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Discovering My Non-Binary Gender Identity

Discovering My Non-Binary Gender Identity

As I grew up, I was a soul only existing on the realms of my own skin, to please others with all of my modeling clay-like selfhood and appearance. My fulfillment became so tied to what I believed others wished me to be that for over half a decade, my identity was much like the image of what girlhood was perpetuated to be in society—figmented, fluttering, and politely screaming in my own head about the restrictions of what our gendered media had confined me to. This dynamic, intertwined with my anxiety disorder and OCD, caused the erasure of myself to become the only constant in my life.

It was only when I cut my hair that I noticed there was a sort of dissonance within myself, or what remained of myself at the time. Once I allowed myself a small sense of autonomy, to do something just because I wanted to, my opinions began to trickle out of my head. I began to blossom with this newfound sense of liberation. My selfhood had relied on the habit of pleasing others; slowly, I began giving myself the respect of listening to and discovering who I was.

This dissonance grew rapidly within my veins. Some days I felt validated, and other days I felt unfulfilled. I couldn’t find the cause of this discontent because I was never shown there was another way to exist other than the binary companies have so frequently enforced to profit. Being a blossoming feminist at this time (around the age of 16), and while I delved into the glorious vault of information that is Tumblr and Youtube, I slowly became aware of the term “non-binary.” While at the time I knew the term resonated with me, it didn’t feel like mine. Looking back, I think the concept felt so alien in my head because I didn’t think I deserved to feel validated. I didn’t think others would be pleased with me if I did. And so for a year I existed in tumultuous neutrality. I knew who I was, but I wasn't giving myself the benefit of accepting it—because in this society, we are taught that accepting who we are is the selfish thing to do.

Art became my salvation. The art I make is primarily self portraiture, and as I searched further into parts of myself I constricted for so long, I saw the beauty in them, in their complexity, in their sometimes highly emotional states. They made me human. I began to realize there were depths to the times in which I felt so girl and so neutral that I didn’t want to be afraid of diving into them anymore.

I can't define the moment when I decided that I deserve to live truthfully as someone who identified with she/they pronouns, but I think it began when the pride in the beauty of my LGBTQ community started to overwhelm me. I figured the glory I saw in my community must exist somewhere in my veins too; I realized as I give so many the respect of adoring all of the beauty they exist within, they should revel in mine, or they are not worth my time. No one requires another’s approval to exist as they are.  

Though I am only 17, I know two truths to be definite: Your existence deserves attention, despite what others and this rueful ol’ society may make you think, and it’s OK to not know who you are at this very moment. Any point in which you—and all the complexities of you, like raw emotion, passions, opinions, everything—exist in this moment is so valid and beautiful. It is beautiful because it is the essence of being human, and I hope that I remain on this brink of the buzzing in my bones of self discovery, of self preservation, of self love, for within this very short existence, that’s something we all deserve.

By Tazia Cira, 17

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