LOOK LIKE YOURSELF

THEIR STORIES: Linh Duong

When did you realize you don't relate to your birth gender?

I grew up in a very conservative/Vietnamese household where the standard was long beautiful black hair, tiny frame, and dresses… all of which didn’t suit me at all. Being feminine just didn’t make sense to me. I neglected any Barbies that were bought for me and went straight for Ninja Turtles and X-men action figures instead. Girls I grew up with started wearing bras while I was slouching to hide my chest (I honestly think that’s why my posture is STILL bad). I found comfort in wearing hats and tucking my hair behind my ears to give off the impression that it was shorter than it actually was.

How did you deal with that mentally & physically?

When it was clear to my dad that I wasn’t just going through a tomboy phase… things got pretty rough. I can’t totally blame him. He grew up in a different culture that had completely opposite views. So I did what any angry kid would do... I hung out in my room, wrote in my journal, and listened to A TON of angry/depressing music haha I was an emo cliche but a total genuine one. And you know what? It helped.

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

Oh god.. I’m the biggest sap on the inside. It’s embarrassing. And from what I’ve been told, I always look really angry. People always assume I’m in a bad mood but that’s just my face, I swear haha So I guess to sum things up, I’m a total lovey goof on the inside but look way pissed on the outside. Oh, and I’m really short. Too short. Ugh.

How would you prefer people to address you? pronouns, preferred name etc
I go by she/her even though I sometimes use male pronouns for myself here and there. Sometimes it’s just more fitting. My partner and I have two dogs and we always refer to me as Papa when talking to them. I just don’t think I look like a mom, mommy, etc.

What does gender identity mean to you?

At the ripe old age of 30, I’m just now learning. So without all the fancy jargon… gender identity means being whoever is fitting to you. I didn’t realize how freaking huge the world of gender identity was while growing up… but once I saw how much it branched out, I felt more at home. Like wow, I definitely fit somewhere now.

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/

That would hands down be my older sister. Something we laugh about often is that she always bought me boy’s clothes when I was younger. She always said that it was because the boys stuff was so much cuter than the girls. She knows me better than myself really. She knew I was queer before I came out and knew I needed someone to talk to when I started binding. I’ve never been afraid to tell her anything because she has always made me feel safe. On the day of my high school prom, she picked up my tux and hid it at her apartment so we didn’t risk our dad finding out. She even went and bought a boutonniere and pinned it on my jacket. I wouldn’t say that she helped me start to see my true self. But she sure as hell helped me keep stick to my guns and be proud of who I am and whoever I want to be in the future.

Talk to me about your struggles with identity and how you've grown to overcome them.
Also include anything you want within your story

It can be pretty dicey accepting/loving your identity when you constantly feel like the elephant in the room everywhere you go. People love staring …a lot. Some even laugh and it’s mind-blowing to me because they’re almost always adults. I started talking to people in a “girlier” voice if I sensed them getting confused about my gender. Isn’t that crazy? I’m the one being judged but I felt the need to make people who most likely shouldn’t matter, more comfortable. And then I had an epiphany… It’s really easy to overcome stuff if you stop giving a shit about shitty people. I’m a masculine-presenting female, that binds her tits, would prefer you call her handsome rather than pretty, and I give ZERO fucks if anyone has an issue with any of that. Life is too short to let toxic people screw up my happiness in the person that I’ve become and love.

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