“My name is Parker Robb and I am a queer, non-binary, trans, 24 year-old from Canada. I am sharing my story in the hopes I can create meaningful dialogue surrounding the existence of non-binary people. I’ve gone through a lot to get to where I am today, so let’s start at the beginning.
Growing up, I could only be described as a ‘tomboy.’ I engaged in stereotypically ‘feminine’ things occasionally, but never without resistance. I never enjoyed playing house or family, and I was always more interested in the cars the barbies drove than the actual dolls themselves. The story of my childhood is one which is common among many trans individuals; from being forced into dresses before I could walk or talk, to the gentle pressure from my peers to partake in stereotypically feminine activities, and none of these heavily gendered activities ever felt quite right.
My parents were supportive of my ‘different’ interests; they let me wear the clothes I wanted, encouraged me to join sports, and even let me dye my hair fun colors. Unfortunately, queer people weren’t celebrated or even accepted at this point, so my parents likely didn’t see these indicators as anything more than quirks or phases. I can look back now and see how I struggled with my identity throughout my life, but because I wasn’t given the language to understand or express my feelings, I never talked about it with anyone.
Eventually I came out as ‘gay’ around the age of 16, and lived quietly in that label until my second year in university. This initial coming out was a relief for me, as it was a convenient explanation for my inclination towards masculinity, and none of my friends or family seemed all that surprised. I thought I had found the answer I was looking for, until things started to fall apart again at the age of 21. I stumbled upon the chance to work in a professional setting, and while I was thankful for the opportunity, the normal feelings of nervousness that anyone would experience when starting a new job were coupled with an unexplainable sense of dread. I would soon realize this dread came from having to wear feminine business-casual clothes. My typical wardrobe consisted of loose fitting, masculine clothing, and even though I anticipated to feel uncomfortable in tight fitting feminine attire, the discomfort I experienced in those 8 months was much worse than anything I could have predicted.
Every night I would come home from work, immediately change out of the clothes I hated so much, spend a bit of time staring in the mirror and crying, and use the rest of my night researching different explanations as to why I was feeling the way I was. I was hesitant to reach out to those around me, because I hadn’t met many people who could relate. It was during this time when I really relied on the online trans community. I invested several hours each day reading other trans people’s stories, learning about their journeys, and admiring their successful transitions. Eventually, I reluctantly accepted the fact that what I was experiencing was much deeper than simply hating girl clothes. I wanted so desperately to love myself and my body, and it is when I decided to make a change.
At this point in time, I had a lot more questions than answers. I knew I was nonbinary, or a spectrum of gender identities which are not exclusively masculine or feminine, but I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant my future would look like. Accordingly, my transition started out slow; I began asking my friends to use a new name and gender neutral pronouns for me in a desperate attempt to distance myself from femininity. I happened to be surrounded by some of the most understanding and supportive people in the world, and during this crucial period of self discovery I was offered nothing but unconditional love and support. My friends stepped up to the plate in more ways than one; they ensured my safety, acted as advocates, and gave me support in ways I didn’t even know I needed. Being addressed by my new name and new pronouns helped to ease my dysphoria to an extent, but for me, the next major step in my journey of self discovery was hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The choice to begin HRT was one which carried a lot of fear and doubt. Was I making the right choice? Would anyone love me after I transition? What if I do this, and continue to feel the same?
The media tends to sensationalize stories of trans people who had always been 100% certain, and had been adamant about their gender from a young age. The assumption is, people who take hormones are doing so to move from one box to another; some from F to M, and others from M to F. In reality, this narrative does not describe everyone, and can leave many people feeling as though they are not ‘trans enough’ to medically transition. This line of thinking is also extremely prevalent in the medical field. In my experience, even doctors who specialize in trans related health care tend to be intimidated by non-binary identities. They often work towards an end goal of their patients being ‘cis-passing,’ or to be correctly perceived as the gender they identify as. Hormones are often gate-kept by a checklist full of personal questions intended to prove you are ‘trans enough’ to undergo medical intervention: ‘Describe your childhood. How was puberty for you? How do you feel about your chest/genitals? How long have you been considering this? Have you come out to everyone? Do you often experience thoughts of self-harm or suicide? What are your goals for going on HRT?’
