I had always felt different. It’s such a cliché, I know, but I just KNEW there was something staring me right in the face – I just didn’t know what I was looking for. I was upset a lot of the time for a reason I didn’t understand, but now I can see how blindingly obvious it was: I wasn’t a girl, but everyone kept calling me one.
I felt so wrong and alone.
PE was always difficult. I would loathe every second of the girls’ changing rooms, always leaving them in a bad mood or with tears brimming. The worst part about it was that no one, not even me, understood. We’re raised in binaries, as either male or female depending on what you were born with, and this is reinforced so heavily in our society that transgender or gender variant youth can feel so cut-off and isolated from the rest of the world. I hated my long hair. I hated the feminine school uniform trousers. I hated how people called me “she” or “dear” or “young lady”. I felt so wrong and alone.
It was probably in Year 9 when I first typed “I feel like a boy” into a search engine, and the results confused me. There was a whole universe of genders out there that I’d never heard of. I thought you could only be a girl or a boy, and that for me to be a boy, I had to like girls (which I didn’t!) – I couldn’t have been more wrong. I learnt about non-binary, two-spirit, genderfluid, to name but a few, and I also learnt that to be transgender there is no requirement for your sexuality. So, a person of any gender can have any sexuality. It was an eye-opening experience.
I was so desperate for me to make my mind up
I spent a lot of time after my internet discoveries thinking. I would go to secluded places at school and think. Think about the label I should use for my gender, about the label I should use for my sexuality. I was in a phase of confusion, which was honestly one of the most agonising times of my life. I hated seeing everyone so happy with their identity around me, so happy to be divided into male or female, when I was so desperate for me to make my mind up about this thing that’s deemed so important in our culture. I’d wake up one day and announce: “I’m a boy! I’m definitely male – I’ve finally decided!” only to then realise within a few hours that I was in fact genderless again, or sometimes even female. I would venture to YouTube and watch trans videos which definitely helped, but it drained me: they all seemed so sure in themselves, talking about how they’d always played with boys and action figures. Although I considered myself masculine, I didn’t really do those things, and that seemed to contradict what I was feeling at the time.
I came out to my parents as being confused about my gender, and to my luck, they were 100% accepting. We tried different names and pronouns at home – one day I was Liam, the next I was Phoenix – but nothing quite felt right and this made me more confused. “They” pronouns made me feel awkward, and “he” pronouns felt sort of forced.
I just had to accept that my identity would take time
This continued for a long time and it took me equally as long to realise: I was trying too hard to label myself. I was forcing feelings and thoughts before allowing them to surface naturally, and I was smothering my femininity because I felt it contradicted the male identity I wanted to have. I finally realised that I just had to accept that my identity would take time and I slowly began to embrace every part of myself. I accepted that I was sometimes feminine, sometimes masculine, and although I wasn’t happy about it, I accepted that I might always be genderfluid. And that’s okay.
It’s true what they say: things do get better. Feelings take time to understand. It was the summer of 2014 when I came out publicly after years of confusion and waiting for my feelings to settle – and since then, I haven’t looked back. I waited until I was certain that this was what I wanted, and coming out over the summer was just perfect for me. Some days I’m feminine, other days I’m masculine, and I like men – but I am male. This is me, and although it took a while to get here, I’ve finally found myself.
Take your time
So, if there’s any moral to learn from my story, I guess it would be this: take your time. Don’t rush so much to give yourself a label, because sometimes, it takes feelings a while to settle, and are often far too complicated to define by a single word. But, most important of all: don’t try to suppress parts of yourself because society dictates that you should feel a certain way. This is something I wish I’d realised soon.
Now that I’ve learnt this, I am me, and I couldn’t be happier.