my cocoon of heteronormativity.

Even with my concrete reasoning behind my detransformation – if you want to call it that – through my entire adolescence I felt that there was something missing. Some part of me did not feel whole. I spent a lot of time searching for that missing piece, often times resorting to drugs and alcohol to cope. By this time I was beginning high school, and gender norms were starting to become more obvious. I would spend my first two years of high school acting out in every way possible – skipping class, drugs, boys – in an effort to find some solace from this pain I was experiencing.

I would find that solace in a cute boy with surfer hair in my Health class. We developed a relationship that quickly grew fairly serious. Over the course of the next two years we would grow our relationship to something amazing. One of the things that allowed us to develop such a strong bond was through our ability to teach one another. I learned that he was gender fluid, which sparked old memories of wishing to be a boy. Through lots of discussion and education, he taught me that it is ok to have a deviant gender identity. While I still wasn’t ready to announce my gender deviance to the world, it was nice to know that finally someone was on my side. While this realization had not yet started to impact my personal identity, it did help me to decide that I wanted to study gender and sexuality in school. In doing so, it also gave me ample opportunity to interact with the queer community. Once starting school, I was suddenly engulfed in an entire world of acceptance and understanding. Deciding on this educational path turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.

While this was a painful time in my life, I think it’s important to reflect on the situation and examine how much I have grown since then. I was just a young teenager back then; I still had so much to learn about myself, about people and about the world. I have grown so much since then both personally and in terms of the identities I hold. While I wish my life had gone differently back then, I understand that life doesn’t always have the best things in store for us. I am very lucky now in that I have a large, loving support network who cares about me no matter my gender identity. And also in the fact that I have the opportunity to study gender and queer studies. My hope one day is to give people the help that I was denied during my childhood. Hopefully, in doing so, I can be a part of the building blocks that will eventually rid us of these stigmas and notions. Hopefully, by studying the realms of gender and queer studies, I can change someone’s life for the better.

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