"Go help your sister."
WRONG! Wrong! That word was wrong! It was something I'd heard a million times, ever since I was a small child but it was still wrong. Something about it felt repulsive, insulting, truly awful in a way I couldn't describe, for a reason I didn't understand. For the first time in my life, I wanted to yell at my mother. I wanted to scream. To rage at her. I didn't understand what was happening to me, why I felt this way.
Confused and scared, I stayed silent. I didn't dare tell anyone about what had happened, but I thought about it all day. No matter what I did, I couldn't stop replaying the moment in my head, trying to figure out why I felt the way I did. I couldn't think about anything else, I was hardly able to interact with anyone else, I was consumed by these strange new thoughts. That night, I couldn't sleep. Instead, I laid awake, wondering what was wrong with me. I spent many nights in such a state.
After months of struggling, attempting to build enough courage to tell someone, ask aloud what was wrong with me, I broke. I decided I had to Google it, I had grown up with Google having all the answers after all. I Googled things that no one should feel like they need to Google. I asked 'What's wrong with me?', 'Why am I like this?', 'Is this normal?' dozens of miserable questions, originating from a deep, dark place nobody wants to visit. None of them resulted in the answers I was looking for, or the answer I thought I wanted. Instead, I was directed to self-help sites and started to see more adds for mental health helplines, Kid's Help Phone and other such services. I thought there was no answer. I felt alone like I would never know what was happening to me. Afraid of rejection, I remained silent, forced it down and pretended to be happy, to be normal. I stayed that way for years.
I found my answers on Tumblr of all places. It took years of slowly discovering LGBTQ+ spaces before I allowed myself to think about it again. At first, I only thought jokes and memes about not having gender or being non-binary were funny, but not applicable to me. Then I began to realize, I found those things funny because they were relatable. I began to search up definitions for various identities with trembling fingers. Always alone, always at night, always afraid. I was afraid of finding the right label, but even more so of not finding it. I was afraid of what would happen if I knew if I told others, but I was even more afraid of, was what would happen to me, what I would do to myself if I didn't. Then, after what felt like years, lifetimes even, of searching I found it;
"Agender: of, relating to, or being a person who has an internal sense of being neither male nor female nor some combination of male and female: of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity is genderless or neutral."*
That was it! That was what it felt like to be me. I understood now. I asked people I trusted to use gender-neutral pronouns for me, to see how it felt if it felt right. I ordered a chest binder online to give myself a less feminine appearance. I shorted my hair and stopped wearing the make-up I had been wearing like a disguise. I let myself be me, and I've never been happier.
Life is not without its struggles and a journey of self-acceptance can be one of the hardest ones to make, but it's worth it. The closet is a deep and dark place, don't let it trap you and consume you. Prove to it you're stronger.
*Definition is directly from the Mariam-Webster online dictionary.
This story is based on my personal experiences with gender and my own coming out. There may be more stories on this topic in the future, but I thought this one really needed to come out (Get it? Get it? Don't worry, I'll see myself out) for Pride Month. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment or PM me and I'll do my best to answer them. I'm pretty open and enjoy educating others where I can, so there's no need to worry about judgement here. :)