I recently told my family I identify as genderqueer and trans-masculine. They were not completely surprised: throughout my entire life, I have mostly been drawn to a masculine identity. When my mom started recalling all the times I struggled with gender as a kid, I asked her to write them down. So she wrote a letter and gave it to me.
The first time I read it, I broke down in tears.
Although I fluctuated between stereotypical masculine and feminine ideals, I always knew my gender. Society’s expectations for me to act a certain way depending on my sex forced me to question who I really was. This whole time, I knew I did not belong in the binaries of boy or girl. But I never knew this was actually an option I could choose—let alone that there were other people in the world who felt the same. So reading my mother’s letter was a surreal experience: after a lifetime of such a deeply personal and private relationship with my gender, it was insane to me to hear such a detailed perspective of my gender struggle from a close but outside view.
The letter had some dark moments: my struggle to choose which bathroom to use in elementary school (which is a choice I still struggle with today); her experience interacting with strangers who insisted on questioning my gender before I could even have an intellectual conversation with them about it; the moments around puberty when I fleetingly attempted to dress the way society would like someone with my body to dress. In reliving these chapters through her eyes, I was reminded all over again how glad I was to realize that my true self is stronger than the one society wanted me to be.
Breaking out was absolutely euphoric. When I told my friends and family that I identify as queer and genderqueer, they responded with love and support. While I am privileged that my coming-out experience met with such a positive response, the most rewarding part was what I got out of it: the process of coming out reminded me that I have always known who I am.
Today, I am with an amazing girlfriend who is unconditionally by my side. I have just begun taking testosterone hormones and making steps towards top surgery to finally present as I truly feel inside. And all the while, I’ve kept my mom’s letter by my side as a reminder of her incredibly powerful and consistent support—support which has helped carry me to this point.
I wanted to bring her words to life, to share the experience I had reading her letter with a wider audience. So I transformed some of her letter into a video. The video is a visual representation of now, while recalling the moments of then: now, as I am finally becoming who I truly am; then, as I struggled to break out of society’s expectations for my identity. In seven densely emotional minutes, it explores my gender struggle and my mom’s relationship to my journey. Most importantly, I hope, it conveys my love and appreciation for my mom, whose support I cherish more than words could ever express.