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My experience with gender and identities

Learning individuality through self-discovery

KJ Preston Pepperell

Most people think of gender as a line, a definitive objects with two ends. On this line, there are males on one side and females on the other. And that’s it, nothing in between them and no way for them to get to the other side.

I see gender as more of a hazy, cloudy space. People happen to start off in one certain spot, usually forced onto one of the sides, and a majority of them choose to stay there. However, in that space they can move around more, switching sides or just moving away from wherever they started off. I’ve always been closer to the middle than anything.

My experience with identifying as non-binary (Merriam-Webster defines non binary as “relating to or being a person who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that is neither entirely male nor entirely female”) didn’t start right away. As a child, I used the name my parents gave me and I mostly played with other girls. I didn’t question why I had to use that name, or she/her pronouns or why I was made fun of when I hung out with my one guy friend.

When I moved to Park at the age of 11, everything changed for me. I had to make new friends, and I was surrounded by all different kinds of people. I didn’t know what diversity really meant until I got here. I was fascinated by the fact that when I looked around the city, I didn’t only see plain white faces, like I did in Mankato.

Everyone in Park was different from one another, and I think from the start I wanted to be different too.

In the beginning, things didn’t go so smoothly. I started to develop a crush on a girl, and was pretty scared about what that meant. So, I put on the first label I could find by calling myself bisexual so I could try to fit in, and my friends were all cool about it. That friend group and all the little ones I have today are pretty diverse, which I’ve always been proud of.

Toward the end of middle school, I was doing a project on the LGBTQ+ community, defining terms and learning new ones along the way, for the Student Action Team at the middle school. I came across the term “transgender” and “genderfluid,” and something in my brain said “that feels right!” So I stuck on a what I thought was a shiny, new, transgender label, and told my friends, who were all supportive that time too.

I used that label for about a year, maybe a little less, and it felt better, but never quite right. I think in the back of my mind, that other word kept floating up, and I never understood what it meant, so I just pushed it down. I had already switched around labels a few times, and I was sick of it, so I really wanted to stick with what I had.

Nonetheless, I still felt uneasy, and I questioned the validity of my decisions the whole time. So when I came out to my mom as transgender and she said that she didn’t think it sounded like me, I just said “okay, you’re right.” Once again, I was stuck for a while, until my mom and I finally realized that non-binary had been the right label the whole time. At this point, I rarely even use the label, because it no longer feels necessary to claim just one word to describe who I am.

Merriam-Webster defines non-binary in a very specific way, but for me, it’s just the word I use to explain to people that I’m floating around in the middle of that cloudy space. Every non binary person is different, but the one thing almost all non binary people want is to share their stories, be heard and accepted by their friends and families and not be afraid that someone is going to hate them or hurt them for just being themselves. We are a lot like all the other minority groups out there.

To clarify, my identity is not a choice. It wasn’t for me, and it never is. I was born the way I am today, it just took me years to find the words for it. Who knows if I’ll ever be done discovering.

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My experience with gender and identities