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Any transgender person would probably tell you that no one wakes up one day and decides they’re transgender. However, my moment of truth was just as sudden as that.
It’s not so much a choice as it is a realization – it’s part of who you are, and just like any other aspect about your identity, you have to discover it for yourself. That’s usually where the trouble lies, considering the conservative, predominantly Catholic Philippines.
Looking back, I’m now aware of the little things that hinted that I was non-binary while I was growing up. I felt confusion towards both my male and female peers. I felt confusion towards both my male and female peers, because they acknowledged and affirmed the differences between men and women even if they were progressive feminists or not. I inexplicably liked cross-dressing for acting projects in school. I felt familiar towards characters with androgynous gender presentations, belying a truth about myself that my upbringing kept hidden from me.
I didn’t feel quite like myself during those years before I realized it. As young and naïve as I was with a fickle mind and an equally fickle heart, I knew even back then that I wasn’t being myself. I didn’t feel like I was me. I felt like I was being limited by something I didn’t have the mind to comprehend at the time; like wild animals born in captivity looking beyond their confines and wondering vaguely why they felt like they belonged out there.
That was all I ever really knew about my gender identity, until years later, as 12th grade me sat in a social science class where the topic for the week was about gender. Suddenly, the vague, subtle hints I grew up with all made sense, and I felt the inspiration and pure joy moments of self-actualization bring you. I was, for once – and I never expected to be able to say this so soon into my journey through life – genuinely happy.
Internally, it was a perfect moment. Externally, however, the perspective told of a different story.
Realizing it was one thing, coming out with it was another. I trusted that the friends I have would be accepting of me, and sure enough, they were. In fact, they’re my best supporters.
I wish I could say the same for my family, though. I’m a firm believer in cutting ties with anyone, biological family or not, if they’re toxic in your life and only bring you down, but even I have to admit that part of me still wants to give them a chance. I wanted to see if they really can love and accept me like they claim they do.
But I knew they wouldn’t. Sure, they won’t disown me or physically harm me, but I know they would just merely shrug me off, disregard me and still insist on my assigned gender at birth, and dead-name me.
I decided to hold it off. I’m still holding it off now, a year after. I still don’t know when I can tell them.
My issues with feeling isolated and not belonging worsened as well. I didn’t know anyone else in my circle who was transgender, and the amount of proper representation in media was severely lacking. Not that I felt like I was adequately represented either when I was still cisgender – again, I always had the itching feeling that something didn’t feel quite right with myself, even then. I wouldn’t swap that with what I’m feeling right now, either. Why go hide and try to fit in now, when I never really did anyway to begin with? I did not venture so far to retreat so soon.
I can tell myself this all I want. Sometimes it works in convincing me that I don’t hate my circumstances. A lot of times, however, it doesn’t. I can’t deny the fact that it really hurts. It hurts that I have to feel even more alone than before; it hurts that I have one more secret to keep from my family; it hurts to realize more about myself just to realize, at the same time, that I actually don’t know who I am.
It hurts that I can’t just simply be.
It’s been a year of settling into my non-binary identity, and from the initial discomfort of it all, I managed to fashion it into the closest thing to home that I know of, thus far. A storm rages outside, a flurry of hostility and uncertainty that threatens to break down these walls, but I rest assured knowing the blood, sweat, and tears that make the foundation are no stranger to adversity.
I’ve made it this far. I’ll make it even farther. – Rappler.com
Roni Navarro, a student at the Ateneo de Manila University, identifies as non-binary and has been out to friends for a year now.