Fighting To Be Comfortable With Who I Really Am Was Worth The Pain

Fighting To Be Comfortable With Who I Really Am Was Worth The Pain

Gender identity is a highly debated topic: are gender and sex the same thing? In my eyes, they aren't. I was born female, yet my gender identity is fluid.

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For a majority of my life, I've struggled with my gender identity. It's a long story of uncertainty and fear — eventually came happiness and a sense of pride.

My story begins in the eighth grade: the first time I ever learned the word about the term "transgender" was on Tumblr. I found some people on the site who identified as such, watched their YouTube videos, and came to the conclusion: I was trans.

I grew up fearful of what people would say — that I was a freak, or going to Hell. I was scared to come out to my parents: would they kick me out and shun me, as other kids had experienced?

The rest of high school is hazy — I was forced to live with my given name and the pronouns I didn't choose. I struggled to fit in. I dressed in a lot of black, my hair was shaggy and hid my face.

Somewhere along my junior year, I mustered the courage to tell a few friends about my new name and asked to go by he/him pronouns. I eventually told my mom how I felt, but she was resistant at first. She didn't understand what any of it meant — and although I was willing to educate her, she didn't go for it.

Online, people were calling me by the name I picked, I even introduced myself as such, and people were using the pronouns I wanted. They were small, yet successful, steps. I went through another "crisis" a few months later; I suddenly hated being called by masculine pronouns and I couldn't stand being called the name I chose.

I began questioning everything I was once certain of. I was so set on my name, and un-coming out to the few friends I made online was awkward, and I didn't mind the few friends who still called me by the name I picked. Yet I was facing this new anxiety of not having an identity.

I found exactly what I was looking for when I wasn't looking for it. I wasn't researching or watching videos on YouTube -- I wasn't trying to define who I was. I just let it happen. Why should I try to label myself, especially when I wasn't sure of who or what I was?

When I was a senior in high school, I came out as "gender-fluid", which essentially means that my identity is on a spectrum: some days I am more masculine, other days I am more feminine, and occasionally I am neither.

I was proud of my identity, and that I was finally living truthfully.

I grew to learn that clothes have no gender; tee-shirts are tee-shirts, jeans are jeans -- why does it matter if the jeans I buy are from the men's section? They're comfier and have better pockets! Men's tee-shirts are broader across the shoulders and fit me better!

I started wearing whatever was comfortable for me in whatever fashion I wanted. I got a proper binder to conceal my chest; I kept getting my hair cut short because that's how I like it. Sometimes I get referred to as "sir", other times "ma'am", and I don't mind it anymore. It made my heart race and made me feel awkward, but now both are equally as comfortable for me.

I struggled with my identity for a better part of my life. I was fearful of being judged and rejected by my family and by my schoolmates. When I finally took the leap and came out, I was surprised by the love and support I was given by my friends. My parents were just happy I was happy.

When I started being honest with myself, I became happier too.

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Just Because I'm From Hawaii, Does Not Mean I'm Hawaiian

My residency is not my race.
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Let me start off with a few things about myself. I am a first generation American who is primarily Filipino, Spanish and Hungarian. With that said, I am a woman of color, who frankly, looks all white. I was born and raised on the North Shore of O'ahu, but currently live in the mainland.

Now, let me tell you a little bit about Hawai'i, because I'm sure you don't know much about it since it's only given like, a paragraph of recognition in our history books. The Ancient Hawaiians traveled by canoe for thousands of miles using only the stars to navigate and found themselves in the Hawaiian Islands. They settled and their culture spread throughout the mountains and shores.
In 1778, Captain Cook "discovered" the islands, despite the thriving population residing there (he can be compared to Christopher Columbus). In the 1830s, the Sugar Industry was introduced, bringing a diverse range of immigrants from China, the Philippines, Japan and many other countries to work on the plantations, creating the diverse and ethnic population that makes up the islands today. In the 1890s, Queen Lili'uokalani (lily-oo-oh-kah-lah-nee) was imprisoned in an upstairs bedroom of her palace and soon after, the monarchy was overthrown. Hawai'i became a state in the 1950s.

