Advanced Essay #2: My Journey to Self Acceptance


The purpose of my essay is to explore the impact of identity labels, and the significance they have for individuals in the process of self-discovery. There is also a focus on the role that community plays in self-acceptance. The communication of these concepts was accomplished through recalling my personal journey to understanding and accepting my gender identity. Within this essay, I feel that one of my strengths was integrating a metaphor that supports my main point. I used the idea of a journey to represent the process of self discovery, and a canyon as a metaphor for the barrier between living without a sense of self and existing within a community as an individual defined on their own terms. It serves to define the vast difference between self-realization and self-acceptance. Additionally, I am proud of my success in completing tasks on time. In my next paper, I will challenge myself to clearly establish my main point earlier on in the process. Additionally, I would like to work towards communicating my ideas in a more concise and powerful manner.

Advanced Essay #2: My Journey to Self Acceptance

For much of my life, I never bothered to reflect on who I was. I accepted what other people told me about my identity, whether I liked it or not. I assumed that any individual’s identity was not self-discovered, but was determined by those around that individual. However, I have learned that my identity, and the process of existing as my truest self, belongs entirely to me.  I will not sacrifice my sense of self just to appease society, nor to lessen the resistance I face as a result of my existence and expression of self.

For the past several years, I have gone through an exploration of and acceptance of my genderqueer identity. The first time I thought about it is a memory from when I was in 8th grade. The moment when I learned what the word cisgender meant, something clicked for me. In conversation with a friend, the word came up. I asked what it meant. “Cisgender refers to anyone who identifies as the gender they were born as. That's you and me,” my friend explained. My brain instantly went, “That's not me… is that me? I am not sure.” And then I went on to dwell on it periodically for a significant portion of time, in between long periods of denial.

During those long periods of denial, I often felt that I did not know myself, that I had not yet been given the knowledge of who I truly was. I knew people existed on the other side of the canyon, in a land of understanding themselves and being who they truly were. I did not understand that one could travel from one side to the other. The truth is, everyone has a canyon to cross. Everyone has a part of who they are that they must discover and move towards. The moment we must make a change, we are tempted to deny the journey that has brought us to the moment. We cannot unlive the journey. To sit at the barrier is to waste away into nothingness, to resign oneself to a confused, empty, and meaningless fate. To bridge the canyon is to find validation within. Once having reached a pivotal point in self-discovery, we can connect where we are and where we want to be. It is to build a bridge and pass over the canyon, rather than jump into the abyss.

One of the steps over the bridge for me was to share my thoughts with one of my mothers. I told her that I thought I was genderqueer. We were in a car. I spent the whole ride, on the way to see a dentist, getting up the courage to bring up the topic. Finally, as we got back into the car after the appointment to go home, I told her. Her response crushed me.

“Just promise me,” she said, with a clearly disappointed tone to her voice, “that you won’t turn into a man.” She slid into the car, and slammed the door behind her.

A cocktail of sadness, disappointment, anger at her, self-doubt, and self-loathing welled up inside me, sloshing around. I was either going to cry, or going to explode: her words, now fading into the tense silence, were the smoldering match to my gasoline. “Who ever said that I wanted to be a man?!” I sputtered, “I just want to be me. How is that the first response you, a self-proclaimed trans-ally, have. It’s like you are supportive of everyone, no matter what, until that person is your own kid.”

“Yeah. I guess so,” she unashamedly agreed, as if she saw nothing wrong with it.

We sat in silence.

Many people will cross this bridge with you, and many will try to hold you back. Many people will cheer you on from the other side, and many will demand that you turn away, or else jump. Belonging is not guaranteed. Turning back is to make more difficult the path for the next traveler; to desecrate the faith of the folks across the canyon. Continuing forward is tearing yourself away from the arms that have cradled you and embraced you since you were young. But everyone has a place where they fit in, even if they must travel far to find it. I may not fit exactly in with the puzzle I was packaged with, but I fit in with my community. The more people like me I have met, the more I have learned to accept myself. As I have gained confidence through embracing this community, I have found my place. I have claimed my right to exist shamelessly as I am. I am genderqueer, and my existence is mine. Identity is for an individual to define. To sacrifice one’s well being just to appease others is to peel away and discard the unique meaning of that individual’s existence.

As explained by Jill Soloway, film director and writer of the television show Transparent,  “The category of nonbinary or gender-queer feels like a relief to me. It's sort of a safe home, a place in which my self wishes to reside…. I know it’s awkward and hard to understand, but all we have is the language. These words are attempting to catch up to something that is a question of how one exists inside one’s mind or one’s soul.” (Glamour interview, Ann Friedman, 9/14/17)

I knew who I was, but had trouble accepting myself. I had internalized so much of the negative responses and resistance I had been met with. It would be so much easier if I could just be who they wanted me to be. It would be easier if I had never discovered my identity in the first place, but that was impossible. Having a sense of self is a part of the human experience; an integral part of existence. It would be so much easier to opt out of the human experience, but that was clearly not an option. As I struggled with myself, figuring out my identity, I replayed many of the responses of people close to me:

“I never knew you weren’t happy on this side of the canyon.”

“You seemed to fit in so well when you were younger.”

“We would miss you. Just promise me you won’t go.”

“You’ll regret it. I screwed a lot of things up when I was a teenager.”

“I accept that you wish to be over there, so long as you stay on this side.”

“This is just a phase. A trend.”

“Fake. Liar. Special snowflake.”

Where I see my journey to happiness, they see the withering of an image they had of me. They see an imposter killing off the person they thought they knew, wearing the skin of their loved one, asking for help to irreversibly change it.

Am I really a monster? A fake? An imposter? A special snowflake, just begging for attention in a way that is guaranteed to cause me agony and make my life significantly more difficult?

No. Because voices also echo from the other side.

“Change what you cannot live with. Learn to love the rest,” advises a more experienced traveler, already trod on the path I follow.

Among them, is a quote from queer activist Kate Bornstein: “There’s a bunch of people who used to think ‘I’m a terrible person for changing my gender’ or ‘I’m a terrible person because I’m f**king same-sex people’ and people are now understanding that, no, trans is not mean to anybody. Queering up your sexuality isn’t mean to anybody.” (Huffpost interview, James Nichols, 10/10/15, updated 8/10/16)

The open arms of those who have traveled this path before me, cheer me on.

Self-discovery is a process. I am constantly evolving; growing as a person. For a long time, when I doubted myself, I thought that this made my understanding invalid. Now, I feel that doubt is inevitable. It is a landmark along the trail of self-discovery, just before the point of making a decision. It would be so simple to stop, to never cross that barrier.

But if we do not carry on, what are we to do? We must continue forward, as we cannot turn back. Since my first moments of questioning my identity, I have learned to reflect on all aspects of my identity on a deeper level. I am now self-aware in a way I never would have thought possible.

Where do I go now? Many people see a genderqueer identity as highly politicized. It is true that identity in the context of society is political and formative of the present moment, as well as the future of humans as social beings. Labels can be used to create both division and community. But identity on an individual basis has a more fluid meaning. For me, I exist in the way I have always existed: as myself. Now, I put a label on it because that label fits and that label creates a sense of community for me. Identifying as genderqueer connects me to the community that I have discovered myself in. This sense of community so powerful and necessary. My genderqueer identity is made up of me existing and putting a label that fits onto my existence. This has been a long journey for me, and I know it is one that will last forever. I know who I am in this moment, and look forward to continuing to discover myself. I will not sacrifice my sense of self just to appease a society that claims I do not exist.