Welcome to Transplaining, Mic correspondent Serena Daniari’s weekly advice column on gender identity. No topic — from dating to sex to the process of transitioning itself — is off-limits. Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and subscribe to Transplaining to receive weekly email alerts here.
I’ve recently embraced being nonbinary after a long period of denial and avoidance, but I still present as cisgender male in public due to circumstances outside of my control. I’m having a hard time shaking the negative feelings. I feel fake — like I haven’t earned the right to call myself transgender or nonbinary, and that I’m appropriating a struggle that others face head-on while I hide in the closet. How do I deal with this?
I want to extend you a virtual hug. This question struck a familiar chord with me. If it provides you with any solace, your description of feeling “fake” is not uncommon among transgender people. It’s an unfortunate burden that many of us share — and what you’re experiencing is completely valid.
Don’t feel pressured to minimize your pain or force a smile. It’s OK to go through periods of sadness and confusion. Dysphoria is real and can be quite debilitating for some trans people. I do urge you to seek guidance if these feelings become overwhelming. Thankfully, there are now many resources and mental health services that cater to the unique needs of LGBTQ people.
When responding to your question, I wanted to be certain that I included the voice of a nonbinary person who can more accurately speak to your experiences and feelings. I reached out to nonbinary stylist and activist Derek DuJour, who encourages you to not allow “traditional or ‘normal’ worldviews on certain things” stand in the way of feeling affirmed and authentic.
“The best way to deal with this situation is to surround yourself with fellow supportive nonbinary and transgender folks,” DuJour said in an email. “They will recognize and respect your identity, as well as surround you with lots of love and empowerment. If it wasn’t for my chosen queer family, who identify across the gender spectrum, I definitely wouldn’t be as far along my transition as I am now.”
It takes great courage and honesty for an individual to come to an understanding of their nonbinary identity. Many people deny that being nonbinary is even real. The belief that one must choose between “male” and “female” is still very much alive and well. This belief ignores that all people are in a constant state of transition, even if it is not necessarily in regards to their gender identity. The way we express ourselves in all facets of our lives is fluid, difficult to categorize and in a constant state of evolution — even if some don’t wish to admit it. For many people, nonbinary identity is a concept they don’t wish to engage with because it forces them to confront the challenging reality that gender is far more complex than they were conditioned to believe. But that is their problem, not yours.
Simply put: You are trans, regardless of how you present. You are trans because you say you are trans. There is no deadline for coming out, and there is no monolithic path or rulebook when it comes to transitioning. Take all the time you need, and rest assured, there is support for you in this world. Your journey is yours, and yours alone.