LOOK LIKE YOURSELF

THEIR STORIES: Riley

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

The best discourse I ever heard for how I felt, was, “it’s not like I’m trapped in the wrong body, I’m trapped in other people’s perceptions about my body”.

The problem was not that many sources, or representation, exists for nonbinary. It made me not realize I was Trans* for years. I questioned being trans for eight years before I knew I was. Because my first representation of the community was “stereotypical transmen”, like Buck Angel, I just thought, “yeah. I’m not that, so I can’t be trans.”  It took 8 years and a year of therapy to realize it. For some people it’s easier, they “always knew”, start hormones, get top surgery-go forward, and never look back. being non-binary is hesitating.

How did you deal with that mentally & physically?

It kept me in a grey area- I knew I wasn’t a girl, but I wasn’t a guy, so I didn’t know who I was. It’s living feeling like, totally fluid, and confused. constantly. I went on hormones for 9 months, and took myself off. i wanted to look more male, but i didn’t want to look like a man. So I messed with my hormones to determine what was right for me. My biggest obstacle now is my decision to have top surgery or not. To me, nonbinary is possibly never having a destination. I just live my life, now. I don’t worry about labels or if I’m too “girl” or if I’m too “boy”. 

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

Inside me is the authentic me, without gendered barriers. Inside me is just a dork, and into music, and space, and dogs and dad jokes. My outside appearance, at my best, I feel like encompasses all the things I love about both genders- my hair is long, my arms and shoulder are broad and strong, I can wear crop tops without feeling like a girl, I have a little bit of chin hair. 

How would you prefer people to address you? pronouns, preferred name etc

Everyone in my hometown in Alabama calls me by my birth name, and “she”. All of the people I have met here, in Philly, call me Riley and “he”. it feels like I’m living two split lives, but, that works for me for now.

What does gender identity mean to you?

Gender identity to me has been smashing all expectations and false ideals for myself and creating it into something new, something that’s me, something that is on the line between gender and doesn’t have a specific place. I’m comfortable with that now. That’s where my identity lives. I just do me- it doesn’t have to be that deep.

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/

My uncle has been very supportive of me becoming whoever I am. Originally that was because I was a “lesbian”, but that really took a turn. But he is supportive through anything. My parents are very accepting, I am lucky. Other trans men who take pride in their femininity have been extremely important for helping me see a vision and a future where I can feel comfortable.

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

The hardest part about being non-binary is constantly feeling excluded and invalidated, between trans and cis people alike. Never feeling like I am a finished product of transitioning. Trans has been prevalent in media in the past couple of years, but non-binary is never included, which feels invisible.

It makes attraction infinitely confusing- “do I want to be that girl, am I attracted to her, do I want to be that guy, am I just attracted to him?”  I’ve mostly made my own struggles, and made things hard for myself. I am trying to learn that the way I live and what I enjoy dressing like does not invalidate me. All my struggles are internal. It’s great when other people accept you, but that doesn’t mean you accept yourself. Once I learn that nothing I like, or want to be, invalidates who I am, I think my struggles will be a lot less overwhelming. But I really am happy with how far I’ve come and where I’m at.

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