For me gender identity is how I relate to other people in the world and how I live in my body. I started questioning my gender the senior year of high school in 2012. When I came to the university, I got involved with some student groups and explored that more. Originally, I thought I identified with the female to male label, but after about a year or so I realized that didn't quite fit for me, so that's when I started identifying as non-binary. I don't identify fully with either gender. I know that non-binary means a lot of different things for a lot of different people. For me, that means that I think of myself as androgynous or even like butch in my gender presentation rather than being like strictly female or strictly male. Generally, if people are reading me I pass as a woman like I have long hair, I dress femininely, I talk with my head voice instead of my chest voice. That's the majority of the time that I feel unsafe. So it's actually been really interesting when I've had short hair, when in the past had done binding, and when I was occasionally read as a man, it was such a very different experience moving through my life. That's a hard thing to navigate with the non-binary thing because I don't think hardly anyone reads me the way I want to be read. It's very difficult to navigate if someone is greeting me as a man and I'm like, "Okay, I'm not a man." They'll be like, "Oh, sorry miss." I'm like, "I'm not that either." Being a non-binary person I've had to adjust to just knowing that there's not really a model for people like me. So I remember, early on when I came out I would feel really hurt by people not recognizing my gender or when I identified as male like feeling really hurt that people will call me she or her. But I feel like as time has gone on, I've realized that what I'm doing with my gender is not anything that lines up with what random people aren't going to recognize that my friends know who I am and I can dress up in a way that mixes things as androgynous or I can move through the world this way or I can do this and this to transition and this and this to not transition, and it's still a valid way of doing gender. So I think a lot of that is that external validation is something that I've almost stopped looking for and that's really nice when it happens. But it's also something that I'm understanding that the way I do gender is weird and not many people are going to get it. For me, dysphoria has a lot of been discomfort with my body feeling like my body isn't wrong, I don't get as much of the social dysphoria. Like I said, I did it earlier in my transition but as I've moved into more of a non-binary space and time has gone on, I have a lot less of that social dysphoria. I think that social dysphoria is exacerbated the worse during things like dating me because straight people don't want to talk to me, and lesbians they don't treat me like a woman and men don't treat me like a gay man. Well, it's difficult because you have to navigate all of these people reading you as different things or not reading as different things when there's not really a model for people like you. The model that's there, you get a lot of people who treat you like a fetish object, and that's really distressing because you might have someone who's attracted to you but they're not attracted to you, and that feels really upsetting and that feels really socially dysphoric. In terms of dating, right now my partner is someone that I knew through my student group, someone who I was friends with first. I've found that it's really hard to go into spaces like club or something, places where you think you go to meet people. With my gender identity, that doesn't work because I run into people who are just stressed so that I have this and that versus something else, unlike meeting someone who you're romantically interested in and then having to disclose that your transgender is very difficult. So pretty much everyone that I've dated have either been people who are friends first or people that I met in specifically like transgenders spaces. Because sometimes when you meet someone else who's trans, you just look at each other and you're like, "Okay, I get it." I'm reading what's going on here. I think that's one reason why that type of dating is lot easier. I think the other reason is that it's a lot easier to navigate issues like dysphoria in your relationships when the other person understands it too. There's just a common experience there that makes everything a lot less all quick to navigate. For my family, we live in a rural town but we had moved around a lot. My mother was in the military, so I really was all over the place as a kid. I'm still really in good terms with my mother. She is really affirming about my gender identity and she gives me a lot of support like she's helped me a lot with new work and my mental health stuff, she's helped me a lot financially, she's helped me a lot emotionally. I don't talk to my dad for personal reasons or at least we're not speaking right now. I had told him I was transgender in 2013, he reacted, he said he was accepting and he said that he loved me no matter what. But then he asked me all these questions about, well if you're transitioning, you don't want to do it, what's that like? Your year only so many years old, how do you know this isn't a phase? Are you gay or something? One time I went home and I mentioned to him that I'd been on a date and I mentioned the first one I was dating had male sounding name and he's like, "I thought you wanted to be a man. Why do you want to date with another man?" So it's very rare because he said he was going to be open about it but then didn't make any effort to understand or listen to me which is part of the reason that we don't talk now because that's been a pattern. But I think that my family has been really important to me throughout the transition process and them being accepting has been really, really a huge help for me. Then it has really made it possible to get to where I am right now. In college, my first major is Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature which does a lot of film studies, television studies, looking at books and culture. My other major is Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies which is focusing on feminism and our sexual theories. So a lot of what I do at school combines those two things looking at representations of different people in media and just the way people move through your life and how that's affected budget culture. I'm really interested in doing non-profit and community work especially for LGBTQ populations. That's really what I have a lot of experience and I'm trying to look for it myself. It so bogged down in media representation we forget about what's actually half within the world. For example, I'm doing a project for one of my classes this semester where I'm putting together a series of short critical pieces about gender non-conformity in horror movies, and how that's used to make transgender or gay people scary. The example everyone gives for this is Buffalo Bell and The Silence of the Lambs. I think that being in college, checking different classes, meeting so many people, getting so many different experiences, and also spending time at the feminists and the Queer Student Cultural Center, really gave me new ideas and things to think through. During high school and middle school, I was really obsessed with dressing off right and finding a boyfriend and being a good girl and being good at being a girl. When I got to college, nobody knew me and it felt like I could start over in a way that was more true to myself. Being in the US department at the school, we talk a lot about transgender issues and there's a lot of times where people will say something or they'll be like, "Oh, but I don't know because I'm not trans." I feel like I have to step in. There's also times where professors will try to be inclusive by asking for people's pronouns. But what they do is they say, "If there are different pronouns that you want to use, please let me know." It singles out people whose pronouns you might not be able to guess and that's always super uncomfortable on me. Well, you're assuming that my pronouns are going to be this and if I correct you like that's a coming out sort of thing and I'm not prepared to do that. But I heard someone in class the other day talking about, well it used to be that transgender people had to do this and that. In my experience, is still something that transgender people had to do. After I was finished talking, everyone at the table is looking at me and I realized, "Oh, they didn't know I was trans before I said that." So for me usually I'm okay with it. There's a time in time where it just feels like it's really tiring as it's more exhausting when someone asks me for input, like someone comes directly to me and says, "Oh, you're trans. Tell us about trans." When it's not something that I am consenting to. But if it's information that I want to share and I'm doing it in a classroom setting or I'm doing it in a setting like an interview or a panel, it doesn't feel negative to me.