We, as a collective, are constantly trying to figure out who we are, and why we are that way. This constant search is difficult for anyone, but it’s especially difficult when you feel like your body isn’t your own; Like the one vessel you truly own isn’t yours. I have never felt like my body was my own. I have never fit the conventional definitions of masculine or feminine.
I don’t remember anything from my childhood but, apparently, I was a happy-go-lucky kid who loved to play with Hot Wheels and G.I. Joe. This would be normal if I was born a boy, but I wasn’t. This trend continued into my later years. In my early teens I went through a rap phase and would dress in baggy pants and oversized rap jerseys. I thought I was the coolest kid at school and even Nick, one of my friends, told me so, thus affirming my cool kid status. I acted differently and dressed differently to my prescribed gender, but no one made me feel different. I was just another kid.
Then I remember going to camp when I was in high school and being segregated into the girl’s cabin. I felt so out of place. I was friends with some of the girls, so I should have been okay, but I wasn’t. It felt as though someone had sorted me into the wrong group, it didn’t feel right. This feeling of abnormality continued through puberty. When my breasts came in, I felt detached from them, like they were not mine, like they didn’t belong there.
By this point, I was getting snickers and stares for how I dressed, so I began dressing feminine. But it always felt like a necessity rather than something I wanted to do. It made me feel included and when you are that age—or any age for that matter—all you want to feel is included.
I never felt feminine. I was never into make-up or dresses but I was, and still am, a really caring and emotional person. I also never felt wholly masculine either. I liked to dress as a boy, but I wasn’t tough or aggressive. I know these are just stereotypes of genders and a man can be emotional and a woman can be tough, but conventional gender assumptions still exist. They still exist to me, at least in my head.
So I finally dropped the hold conventional binary gender had on me, and I adopted the identity of non-binary. Non-binary—or enby—simply means that someone doesn’t fit solely into the traditional stereotype of masculine or feminine. They don’t feel like a man or a woman; I don’t feel like a man or a woman. I initially felt bad adopting the label because I thought ‘Shouldn’t I be fighting against the stereotypes of femininity or masculinity?’ That I should be redefining what it means to be gendered a girl or a boy, and I guess I still feel that way. I just needed a word for the way I felt.
However, this was still not the right fit for me, I didn’t quite feel whole. I felt like I was outside of the binary gender spectrum, but I still felt dysphoric when I looked at my boobs and felt I had an appendage missing. This was confusing until I realised you could adopt the identity of non-binary and trans; I could be a man and feel good about my body, and still dress and act between the spectrum.
It took me a long time to figure out my identity, mainly because I didn’t know what my options were. I didn’t know being trans or non-binary was an option because I didn’t meet anyone in those communities until I was twenty-five. Even then I didn’t feel it was a viable option, because the couple of people I met seemed to be shrouded in shame around them. I did see some representations in the media, which were few and far between, and those that are there are the butt of the joke. A kid can’t know what to grow up into if they don’t have any role models. I couldn’t grow into the person I was meant to be without at least someone to look up to.
It has not been an easy journey getting to this point; There has been a lot of cognitive dissonance. I was told that trans people were ‘freaks’ and it was against God. Now I’m a very religious person, so I took this to heart. I couldn’t reconcile who I was and what I believed. I thought that God gave me my body, and I should be grateful for that.
I don’t know what finally gave me the courage, but one day I decided to talk to my spiritual advisor about it. She advised me that there is nothing in the Bible which says being trans is wrong, and that God probably gave me this body so I could have these experiences as a woman to be a better man. That put me at ease and gave me the courage to finally be the person I wanted to be.
I wish I could wrap up this up by saying ‘I’m now a man and I’m finally happy’, but I can’t. I am two out of three appointments though approvals for testosterone, and over a year away from top surgery. I want to be excited because finally my interior will match my exterior, but honestly, I’m petrified. I’m scared of the pain from the surgeries. I’m scared something will go wrong, and I’m scared about the way society is going to judge me. I already get harassed on the street sometimes with people yelling out at me that I’m a ‘fat dyke’, and frequently see people laugh at me. I know it shouldn’t worry me but the more I hear and see it, the more I believe that I’m not part of society; I’m an ‘other’, I don’t belong. And it’s easy to say who wants to belong, but everyone wants to tie themselves to something. This is just the beginning of a longer story of greater self-discovery. I am not my fears, and I will not let my fears hold me back; But they still keep me up at night.
Luke is a multi-media artist who works across the mediums of film, photography and creative writing. They use their voice and uplift the voices of others. The aim of their work is to make people feel less alone.