Hi, my name is Vita and I identify as non binary androgynous. What does that mean? It's a good question really. I think before I say anything else it’s important to note that this is all my personal experience and the way we all embrace our gender identity as individuals is completely subjective.
The term ‘Non-binary’ goes hand in hand with ‘genderqueer’ and essentially these are umbrella terms for anyone who’s gender identity is neither exclusively masculine or feminine ie outside of the gender binary.
So, what do I mean? What does any of this mean? These are questions I battle with pretty much everyday and I know I’m not the only one who does. I think the best place for me to start is in my childhood and I want to say when I was about 10 or 11 years old. This was the time I started to go through puberty - what a joy. I’m born female, so ‘naturally’ when puberty started for me I began to develop female secondary sex characteristics. Its interesting for me now because even though biologically this is a natural process I can look back and confidently say that this was one of the most unnatural experiences of my life. I think we all feel that to a certain degree though I mean hey, puberty is a pretty scary time and I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone describe the process as fun or enjoyable. Anyway, I started to develop breasts around this time and unfortunately for me the women in my family are blessed with a rather generous bosom. Blessed or cursed depending on the way you feel I suppose. To me it felt like more of a curse (forgive my cliche here, I couldn’t resist). When I developed breasts I was essentially in denial. I didn’t want to wear bra’s and to be honest I enjoyed wearing as little clothes as possible when I was younger. I was an adventurous child who 'marched to the beat of my own drum’ as my mum always says.
Unfortunately there’s only so long you can go on pretending that your massive bangers aren’t really there. I started to get teased quite a bit in the school changing rooms considering I wouldn’t wear a bra and my breasts were clearly visible to my peers. As a result, I got changed in the toilets for a long time because I really didn’t want to wear bras.
I remember one day when I felt like my world came crashing down. My dad used to take me swimming at the local gym and I used to like wearing surf shorts with no top. One day my mum and dad told me I needed to wear a swimming costume or bikini top to cover my top half otherwise I wouldn’t be allowed to go swimming. I hated this because I remember looking at the boys in the pool just wearing their trunks and I felt such a great sense of envy but also confusion. I wanted to know why I couldn’t just do that, why it had to be different for me and why was my body changing in this way that made me feel so much more insecure. I wonder if my parents remember this. (Side note, this is also an interesting point about the sexualisation of female bodies in comparison to male bodies from a ridiculously early age but that’s another topic)
I know that eventually I got on with it but not gladly. My mum did her best to take me to get fitted for bra’s at bravissimo in Milton Keynes which is quite a nice place with good quality expensive bras that she would always pay for. The problem was I didn’t want to have to wear them because I didn’t want breasts in the first place. Every trip became more and more dramatic and when the people came in to fit me I honestly felt as though I was being tortured. I didn’t really understand why I couldn’t adjust to this process. I was a really insecure young child and teenager but this was something different.
Don’t get me wrong it’s not that I think most young people who develop breasts instantly think ‘hurrah! I am now with breast and I couldn’t feel more over the moon’. I guess I just never really came to a point where I could embrace them and I always hoped that magically they wouldn't be there permanently. I felt (and still feel) completely disconnected from them. I felt completely alienated when someone made a comment about my breasts. Even when it was inoffensive and complimentary I hated it in fact in a way it was a lot worse when people said good things about them.
As I moved into my early teens around 14 and 15 I watched a lot of YouTube videos. I found lots of different queer YouTube channels as this was also around the time I was coming to terms with my sexuality. I found more and more content from transgender people, particular FTM individuals. I learnt more and more about gender and started to piece together some of the things I was feeling. However, I had no idea what being non binary was at this point. I became really confused about who I was because I knew I didn’t want to present in a traditionally female way but I didn’t know if I was transgender and wanted to ‘be a boy’. It was around this time my mental health began to decline too. Being a teenager is hard enough as it is with an identity crisis around every corner let alone questioning your gender at the same time. At this time I was attending an all girls school and at the time the culture wasn’t too accepting of LGBTQ+ so this made things quite difficult. I did my best to imitate what I thought it was to be ‘feminine’ and ‘girly’. I often refer to this period of my life as when I was ‘pretending to be straight’ and you can take from that what you wish. I tried to embrace feminine fashion and dress in a way that was cool and attractive to boys. This didn’t last very long, I was uncomfortable in more ways than one and I couldn’t torture myself like this for much longer. I don’t mind standing out anymore but when I was younger it was a lot harder. Particularly in a same sex school setting, non conformity is a bit of a no go. I think things have progressed more now though.
After I left school and sixth form I moved to London and I was able to immerse myself more into LGBTQIA+ culture and this helped me to discover more about the gender spectrum and what it means to be non binary. Around this time I started binding my chest too.
Over the past few years I have started to talk to my nearest and dearest about how I identify and the things I need to do for myself to get to where I want to be (IE top surgery). This process has been really hard but I am really lucky to have loving people around me who want to understand what it is I am going through and accept me. Not everyone has this privilege which is a great shame. Even though I am surrounded by these great people, the process has still been challenging. When you feel as though you have to constantly justify why you are the way you are it can have a really detrimental effect on your mental wellbeing.
I never expect anyone to understand instantly, I just hope that they will try to understand. As humans we don’t always understand each other and we can’t change that. What we can do is treat each other with respect and accept that just because we don’t understand someone that doesn’t make them any less significant in society.
When I speak about my experiences coming to terms with my gender identity, I am often met with loads of questions. For me, this is fine because I am so open and I am constantly looking for answers to questions I ask myself. I think it’s important to note though that we don’t always have the answers to everything and that’s okay. People often say to trans / trans non binary folk “well what if you regret things later”. This is usually when people are undergoing surgery or hormone therapy. The thing is none of us can predict the future and some of us may regret some decisions we make later on in life. It does happen and we shouldn’t shy away from that. However, if human beings never made any decisions in fear of how it might affect their lives in the future then society would never progress. It can always be argued that things may change in the future because that is the nature of life and the world and the earth will never stop turning. This fact of life doesn’t mean that exploring our gender identity and coming to terms with who we are in the here and now is any less valid. It is not any less important. If anything, it is more important. Life is so short and we are living in an ever changing world and this world is scary. Ultimately, no one has everything figured out. No one has.
Thank you for reading. V x