It is a difficult time to be different in the world. Every day seems to bring news of hate, legislation or threats that challenge us. We seem to be a target of a society looking for someone to blame for a world that is dysfunctional and afraid. Yet, it is a time where we can and will thrive.
In my home country there are states working hard to pass laws that prevent people from talking about or teaching information about gender diversity. While some on the religious right seem intent upon blaming us for all their parenting problems. Netflix has been called out repeatedly for Transphobic and hostility by comedians towards Trans and Gender Diverse people. At times it seems the whole world is against us. And perhaps there is some truth to that feeling.
Despite all of the worry and anxiety caused by what we see around us, we are thriving. We are here and we are refusing to be silent, refusing to be erased and we are coming together to step out of the shadows and demand our equal place at the social table.
I spent decades hiding my gender identity. No one had to tell me I was different. No one had to teach me about differences. I simply felt them. And I knew, even as a kid, that being me would be risky and would lead to challenges. As I grew up I soon realized that I could not hide who I am, some way, some how it would always become visible at the most vulnerable moments. Yet I tried to hide it, tried to fit in, in my way, and tried to simply exist.
I lived most of my life in a shade of misdirection. The '80s provided an unexpected shelter in the form of the alternative communities that it gave birth to. I became gothic, a subculture that grew out of challenging societal normals, including the walls of gender expression. Within that subculture I was free to be more who I felt I was. I could do so without fear from my peers and to the wider world the black of my gothic appearance overwhelmed the nature of my gender identity and protected me. Most of the time.
Years passed and I became comfortable in that world of half truth existence. My alternativeness had been enough. Then a moment came in my life where I thought it was soon coming to an end.
After years of over work, stress and not taking very good care of myself, I fell ill. Doctors said I would need drastic changes to save my health and prolong my life. It was in that knowledge that I found the courage to finally take the steps to come out. I didn't want to leave life without having ever lived it as my true self.
In the '80s I had adopted an internal term to describe my gender. I was an "androgyne", a person somewhere in between the pillars of male and female. Both, yet neither. And for a very few people, I shared this identity. But it was often dismissed as a behavior of the times. It was not until the late twenty-teens that I finally adopted the term Non-Binary and came out to my closest family and friends.
It had taken decades of hiding and a mortal threat to push me to finally embrace this part of my existence. While I am feeling happy and free to be open now, I also feel some regret that I did not feel safe enough to do this a long time ago.
Then the world reminded me why I had remained in shadows so long.
Watching society backlash against the LGBTQIA+ community has been heart breaking. The era of Trump and his twisted populist hate mongering seems to have opened the season on hate, discrimination and violence against Trans and LGBTQIA+ people. So much so that states are working hard to push us even farther into corners where we can be marginalized and erased.
This was the open version of the hate my generation of gender diverse people knew all along was out there. It had delivered us into violent and dangerous situations for all our lives. It was why we were afraid. But seeing it open, feely expressed and rampant in media and on the streets did not scare me back into the shadows. No. Instead it gave me the courage to fight at last.
We cannot thrive in the shadows deprived of the freedom to be who we are. We can live, we can exist but we cannot be true to ourselves or to our potential. Like a plant denied the sunshine we will slowly fade and succumb to a life un-lived as it should be.
While living in the open puts us at risk in times like these, we must find the courage to do so. We must find the will to be who we are, and more importantly, to help others find the path to live their true identity. We must fight like our predecessors did to pave the way for those who come next so that no future generation will need to hide in the shadows as we did. We must take courage and example from the courageous young people out there who are unafraid and fighting to build their place in the world.
I am delighted by the young people who have come out and taken to social media, the arts, politics and social places to stand up for who they are and for our community. They are thriving despite the world around them. They are inspiring us to do the same. They are blazing pathways that the youth of the future will be able to safely travel to become their true selves as they find their truth.
We are not a trend. We are not anomalies, we are not a threat to anyone. We simply are. We are! And in being who we are, we have a right to live, to be happy, to build our lives and to thrive in this world on our terms.
We are. We exist. We are here and we are never again allowing the shadows of hate, discrimination and inequity push us into the darkness. We are and we will not be denied our existence, our identity and our right to thrive.