You know that moment when you shut the car door after a concert and you suddenly notice the ringing in your ears? Well that’s what happens when someone says, “Excuse me, miss.” That ringing in my ears gets louder when I look in the mirror some days, or when my dad says, “Goodnight, beautiful.”
When I was nine years old, I learned about reincarnation. That night I went to bed and prayed: “Please don’t let me wake up as a girl. Not a boy either.” I didn’t know what that meant, but I knew that’s what felt right. If that couldn’t happen, I prayed I wouldn’t wake up at all.
But I woke up the next day and the thousands of days after that with my prayers unanswered, and it was years before I learned that what I felt was valid. After searching the term “non-binary” on Google, I wrapped it around myself like a security blanket. But even with that security blanket, I’m still plagued by insecurities. I still feel lost sometimes. I still feel broken. I still have days where my body feels so distant from my mind that my mind wants to cause it pain. Sometimes I can’t hear the positive influences in my life because the ringing in my ears is deafening.
Acknowledging the ringing in my ears and the way my gender fuels that ringing has played a crucial part in taking care of my own mental health. Sometimes this process happens in my own head. I stretch under the covers first thing in the morning and check to see what I can hear. However dim or deafening it may be, I do my best to accept that. I recognize what I can and cannot do to adjust the volume. I recognize that I am not the only person or thing with access to the controls, and I accept that.
The unpredictability is what remains mentally taxing. Sometimes I wake up and the volume is not where I left it the night before. My brain and heart grow weary from calculating the endless possible outcomes. Where can I go to avoid being gendered?
Thanks for having a deposit feature on your ATMs, Wells Fargo. That means I can avoid being gendered at the teller window on the days where my dysphoria is particularly bad.
Weis Pharmacy, any hope for that so I can avoid getting told, “This birth control must not be for you, sir”?
Of course, it’s impossible to guarantee that everyone will be supportive. When I came out to my dad that was his main concern: “It’s a shame the world will never be accepting.” But over the past six months, the world has started to prove him wrong. Strangers have gendered me correctly. Kids have accepted the simple answer that no, I’m not a girl or a boy. I’ve found people like me thanks to the Internet and a healthy dose of fate. The ringing got quieter each time someone expressed support, used my correct pronouns, or consciously avoided a gendered word.
If I were to compare years where I’ve begun to figure myself out to years where I’ve felt lost, the latter would tip the scale. But I know time will pass, and the scales will tip in my favor. Yes, the ringing is still there, but that’s OK.
The ringing died down as I look around the circle of people in attendance at a middle school LGBT club. I knew that just by being part of the circle, I was a positive influence to someone who was in need of some hope. Although my heart raced and my face flushed when it came time for my introduction, I forced myself to be the example I know I needed when I was in their shoes. “Hello, my name is C and my pronouns are they/them. I’m non-binary, gay, and so proud to get to be a part of this group today,” I said with as strong of a voice as I could muster. I told the group how awkward I felt in middle school. How awkward I still feel today. Despite my awkwardness and the ringing, I was still able to use the word “hopeful” to sum up my feelings at the end of the meeting.
If there’s a ringing in your ears, acknowledge it. That’s the part you’ve got to do for yourself. After that, employ the help of others. Have someone help you trace the ringing back to its roots and see what you discover there. Take things slowly. The solution comes over time and sometimes the solution fades away before you are able to get a firm grasp on it. Reach again. Take small steps. Let the love songs people sing you drown out the ringing.