“My history with ally-ship began years and years ago, but it wasn’t until I gained multiple trans friends that it came to light that something I had been dealing with might actually be under ‘the umbrella.’ Ever since I can remember, I have been very unattached to my own body. I would talk to my family and doctors (we moved around a lot so I never had a doctor for very long), and they labeled me with Body Dysmorphia, and later with Generalized Anxiety or Depression. So, I used that language and ran with it because it seemed to be related to the way I was feeling, I guess. It wasn’t until I told a trans friend about my experiences they told me “well… I don’t want to diagnose you but, that sounds pretty familiar to me.” They taught me that someone doesn’t have to be 100% masculine or 100% feminine, they can be just non-binary or non-conforming, and that this would still fall under the trans umbrella. I’m an artsy type, and felt that in my soul but didn’t have the words for it. When I heard it phrased this way, it kind of blew my mind! I was like… okay, I am probably going to have to sit with that for a couple months. So I did and the feeling wasn’t going away. I have always believed that if you don’t use critical thinking and question everything about yourself, it isn’t really you. I think that even if you consider yourself straight but have never been in queer spaces, it really isn’t you because you don’t know what you don’t know. And so, I approached my identity in this way. Eventually, I wanted to get an educated perspective for what I was working on. My first experience as a queer person with a health professional was with my first therapist, and it was terrible. She was a trans woman, but turned out to be very predatory. After 4 sessions she tried to sleep with me. To me, it was completely out of left field. I had never had therapy before, so anything that made me uncomfortable I initially interpreted as a meta-game to break me out of comfort zones. But it was indeed predatory. I reported this behavior and she did end up losing her job. It momentarily changed the way I viewed mental health professionals and trans people because I thought to myself, “that ain’t nothin’ I’m interested in, so I must be wrong about myself”, and I left therapy for a couple of months. I’ve recently returned and found a new therapist who has given me more learning resources about queer identity to work with. This has been VERY helpful. Now, within my friend groups and online spaces I am pretty open about being non-binary. It is so freeing! But even though I am happier, I am still worried. Life has already been hard, but at the same time I was raised a straight white male, I’ve still lived all this time with this privilege…and now I’m looking at dropping some of that favored treatment and asking myself, what does that end up looking like? Another concern is that before when I engaged with prejudiced individuals, I could play devil’s advocate for my friends. But now, will I be taken less seriously if I am a part of the LGBTQ community? Aspects like this in my social life I struggle with still and I am figuring it out in real time.
I made some hard and fast rules about how I was going to approach figuring out my identity, and people’s potential reactions to that. I am treating it as a social experiment, one where I am the observer. I decided that I am not going to exert myself or tell people how to feel about me. How they treat me will be the data I collect. I am interested to see how things change over time. I am not going to beat myself up over labels because, I’ve found peace within myself. The language is secondary. It’s new and difficult for lots of people to understand but I am just one person, I can’t keep holding on to other people’s problems.”
My biggest advice to others: you haven’t found yourself until you actually try to discover who you are…until you really look at the different ways you can live your own life.
-Jesse Martin, Royal Oak, Michigan (They/Them/Theirs)