• Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

From small town to big city, a journey of identity

ByLevi Mitchell

Apr 30, 2019

The view from my family’s kitchen is of expansive hills, growing steadily into smooth mountains.

My walk to school was 10 minutes at most if I kept a leisurely pace. I am from a small town. Each time I take a trip home, I notice more and more how far away things feel here. Empty is maybe unfair to say, but since having left for university in a city, I am always struck by the sudden loneliness the mountain scene creates. 

As goes for most people’s time in school, queerness was not often mentioned. ‘Gay’ was a lazy insult, not a person known to us. The media I consumed was starved of queerness. I’m sure the most loudly queer thing I saw for many years was the Rocky Horror Picture Show, although I was somewhat oblivious to the genderfuckery taking place. It was a surprise to me when my queer identity began to form, despite what I can now point to as clear signs of something non-hetero stirring inside me. I had little in the way of confidants, and like many I sought answers on the internet.

A great deal of my changing ideas about my own gender and sexuality came from hours spent on YouTube and Tumblr. It seems a massive cliché now, or an inside joke within the community, but likely without these resources I would have spent many more years in a state of unknown confusion: never quite sure why I always felt so uncomfortable. When I began to transition, I was asked by medical professionals over and over how long had I felt that way, what was my childhood like, attempting to fish out proof of my transness on their own terms, and find answers that would satisfy them.

At the time, I always felt stumped. I could remember so little from childhood that I felt forced to blag my way through sessions. However as I learnt more about myself and my queerness, I began to realise the ways in which my identity – whilst      not wholly known to me – deeply affected my childhood. Most notably is the loneliness and disconnectedness that, for a long time, I felt marred me. Walking through my primary school playing field, trailing a hula hoop alongside me, not knowing who I belonged with. It felt almost nomadic, drifting from trading Bratz doll outfits, to reading books about Lego, to seeking refuge in the classroom so I didn’t have to pick.

Even into high school, it always felt as if I’d missed a day: everyone had been told what to do, everyone knew something I didn’t. I felt left out in the wind. When I did come out and began my transition in my final year of school, the isolation felt more prevalent than ever.

I was concerned that no one would take me seriously as a man, because they had known me to be a girl for so long. I was the odd boy out at the Christmas dance, and at graduation, lacking a suit and feeling so incongruous.

I knew virtually no other queer people. In childhood, the only trans people I ever saw were tales told to shock. Traditional family ‘men’ who all of a sudden threw their families into a tailspin by deciding to live as women.

Each story reeked of exaggeration and misunderstanding. It was obvious they were written for the sake of scandal, not for the benefit of the trans community.

Delving into the world of YouTube and Tumblr was when I began understanding more about gender and sexuality.

I felt the need for my queerness to be the centre of my entire self. It had to be the most prevalent quality. It was as if the lack of other out queer people created the need in me to be the most upstanding representative of our community, to be the person with all the answers, who was always reminding people of queerness or inequality or something.

I think, like when one gets any new thing, it became a preoccupation; I wanted to play with my new toy as much as possible.

That meant being clad in rainbow gear and graphic t-shirts that featured fun puns about my identity. “Genderfluid…drinking up the haters” next to a glass of colourful liquid. You get the jist. It was taking wearing my heart on my sleeve to a new, quite literal level. People had to know.

I spent hours trawling through videos and text posts about issues for the queer community, some genuine and some little more than petty arguments between Youtubers.

I was hellbent on only focusing my attention on queer history when I reached university. I was insistent that it would be my speciality, no questions asked.

Moving to university was terrifying. I took a year out between school and university in an attempt to better prepare myself for what was to come, but mostly I just spent my time suddenly remembering what would happen in ten months, in six months, in a month.

What did prick up my hope was the concept of a new start.

Transitioning had been uncomfortable in high school. Everyone had begun by saying my old name, only to fumble with their letters and half-assedly correct themselves.

My pronouns were so seldom correct. Everyone knew that I was the trans kid, and that I was alone in that school.

University was a place where no one would know my name. A place where I (in theory) would have total control over how I was thought of. I would become the ultimate queer trans person, educating people left and right, giving the finger to transphobes.

As time has gone on, these things still remain important to me.

However, at some point my focus shifted. If my friends, my family, my partner, all know about my queerness, then why engage in an endless pursuit of letting everyone know such details of my life.

I struggled so much with being misgendered, and feeling so upset and ashamed whenever it would happened.

But since beginning to let go of this need to be recognised by everyone, I’ve felt much more relaxed in my own body and mind.

Being misgendered is still uneasy, but learning to just live however I want – not putting so much time into adhering to gender roles or correcting people – has allowed me to enjoy myself far more. The people in my life who I trust have allowed me to stop straining myself in my day to day life.

My identity has fallen into a comfortable place within me, and whilst no doubt important, it is no longer the pinnacle of my being.


Illustration: Hannah Robinson

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