A decision that’s been a long time in the making.
The following is excerpts from a longer freewrite done July 9th, 2015. For the full version, please contact me directly.
I never wanted to be defined by one part of who I was; like when you’re introduced to someone and the person presenting them says, “This is Alfred. He’s gay,” or when great people are remembered only for one thing, be it a scandal they were involved in, their sexual orientation or the way they died.
I’m not the first to say it, and I certainly won’t be the last — people cannot simply be defined by one word. You can tell me she’s transgender, but leave out that she’s an amazing photographer and even had some of her photos published in a magazine. You can tell me he died of a heroin overdose, yet fail to mention that throughout the course of his life he frequently volunteered at the soup kitchen and, even on the coldest night of the year, would more than willingly give you the coat, sweater, shirt and undershirt off his back if you looked like you needed some warmth.
I never wanted to be “the gay kid,” or any other “that kid,” for that matter; an endeavour in which I failed as I found myself becoming more and more defined by the small things about me that I didn’t think mattered, but that were all anyone ever mentioned about me. I was “that crazy kid,” “the new kid,” “the french kid,” or “that kid who got drunk at school and totally told the math teacher he was stupid.”
And that’s not who I am.
I’ve dealt, and continue to deal, with mental illness; I’m fully bilingual, French and English; I have a history of extensive self-harm; one of my favourite things to do is help out on a dairy farm; I’ve attempted suicide; I hold a blog that is (mostly) about mental illness; I am surrounded by friends and family that love me and care about me; I once, while intoxicated, told the math teacher he was stupid. I could carry this list on and on for a while longer, but that’s not what I’m here to write about today — and I’m also not here to tell you I’m gay.
What has brought many of you here to this blog post today is likely my name change on social media — indeed, for those who aren’t connected to me that way, I’ve recently made the decision to go by my preferred name, Ji (pronounced like the letter ‘G’) and pronouns they/them.
This change comes as I distance myself more and more from what is considered to be strictly feminine and move towards things that are more gender neutral, or outside of the binary altogether. More and more often, people are coming to realize how much the binary limits us, and how flawed it is to begin with. Because of this, more and more people are also choosing to opt out of the gender binary system, and that can look like many things.
I don’t want a label.
And I get that for many people, this is a problem. We have a need to label people, to know exactly where and how they fit in with the rest of the world; we can’t accept people that don’t fit into our boxes. In many instances where people don’t fit into these boxes, however, we’ll make a new one just for them, or ask them to create a new box/cage/prison to stick themselves into.
I don’t have a label.
I began by identifying as genderqueer, which did, and still does, fit quite nicely. I then settled on “gender failure,” a term I heard of from the book of the same title by Rae Spoon and Ivan E. Coyote. Later, I learned of the label “genderfuck,” which means, quite literally, fuck gender. I’ve also been referred to as being gender non-binary or gender non-conforming. These are all words and terms that could be applied to me, but I have never felt, and still do not feel, the need to pick one and stick to it — though Facebook’s need for a label is leading me to simply identify as genderqueer for now, with preferred pronouns they/them.
By no means am I trying to shame people who have chosen a label for themselves; I am more than happy to call them what makes them most comfortable, I just have never found myself being quite comfortable with any of the options that have been presented to me.
Asking to be called by a new name was a decision I didn’t take lightly, and I have at least one friend who by now is a little annoyed by me incessantly asking them if they really think I’ve chosen the right name.
In fact, I spent a lot of time regretting this decision — publicly coming out as Ji — even before it happened. I wondered if it wasn’t better to just go around and tell each friend or family member as I saw them, telling them personally and answering their questions as they came up. Times have changed so much through the widespread use of social media that it becomes a tricky question of when and how to deal with it.
I knew I wanted to transition the name and pronouns over the summer, to come back to school in September going by Ji. The only difficulty with this decision was being out of the country for the entirety of July and August, meaning when I told people, it would have to be via the internet.
After having made the decision of when and how to come out, I consulted with a friend on my fears. Because yes, while part of me is done with caring what others think, and whether or not they choose to accept me, part of me is still scared. I’ve had friends walk away for less than this. Yet I also know that those who don’t care enough to make the effort and choose not to stick around are the ones that I clearly didn’t need in my life — cliché, but true.
I expect backlash. I also expect messages of unconditional love and support. I hope earlier declarations of unconditional support won’t be retracted because of this — but it’s also something I’ve prepared myself for. I’m ready to face hatred if I have to, because at the end of the day, I’m doing this for no one but myself, and as selfish as it may seem, that’s all that matters.
I understand that this is something that will take time to adjust to, and I don’t expect people to automatically start using the right name or the correct pronouns; Hell, even I sometimes get it wrong. It also won’t be an entirely universal change, as I keep in mind some people who either just aren’t ready to accept me or wouldn’t be able to process a change.
To those who still aren’t convinced and insist I am too young to know what I am doing: to a certain degree, I agree with you. There’s no way to be entirely certain of the journey I am embarking on, and to that extent I don’t know if I’ll ever really be truly confident in the decision I made today. All that I know is that this is how I feel right now, in this moment. The more I look back on it, the more I realize this is how I’ve felt for a really, really long time. If I try to project myself ten, twenty, fifty years into the future, I can never see myself as strictly female.
All I’m really sure of right now is that I don’t want to be another sad story of someone who can’t be open about who they are, and stays that way until they’re twenty, or fifty, or eighty and lying on their death bed. I don’t want to take this secret to my grave. I don’t want to be driven to suicide because I am not living my life as myself.
Some will tell you it’s realism, some will tell you it’s too much anxiety, but I am someone who is acutely aware of the fact that anyone could die at any moment. Should something ever happen, be it an accident or an instance of being-in-the-wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time or anything else, I’ll be leaving a mess behind, a web of interconnected lies and regrets and things I could have fixed but didn’t. But I don’t want to die not being true to who I am, as much as I can be and am ready to face up to.
So I hope you understand that I did this because I had to do this in order to contribute to my happiness and to be able to continue to work on getting better and healing, that I did this so that I can lead the life that I believe I deserve to lead — content, at peace with myself, and maybe, just maybe, some day, happy.
Sending lots of love to all you wonderful people out there,
Note: This will likely be the last you hear of LGBT+ related issues from me on this blog. I will continue to update with posts on mental illness, and you can also find me at my new blog dedicated to gender identity and sexual orientation, S2J.