One of the most empowering moments for myself was when I stopped letting my identity control me. Growing up in the Bay Area, liberal ideals about queerness and gender identity have always shaped how I saw myself as a queer, nonbinary person. There was a constant need to seem queer enough as a means of validating my many identities, overshadowing those that was resonated and felt most dear to myself. There was this overwhelming feeling of needing to perform and fall in line to what people saw as a true queer, trans person, when I wasn’t even sure what that identity looked like for me.
My queerness has been rigid from the moment I came out. Coming out felt like a spectacle, as a 12 year old girl who realized her love for her best friend was more than friendship. I didn’t want to validate my love for her, nor did I see it as that big of deal, but felt pressured to assume an identity shaped by others’ perception. In my mid teens, I went through a process of proving my queerness to my straight friends, obligated to fall in line with what stereotypes they had of queer folks, particularly lesbians. An identity shaped by queer, white liberals, something so foreign to someone who simply was in love with a girl from her class.
These feelings were further compounded when I started to explore my gender identity. I was surrounded by white, upper-middle class people who’d lash out at anyone who fell in an uncertain realm of gender identity. To this day, I’m not certain what my identity at that time was. Polluted with what I thought was a “true non-binary person” I felt compelled to remove my breasts, cut my hair, and wear men’s clothing to somehow express how vacant of gender I was. I felt trapped in my own identity, trying to bring words and meaning to a person I already was.
To this day, I still fail to put words to my identity. Instead, I’ve allowed it to function like a stream of water, constantly changing and able to take multiple forms and fill various spaces. I’ve gotten past much of my previous beliefs of what being a “true non-binary person” is; it’s okay to be comfortable with my own body and still be trans. It is possible to be both a woman and non-binary at the same time, because the sting of being boxed into only a woman still exists. My identity is mine to change, dismantle, and reassemble as I go through life, never skipping a beat and forever open.
What would a life a nonbinary person be, directly challenging the binary itself with its presence, if not complex and confusing? If not open to change and personal interpretation? Without its constant fluidity, what does the nonbinary identity serve if its going to box us back into categories once again, just like the gender binary.
My gender identity is the way in which I wing my liner and wear sneakers everyday to school. It is the power and strength that rings in my voice and the softness of touch when I hold my partner’s hand. It is the aggressive, freight train-like presence I bring into classrooms, devouring all that’s in my path and refusing to let myself back down from solving difficult Calculus and Physics problems. It is the quiet that hangs in my movements, as I spread tarot cards on a table, only making noise when burning sage. My gender identity is much more than an assignment, a label, and a term, but the ways in which I live and fill my heart with those around me.