Please note: This is my experience. I am aware that everyone’s experiences are valid and unique. This is just one perspective.
“It’s a girl!” Upon hearing this news, my parents immediately went out and bought all the pink things. They started looking up baby names for girls and were wondering how to decorate my baby room. Oh… pink walls, of course! This is completely normal behavior for new parents. They throw gender-reveal parties, and immediately, all expectations for that child’s gender expression are thrust onto them.
My earliest memory of feeling gender dysphoria was when I was about 4. My parents put me in all-girls gymnastics. While all of the other girls felt free and were having fun and happy to be wearing cute skirts and leotards, I remember just feeling like I needed to cover up. Standing there on the stage, I felt vulnerable and out of place. These moments didn’t stop there. I started discovering that the clothing I felt best in did not look anything like the clothes many of my friends wore. I was, by definition, a “tom-boy.” I loved to wear my older brother’s clothes, and my parents were supportive of me picking out my clothes from the “boys” section. Sometimes, depending on my mood, I would give myself a dapper 5 o’clock shadow beard with my mom’s makeup and call myself Seth while tucking away my long hair in a ball cap.
In some ways, I conformed to the gender performance of what society deemed acceptable for girls. I would go through waves, perhaps because I was seeking approval and not embracing my authentic self, or maybe the fluidity felt right at the time. I didn’t identify as Non-Binary until I discovered its existence in 2015. I was going through some self-realizations after leaving a toxic relationship. I discovered many things about myself, which included being non-binary. It actually felt good to have a name for what I had been feeling all these years. I continued to use she/her pronouns mostly because I didn’t want anyone to feel bad if they messed up or put out if they didn’t understand it.
It wasn’t until I started having more of an online presence that I began to experiment with they/them pronouns. I started learning how to code online. At the Treehouse Festival, I noticed that all of the staff had their pronouns next to their name. I decided to give it a shot. As I was typing in the pronouns, I typed (she/they). It felt good to ease into using they/them pronouns. I wanted to share my gender queerness with people who seemed to be accepting of it. This was the first place that I started putting my pronouns next to my name. Eventually, I added them on LinkedIn, then on other social media. Now, I use they/them in most of my daily life where it feels comfortable and right for me.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, when I see that people are putting their pronouns next to their name, or when introducing themselves, I immediately feel like it’s a space where I will be accepted and seen without fear of judgment or harassment. The more spaces that display gender awareness, the more people who are gender-queer might also feel safe to be their authentic selves if they wish to do so. Treehouse has been that place for me, both as a student and as a member of the Treehouse staff. Here, I can proudly say, “My name is Mel, and my pronouns are they/them.”