With all of that said, we can now discuss an issue that I have realized needs to be addressed.

Since I moved to the mainland, I have had many encounters where people assure me that I am Hawaiian, despite my rebuttals that I am definitely not. The conversation usually goes something like this:

Them: "So you're from Hawaii, are you Native Hawaiian?"

Me: "Oh no, I'm Filipino, Hungarian and Spanish."

Them: "No, I mean, were you born and raised there?"

Me: "Yeah, but I'm not Hawaiian."

Them: "Yeah you are. It's the same thing."

No, it is most definitely not the same thing. If you were in Japan and saw a white person or any person not of Japanese descent, would you ask if they were Japanese simply because they lived there?
No, you wouldn't because you should know that residency does not equate descent. Sure, you might be curious and ask, but if they told you they weren't Japanese, you wouldn't try to convince them that they are. As I mentioned, Hawaii's population is made up of a ton of immigrants, and just because someone's family may have been there for generations, they are still not Hawaiian unless they actually have Hawaiian blood.

Not only do people assume that I am Hawaiian simply because I am from there, but they will continuously say that I look Hawaiian even if they have no idea what someone of Hawaiian descent looks like. Hawaiians are people of color, as are many of those who reside in the islands. However, as I previously mentioned, I do not look like a person of color even though I am, so why would you associate me, a seemingly full white person, to be Hawaiian? It makes no sense.

There are many things wrong with choosing to misidentify an individual or a group of people.
One, is that by you convincing yourself that I am something that I am not, you are diminishing who I am, and how I identify myself.
Second, you are creating an illusion based upon your own desires of who Hawaiians as a people are.
Third, by using me specifically, you are whitewashing the image of an entire race. I could go on, but there is not enough time in the world to name them all.




Their culture has been reduced to leis, aloha shirts, surfing, and tiki torches. Aloha has become a household word used by people who have no understanding of what Aloha truly means. Girls go as hula dancers in an effort to show skin on Halloween without any second thought. Please stop. We cannot continue to misidentify, appropriate and basically erase Hawaiian culture, just as has been done to the Native Americans.

Hawaiians have already been stripped of their land. I will not allow them to be stripped of their identity as well.

Cover Image Credit: TourMaui

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Believe It Or Not, Being The 'Model Minority' Is Not A Privilege

Asian-American history is not something that is widely known or talked about, and for that, Asian-Americans are perceived as more privileged than other minorities.

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The topic of racism is one that is very much prevalent in the United States. However, in conversations about racism and marginalized groups, it seems that Asian-Americans are often excluded. The Asian-American experience is different from that of other minorities, with the model minority myth being a major contributing factor. While being viewed as a "model minority" may not seem like such a bad thing for Asians upon first glance, being a model minority does not equate to privilege.

There is a notion that Asian-Americans have suffered less from racism, and that they are privileged compared to other minorities. From elementary school, American students learn about Native American genocide and the history of racism against African Americans, but Asian-Americans rarely appear in any US history courses. They are not shown to have suffered a long history of systematic racism in the United States as other minorities have. Asian-American history is not something that is widely known or talked about, and for that, Asian-Americans are perceived as more privileged than other minorities.

Here's the issue: just because it isn't talked about, just because it isn't taught in school, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Discrimination against Asian-Americans is a part of American history, from the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was the first immigration law to target a specific ethnic group, in 1882, to the Japanese internment camps in the 1940s, to the murder of Vincent Chin in 1982, in which the murderers served no jail time, to the issues of media representation that still exist now. This is a history that has seemingly been erased and brushed to the side so that Asians can be used as the model minority.

I'm not asking that everyone become an expert on Asian-American history. It's enough to know that it exists, and that Asian-Americans are still a racial minority in the United States and still suffer from racism. Instead of dismissing them as privileged, acknowledge that Asian-Americans have faced discrimination and include them in conversations about racism.

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