I saw Mae Martin, stand-up comedian, perform in Los Angeles tonight. They talk a lot about sexuality and gender, and I wrestled with myself (am I in love with Mae or do I want to be Mae?). Even as I laughed at Mae’s brilliant comedy, I felt a sadness and weight in my chest. I deeply resonate with Mae. Will I ever figure out who I am? When will I be done talking about gender in therapy?
I recently started seeing a new therapist and, within minutes of meeting me, she picked up on my very real identity crisis.
Am I that obvious?
Truly, it’s frustrating for me to hear. Because she’s right. I’ve been on a gender journey for several years now. I came out as non-binary in 2019, and shortly after, went through FTN top surgery. I also recently asked my friends and family to use they/them pronouns when referring to me. While all of those things are important, significant changes in my transition, I’m still lost. I feel confused. To the larger part of the world, I look like what a woman is “supposed to look like.” So, should I cut my hair short? Do I need to present more masculinely in order for people to take me seriously as someone trying to live authentically outside of the very strict (and very made up) gender binary?
I keep waiting for that moment. You know the one. The one where you look in the mirror and suddenly recognize yourself. Like “Oh, there you are.”
And maybe I have had glimpses of that, but I have yet to fully experience it. At this point, I’m sort of convinced it doesn’t exist.
I think we’re all just in a constant state of motion. We never fully arrive at who we are because that’s a construct as abstract as gender itself. Has anyone ever woken up and thought, “Aha! This! This is the person I am and will stay forever!” Probably not.
Gender is in motion. I am in motion. And in a world where it seems I have to land on one side or the other, I feel disoriented at best. If I look deep inside myself, I recognize my humanity as just that—human. It may be simplistic to say, but that statement feels profoundly spiritual.
My therapist thinks that I’m stuck in an identity crisis (something psychology people call the identity vs. role confusion stage) because I never had the chance to fully explore my gender and sexuality in my adolescence.
Maybe she’s right. Maybe I missed a significant part of my development because of the trauma I faced and the culture I was surrounded by. But also, maybe I will always be in this phase. Or maybe these phases are arbitrary.
If you live outside of the binary, I see you. I understand that attempting to feel whole within yourself often comes with an unexplainable pain. But you are valid. You, as a human being, are important and significant and needed here. There are so many people talking about gender and sexuality in a much more eloquent and educated way these days, but I wanted to write this because I think it’s important that we remember our humanity. Jotting down my thoughts and feelings and sharing them with you is an act of resilience.
I guess what I’m saying is: keep moving. Try that new hairstyle, the new clothes. Try out a new name or different pronouns. Truly, gender and sexuality are more than these things, but they also matter. They do matter. You matter.
It’s OK if you don’t know who you are from this moment to the next. You are alive and you are in motion.
P.S. – Mae Martin, will you marry me?
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