LOOK LIKE YOURSELF

THEIR STORIES: Caroline

When did you realize you didn’t relate to your birth gender?

Growing up I didn't necessarily understand any particular concepts of gender; I have two brothers (I'm the middle child) and didn't do any stereotypically 'feminine' activities. I spent most of my time outside playing pretend or reading YA novels illuminated by flashlight in my bedroom. I didn't really feel comfortable calling myself a 'girl' because I didn't feel like one. I would tell my mom I wanted to be a boy and she'd smile and pat my head and let me go off on my way. When I entered middle school I learned about being transgender and something inside me yelled, "that's me! that's who i am!" and i lived as a closeted trans boy for about 2 years. It wasn't until my sophomore year of high school when i learned what 'nonbinary' meant. I became so comfortable with that term and that same year I came out, being the first openly trans person in my high school and the one of the only out LGBTQ people as well. 

How did you deal with that mentally & physically?

At first I was militant about being referred to by my specific pronouns and would correct people bluntly when I was misgendered. I fluctuated between wanting to be seen as androgynous, a style I so admired, and wanting to be myself. It was a very difficult couple of years, forcing myself into how I wanted to be seen and how I wanted to be. 

Give me a glimpse of the inside you verse your outward appearance.

Inwardly I feel like a big genderless sludge (in the best way possible), but my appearance deters that! I typically wear a mix of big floral vintage dresses and pointed oxfords or some combination of clothing that I've made by hand or found at my local Goodwill. I also try not to let myself go outside without black lipstick. My outward appearance is incredibly femme, but I just wear what I feel most comfortable in.

How would you prefer people address you?

I use they/them pronouns and try to avoid being called traditionally female terms, such as 'girl' or 'lady' or 'woman'. My partner calls me their boyfriend sometimes which is adorable. For names I'm known on the internet as C, which feels very comfy,  but my friends and family call me Caroline. 

What does gender identity mean to you?

Gender identity means comfort. It means being in touch with who you are and not compromising that for anything. Discovering my gender was so so cathartic and freeing. I think it's healthy to question your gender or sexuality or anything about yourself. When there are no questions left, I'm comfortable and I hope everyone can get to that level. 

Was there someone in your life that helped you start to see your authentic/true self? Tell me about how they helped you/who they are.

I was really stumped on this question and I asked my mom to help me out. She responded with "Not really. You wouldn't be your true self if anyone had helped you out" and smiled. Which makes me think that it's probably her who helped me the most, by encouraging me to be independent and true to myself. She gave me the courage to really explore and question the things that didn't seem right around me. If I had to pick someone who inspired me the most it would definitely be my mom, even though she probably didn't know what she was doing at the time.

Talk to me about your struggles with identity and how you’ve grown to overcome them.

Becoming comfortable with myself took years. It took trying to force myself into an image that I didn't really want (like I mentioned previously) to becoming friends with with other trans people to learn about their experiences and their different levels of comfort. Now, I rarely feel any dysphoria and I'm okay when I'm misgendered or people assume I'm cisgender. I've found that as long as I'm comfortable with my own identity, I'm okay. I can finally wear and act how I feel most myself, because I know my own gender. I know myself, and that's all that matters to me.

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