As of this moment, I am 21 years old and I’ve never known who I am. In the rare moments I’ve sat in front of a mirror alone and really tried to, I haven’t liked what I’ve seen and I head back into the strange comfort of not knowing. To me, not knowing something is better than knowing if that something is bad. Ignorance is bliss, to a fault. 

College has forced me to learn who I am, and it hasn’t been a very fun path. It’s reawakened self-destructive behaviors including past eating disorders, self-harm, panic and anxiety attacks. My junior year has proven the most self-destructive so far.

Four or so months ago, my partner came out to me as trans (pronouns being “they” for anonymity). While they were concerned about my feelings surrounding it, it really didn’t matter to me. I was elated to see them feel more themself; it made me love them more. But yet, when I got back to my dorm the following day, I couldn’t stop crying and isolated myself to my room for about a week. This distraught feeling was suffocating me and I couldn’t figure out why. Really though, I just didn’t want to admit to the reason, so hiding from it added fuel to my anxiety and depression. 

Admitting my family, namely my father and brother, are toxically transphobic and homophobic is terrifying. I’ve heard many stories of family disownment and seen it happen to my friend in high school. It’s easy to make the story black and white, to villainize the unaccepting parents and cancel them forever. What’s hard is to actively live that story and face the repercussions. It puts everything I have at risk: my ability to go to college, my access to health insurance, each of my relationships, maybe even a place to come home to. Moreover, it puts my partner’s feelings and mental health at risk. Despite all this, I can’t just let go of my family. I can’t deny that they are a part of my identity, let alone that I love them. It’s so confusing to me when the LGBTQ+ community that preaches inclusion and understanding is simultaneously so actively ready to cut off those that they were once closest to. I just don’t see why I can’t have both.

My partner coming out forced me to admit to myself that I wasn’t straight or gender conforming. Sitting in front of my mirror and realizing I was nonbinary and pan was one of the first times I felt like I knew myself and liked it. It made sense. But the fact it wouldn’t make sense to my family makes me want to crawl out of my skin. For years, I’ve heard them use every disgusting term to refer to people I’m beginning to identify with, like “it”, “that thing”, “fag”, “fruitcakes”. My decision to go to Pittsburgh Pride made dinner feel like stepping on glass. My high school’s ruling to allow kids to use the gendered-bathroom they identify with led my dad and I to a screaming match over my “safety from freaks”. Getting through movies like The Imitation Game and Rocketman was nearly impossible and soon it was just me and my mother watching. What will it be like if I come out? What does it mean that I still love them even when they say these inexcusable things? 

Right now, I’m scared. I’m scared that soon I’m going to have to tell my parents my partner is trans and that I’m nonbinary sooner than I’m ready. And I’m not dealing with it very well. I’m skipping classes again. I feel like it would be a good idea to break up with my partner. I get thoughts that maybe life is just too hard and I should quit. I don’t even know if these are normal emotions for a situation like this, but I’m positive that if transphobia and homophobia didn’t exist, they wouldn’t be. Transphobia and homophobia are painful, unnecessary burdens of society. They breed groupthink and fear rather than inclusion and love and they need to be eradicated immediately for the sake of the LGBTQ+ community, whose lives are at risk every day

Thinking of the future is hard, and trying to live in the present isn’t much easier, but it helps. I bought my first binder and wear it almost everyday so I can recognize myself in the mirror. I go to the store with my partner to help them buy clothes they’re not comfortable yet getting on their own and smile when I see the peace on their face. When I go home over breaks, I try not to dwell on their comments and enjoy the better moments, especially the ones when they ask about my partner, when I see their face light up in response to my happiness. As much as I don’t think I should sometimes, maybe I do deserve it all; maybe I can have all the people who make me happy.