I have been meaning to put these thoughts down for a while. I don’t know if they’ll help anyone, but when I blog about gender identity it’s mostly for one of two purposes. Firstly, that maybe someone who doesn’t ‘get’ it might read this and start to understand. Secondly, because when I was learning about myself I felt incredibly alone, terrified and isolated, until I read blogs written by people like me which actually saved my life.  I’ve had a lot of time to ponder my identity, and even though I’m late to the party (in my mid-30’s), I know that while I’m genderfluid or non-binary, I’m also transmasculine.

I remember lying on my couch in the dark before I truly understood this, in a house far away from my family and my home state. I remember my thoughts spiraling down into a pit of depression I’d never experienced before, one that scared me so much I knew I had to examine it, dissect it, and figure it out, or there wouldn’t be anything left of me. I just lay there, my mind spinning, wondering why I couldn’t feel okay. Wondering why nothing in my life felt right.

When I first started exploring my own identity I didn’t know what labels were open to me. I didn’t know I could be one or many things. I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, and gender identity was rarely discussed. I had no role model. I had no guide. I didn’t know what options were on the menu. I had this idea of where I thought I should be based on what my society and culture told me I and based on my very best role models – my parents. By their mid-20’s they had everything I thought I should want to have. Great jobs, a home, two kids.

Took me forever to learn that I’m NOT them. Hell, I’m still figuring that out.

This isn’t meant to slight my parents. They’re actually the coolest parents. I never explored my gender identity as a child because they never enforced uncomfortable gender roles on their kids. I climbed trees, wore dirty jeans, played in the mud, and hated dolls. And all that was fine with them. I never felt forced into a box because there was no box.

This was both good and bad, in hindsight. Good because I had total freedom to be myself. Bad, because I never actually had any cause to question my identity until I got older and realized the things I had thought I wanted, weren’t. The role I tried to fit myself into was all wrong. I tried so hard to not stand out in a crowd that in doing so, I never questioned myself, my identity, who I was. Let me reiterate – I did it to myself.

I learned that much later.

The cool thing is, you’re never too old to learn about yourself. I had to learn that too. You’re never too old to look into your heart and see what or who it beats for. I wish I’d understood these things earlier, because it would have made my younger life a little easier in some respects, but I know them now. I know who I am and where I need to go.

Some days I still feel like I did this too late and I spent a decade and a half being totally the wrong person. Some days I feel way too old to change. Some days it’s so hard to put forth the effort to dress a certain way, style my hair just right, and present to the world the person I want them to see. I look in the mirror and catch a glimpse of that guy and I want to smash my fist into it because why can’t that guy be me every day, without this much effort?

And then I stop and I breathe and I look again, and I’m happy because at least I saw that guy. At least he was there. At least I know what I need, and where I have to go. Who I have to be.

The road is long; the road is hard. The road is paved with both successes and failures, with danger and fear. But it’s also paved with surprises, kindness, and love where I didn’t expect any. I can walk it, maybe slower than some, maybe later than some, but I can travel on it because that road isn’t exclusive.

There’s lots more that can be written on this topic, and lots I hope to eventually write. What I wanted to say, though, is that we all experience different travels, different journeys in life. We learn things about ourselves and if we keep our minds open, we won’t stop learning. We should listen to ourselves and listen to each other.

I came out to my parents, officially, two weeks ago, after about 5 years of self-exploration. I am 36.

I still have parents. They still love me. There’s confusion, and there’s difficulty. There’s misunderstanding and there are a lot of questions. In the end, though, when I told my dad I could handle pretty much anything but losing his love, he just looked at me with a stern expression on his face, the one he gets when he’s about to lay down the law, and said five words:

“That’s never going to happen.”

I’m sure there will be plenty of speedbumps in the road. We’ve already learned that acceptance doesn’t mean ready understanding. Unconditional love doesn’t mean unconditional acceptance. But for the moment, I took a risk and it paid off.

I’ve learned since that coming out isn’t a one-and-done deal. Every friendship I’ve had has been tested. Some have flourished. Some have died. I’ve found new ones I didn’t ever expect.

I’m currently on vacation, and it’s given me a lot of opportunity to re-evaluate what I’ve done with my life so far. I’ve been reflecting on where I am now and where I want to be in five years. I’ve been thinking about what I want, what I need to do with my life, how to make a difference. Change is coming, and I’m not afraid.

Oh, the places I’m going to go.