If I’m being honest, during the very first appointment to assess my eligibility for hormones… I lied. A lot. I told elaborate tales about how I had ‘always dreamed of being a man,’ and ‘he/him’ pronouns suited me best. I worried my long hair and slender frame would create doubt in my doctor’s mind. I stuck to a very specific script, told him what I thought he wanted to hear, and ultimately passed, but it didn’t feel authentic. Honestly, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted out of hormones, because there are no roadmaps for nonbinary people to follow. My journey in discovering and understanding my gender has been filled with doubt from the very beginning, but it is important to note that doubt is not synonymous with regret. In other words, people are conditioned by society to fear anything which strays from ‘the norm,’ and this makes it nearly impossible to navigate this journey without some sense of fear and doubt. I have learned it is okay to have doubts, because despite all of my fears, I have not regretted a single second of my journey.
The harsh reality is, trans people are often criticized for being overly emotional or confused. At the beginning of my transition, this caused me to feel a great deal of shame and guilt. I worried I was a poor representation of the trans community because I didn’t fit the script. More recently, I have come to accept the reality that I was never confused. I knew all along who I was, I just didn’t know where I belonged in the world around me. I now know that the word non-binary means something unique to every person who proudly claims the title. For me, it means I exist and thrive somewhere in between ‘hyper-masculine’ and ‘hyper-feminine.’ It means neither ‘man’ or ‘woman’ can describe me best. It means gender neutral pronouns (they/them) are most comfortable for me. It means I am constantly exploring who I am without being confined by who society believes I should be.
I am often asked how I know I am nonbinary. Interestingly, when I was first coming out, I asked several of my friends a very similar question: how do you know you are a man/woman? If you have never asked yourself this question, I highly suggest you take a moment to do so (you might even learn something about yourself). Most times when asked this seemingly simple question, people speak about the things they like (their hobbies, passions, etc.), the things they wear, or their body parts. There’s no denying activities and interests can be heavily gendered, but few would argue playing sports is what makes you a boy or, liking makeup makes you a girl. As fashion styles change and evolve, the divisions between men’s and women’s clothing are beginning to disappear; clothes which were once reserved for one gender (pants, for example) are commonly worn by anyone and everyone around the world. Even body parts are not indicative of someone’s identity. No one would suggest a woman who had a double mastectomy is no longer a woman because she lacks breasts. As it turns out, the question of what exactly makes you who you are (a man / a woman / nonbinary) is not so simple after all. After contemplating your history, the way you were raised, different influences in your life, your passions, your goals, and everything else, I bet you will come to the same conclusion I have, it’s just a feeling. Deep down, your gender is an overwhelming sense of self which often cannot be described. It is personal, it is unique, and above all else, it is something most people are pretty certain about. I am no exception. My nonbinary identity is something I am sure of. Why? Because I just am.
Unfortunately, people do not see me as non-binary by default. My identity is something, outside of queer spaces, often has to be explained. I have noticed people have a tendency to point out how confusing gender neutral pronouns are to navigate. I am told it is ‘too difficult’ to figure out, or people ‘just don’t get it.’ Believe it or not – I find it difficult, too, but for different reasons. For me, it is difficult to have to constantly correct people. It is also difficult to constantly have to advocate for myself and justify my existence. It’s exhausting and draining, but the most difficult part of all is watering-down my identity to please others. Being trans, and more specifically being non-binary, is not easy. It is emotional, expensive, time consuming, and in many ways, painful. I have lost friends, been called names, gone through invasive (yet life saving) medical procedures, all with the simple desire to be appreciated and acknowledged for who I am. I am well aware of the risks of living an authentic life unapologetically. I expect I will receive hateful comments and messages for sharing my story online, and I know many people reading this will not understand. But I have finally come to a place in my life where I am okay with being misunderstood because I don’t expect anyone who hasn’t been through it to ‘get it,’ instead, all I ask for is compassion and respect.
For anyone out there who feels my story is hitting close to home, I want you to know it is going to be okay. Reach out, whether it be to strangers on the internet (myself included), friends or family you can trust, or local resources or helplines. It is important you remember you are never alone.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Parker Robb from Canada. Follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more inspiring stories about transition here:
‘It took an overdose to come to the conclusion I was not the young woman I was raised to be. Suddenly, everything began to click.’: Transgender man advocates for support in the ‘addicted trans community’
‘I’m so scared to be trans. I don’t want it to be true.’ I’d stare at myself and ask, ‘Who are you?’: Young man goes through coming out process, learns he’s transgender, ‘I finally feel free in my body’
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