Sometimes, I forget my transness. I forget the world has made me feel small so many times. I forget how many nights I ran away from myself. Now I come home and rest in the safety I craved.

I did not know the language, but I knew the feeling of separating my mind from my body. Growing up as a child, I didn’t understand my otherness until society put labels on me. As a biracial person growing up in heavily white-dominated suburbs, I did not have friends of my ethnicity or socioeconomic status. “Tomboy” came up a lot, and I carried the term like a shield, defending myself and my behaviors from the binary complex. My femininity became a splinter, a biological weakness, a reason for my deficiencies as a person, my lack thereof. If I made a mistake, it was my feminine mistake. My personhood was not celebrated but condemned to conformity. I molded my being to meet the needs of others, to spread my heart and legs for validation. How good could I be as a person if not as a woman? I quickly learned to reach beyond my skin and let other parts of me grow while I left my body behind.

Even as I share my truth to family friends who knew me before my transition, “That I knew I was trans but didn’t know what it meant,” I’m denied the validation of my phases and discoveries. I catch myself holding my tongue when, “You were always feminine as a child, you didn’t have problems until ______, You were never a tomboy,” spills out of their mouth. For me, I saw myself as the boy I’ve always been except when I looked in the mirror. Of course, you only validate the femininity that you yourself imposed on me; I was the one living it, you were a bystander.

I know they come from a good place, that their worry comes from the unknowingness of transcending the body. They have faced gender differences in a territory that has always existed visibly: man vs. woman, girl vs boy. I know they are not at a place to consider my otherness as our togetherness. I am still the experimented experimenting.

I didn’t know what trans was until I heard about Laverne Cox and her incredible story as an 8th grader. There was a name for the experiences that the world was denying me of my whole life. I saw transness as the missing key. It was not about being a man but being in a body that made sense. For many months, I struggled in confusion and fear of the person I was and who I was becoming. I knew it meant my entire life would change, that I would lose some people to get to be me. I found comfort in imagining myself with a flat chest and beard, excited for the changes that starting testosterone would bring. I would choose a name to speak with intention in every letter, the curves of my cursive to echo against hate. I like the way that Gregory is spelled. I like the way it feels on me.

For the LGBTQ kids that I support now, I wanted my actions to match the strength of my name. I want the old lady to say, “Thank you young man,” when I open the door for her. Even now, I love my gender nonconformity. I used to see being trans as escaping your starting point instead of allowing the wholeness of you to exist. It wasn’t that I hated being female, but I hated that the world chose what being in a body means. Someone could still be female and get top surgery or be a trans man and still be feminine. I see gender now as being beyond the physical self, knowing how much more you are. My femininity was a weapon against me, and now I love the pieces I crushed. I love my current non-binary-ness.

My goal is to make space for all the parts I’ve abandoned, and to forgive myself for spending years trying to erase my existence. My coming out experience, like it is for many, was met with rejection, shame, abuse, and being cast out of the family. It was very clear that my existence was a threat to the established order, personally and politically. Self-harm and suicide attempts couldn’t stop me. I see now that the pain I experienced in growing up was a reaction to abuse in my environment. It was not my fault. I carry the subconscious traumas of all the grandparents before me, but I’m the cycle breaker here to change everything. Only now do I see that I am you and you are me. My heart expands the consciousness of the collective. I don’t see anything about my gender as a weakness, or anything else about me. Being trans is not a symptom. My love is a venom worth the bite. I want to hold my transness like a bird with a broken wing, a sacred offering in need of tender love.