This will be hopefully be short post because I want to shower then hop in bed with my book (The New Jim Crow) before sleeping.
It’s been a week and a half since I came out to my parents and I’ve been struggling. Rather than feeling emancipated from the stress of not being out to them (and I guess I am free from it now, in big ways), I feel caught in a valley. As if working up to coming out and actually coming out was climbing a mountain, but after catching my breath at the summit and seeing clouds shadow the sun, I realize that I am somehow in a valley alone.
My gender hasn’t really come up in the last week and a half and for the most part my parents haven’t misgendered me—both have had at least a couple of slip-ups, which is to be expected. On the morning of my birthday (the day after coming out), my dad’s first words (sung) to me were: “Happy Birthday to you, Girl.” Not knowing if he knew what he was doing, I kept a blank face and descended the basement stairs to obtain my dog’s morning snack. I didn’t know if he said girl unthinkingly or if it was intentional. He let me correct him during grace, however (my family isn’t really religious but we say grace every night…I leave God out). The correction was a bit abrupt but I wasn’t about to be misgendered during my birthday dinner.
No, other than those fairly isolated events, things have been pretty smooth. I’m thankful for this. A couple of times, I’ve just hugged my parents without explaining why. I’m grateful that conversation went well. So thankful. As well as it went, I don’t feel ashamed of waiting so long or fretting so much in the run-up. If I’d come out earlier, even a few months beforehand, I don’t think it would have gone as well. We all had growing to do. I needed to get myself in a better frame of mind. Previous conversations I’d had with them about P and Ellis, both nonbinary, had helped, whether they knew P and Ellis were actually nonbinary or not. During our conversation in which I came out, my dad asked if Ellis was nonbinary too. Being able to say yes, and talk about the ways in which P, Ellis, and I are similar (in that none of us identify with the gender binary), but also different, because every single human’s experience with gender is different, was very helpful and affirming.
So why have I been subdued? Why have I felt like crying at times or just finding a little nest to curl up in? Why am I sad even though I have a family that loves and supports me, as well as a Facebook community that showered my coming out post with likes, loves, and well wishes?
Here are some reasons I’ve identified:
-Daily anxiety about interpersonal and/or systematic rejection and discrimination due to one’s identity is draining.
Living with concern, for years, that my two biggest supporters would reject the validity of my nonbinary identity/or would otherwise really struggle to accept it was draining.
Not coming out to some other members of my family and other individuals and/or communities because of this was also stressful. I’m a very open person about this kind of thing. I like throwing it on the table then moving onto the next, more important thing.
Surveys, bathrooms, job applications, etc. Gender gender gender. Everywhere. For what reasons?
-After coming out, I’m feeling the weight of that build-up. I feel the weight of what I carried. Systematic stuff sticking around, and there will still be little challenges with my fam, in addition to sharing my gender with other folks and future employers, etc, but now that I can let some of my stress go, I realize how stressed I’ve been as both a nonbinary person and someone who loves and worries about trans folks.
-I expended so much energy preparing to come out to my parents that now that I am finally out to them, I’m left looking at the rest of my life through a magnifying glass. It’s not making me feel that great. It’s sinking in that I only have one part-time job now. I’m underemployed, struggling to identify work I can comfortably commit to and find jobs in, and I live at home at age 24. My city is rapidly gentrifying and even if I obtain full-time employment soon, I’m not sure I’ll find a place to live where I won’t have to live paycheck to paycheck.
-My depression is flaring. I’ve been feeling a little hopeless about not seeing either a short-term or long-term future for myself. Ashamed that after centering my work and studies around communities and social justice for years, now that I’m actually out of school for a time, I haven’t yet felt healthy enough for the work I want to do. Community-oriented work requires a lot of emotional stamina, and I’m an empath. I’m also interested in so many things, I’m not sure what to focus on. Voice in my head says quit dallying, just dive in. Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer, apply, dive in. Whom are you serving?
-I didn’t exercise enough this past week. Looking at the fitness tracker on my phone, I realized that for the last week or so, I’ve walked at least half as much as I normally do. I’ve barely biked.
How am I lifting my spirits?
-Actually picking up books I’d been excited about but then too blue to read. I’ve been committed to reading The New Jim Crow since I first heard about it and have owned it for a year. Last night, I picked it up and started. It’s time to get myself back into my zone of living, loving, and working with a commitment to helping my local communities. Criminal justice reform, with an emphasis on racial justice, is one of my greatest passions.
-Tonight I ran nearly five miles, and in different neighborhoods. I worked my way to where my great-grandmother lived and where my dad spent much of his childhood, in the Foster-Powell neighborhood. A residential area with mostly single-family homes that doesn’t receive as much support from the city as neighborhoods like mine do, but a comfortable neighborhood that has also undergone much rapid change. I had never run in that area before. I felt like I was running through time. Not knowing that less “inner southeast” area well, I felt my privilege as I ran, I felt the stories the houses and streets told, I felt my roots. I felt the whispers of migrations of people who have been pushed from their homes.
I don’t remember the last time I ran more than 3 miles at a time—and I haven’t even done that much recently. I was extra engaged tonight, though, because I was (re)discovering more of my home on foot. I intend to work up to running further east, and to the north, to where my grandparents lived.
In observing and relearning some of my roots, and in observing the changes Portland has undergone, in addition to what neighborhoods have managed to retain, I imagine I’ll gain greater physical and mental health. I feel a little hope and humility.
This post was a little rambly, but it’s what I’ve got tonight. Time to shower.