A picture of all the classmates I actually liked.
I was headed to my on-campus job one day, during the first semester of my senior year of college. As I cut through my school’s student union, I ran into my group of queer friends. My friend Daye called me over and, upon seeing my outfit—a yellow polo, a pair of gray high-waisted slacks and a matching pair of Baby Phat sneakers—sarcastically greeted me, “Hi, Grandpa!”
Obviously, they were joking, but Daye’s comment struck a weird chord with me.
Sure, I had—embarrassingly enough—planned this outfit the night before and thought it was a casual, yet chic look for the office. So I was disappointed that my friend, who at the time wrote a style column for the school newspaper, saw the look as more grandpa than glamazon. But there was a deeper reason why Daye’s comment bugged me, I just couldn’t put my finger on it.
Plus, I didn’t want to admit that I had actually put so much effort into the look. (Especially because, looking back, those Baby Phat sneakers that I thought were super-cute do kind of look like golf shoes.) So I laughed off the comment, and probably made some lame attempt at a witty comeback before heading to work. Daye’s comment stuck with me, though, and I couldn’t figure out why.
Later that day, I was sitting in one of the classes that I hated. It was a required course for communication studies majors and pretty much every student in the class was a communication studies major—so nobody really wanted to be there. The entire class would slack off, make “funny” comments throughout the lecture and just be generally annoying-as-hale.
As I surveyed the classroom, mentally listing all the things I hated about each of my classmates—one of my favorite pastimes—my gaze fell upon one girl in particular. She was some plain-looking blonde girl who always came to class in basic v-necks and leggings. Which was annoying because, first of all, who wears leggings as pants? Didn’t we all get that memo, like, four years ago?
The thing about her that stood out to me the most, though, was the fact that she had an amazing figure. Like, seriously, she had the perfect hourglass. I hated myself for being so judgmental and shallow, but I couldn’t help but think, ‘If I had her figure, I’d be showing up to class everyday in, like, belted sundresses and figure-flattering high-waisted slacks.’
That’s when it hit me. The reason why I hated this particular girl so much was because she would have been able to pull off all the looks I was trying to. Except on her, they would actually look the way they do in my head.
Because even though I was wearing “boys’” clothes, when I walked out the door that day, I thought I looked like this:
When, apparently, I actually looked like this:
Not that there’s anything wrong with looking like this. But, I mean, he’s not Kim Kardashian.
I didn’t know it then, but this is actually a form of gender dysphoria. And once I had the words to describe it, I realized this wasn’t a new occurrence in my life. From the age of 5, when I would cry every time my family made me cut my hair or cringed when someone called me “handsome;” to my teen years, during which I rejected every compliment I received on the facial hair I was starting to grow; I was experiencing gender dysphoria.
This was just the beginning of many other realizations I would come to regarding my gender identity. And while it would be a long time before I completely figured out my identity, it was the first time I identified what the problem was. It wasn’t just a fashion faux-pas, it wasn’t even just a body image thing. It was a gender thing.
And though gender dysphoria isn’t really something that ever goes away completely, that day in class, as soon as I realized my hatred of this girl stemmed from jealousy, my hatred towards her and all my other classmates sort of dissipated. I actually found myself laughing at some of their stupid jokes. It made me think, maybe they weren’t the ones that I hated?
Have you had any breakthrough moments related to your gender identity? Or are you still figuring it out? Let us know in the comments below or in your own essay! #ShareYourStory