Or: What happened to me and many other queer folx who never got to see themselves in the world around them.
I’ve already written about why representation is important and why you need to see yourself in stories to know that you belong in this world. Here comes a personal account of what happens when you don’t.
I grew up in a normal family. There were no bullying or “funny jokes” about queer folx. In fact, I don’t remember any hate speech or family members ever talking bad about any minority group and my mum even taught me that some men like to wear women’s clothes and that’s perfectly normal. To this day I don’t believe that my non-binarity would have caused my family any problem had I been in touch with them.
Had I identified as a woman I might not even have had this issue because my dad taught me how to do carpentry (I sucked at it) and repair mopeds (never got really good with that either). But I was raised to believe that I was no different from men or any special because I presented as a woman.
So, I should have felt welcome in this world.
But I didn’t. I grew up feeling like a freak. And never being able to put words on why. I presented normal and gender-conforming, was a bit too loud for what my sex would allow according to the norms, but all in all, nothing special.
The only thing that was a bit out was how I never really felt a connection to those identifying as cis-women. I tried. And I tried to be part of the feminist movement (and I still believe in that cause), but I never felt the sisterhood that everyone talked about. I never felt that closeness and identification as a woman and all her apparent life cycles.
Still, I brushed it off as “strange” but nothing else. So I went on with my life. Tried to fit in, trying to be liked, and tried to be normal.
And constantly felt like a freak and an outsider.
It wasn’t until I understood that I’m non-binary and multigender (4 (four) genders) and connected that to what I knew about norms and norm-breaking that things started to click. I had somewhere always known I was non-binary, never had a word for it, and never been able to identify myself with anyone. I desperately tried to fit in, find my identity anywhere and with anyone but never managed.
It’s now, when I’m 35 (thirty-five), that I’m reclaiming that part. Reclaiming that identity and finding like-spirited folx that are like me. And you know what? It feels soo good. It feels so good to hear others talk about their experience and be able to say “wow, I’m not alone feeling like this”. It feels so validating to watch tv series where the characters behave as I would. It feels so good to not be alone.
And that’s why representation in stories is so important. Because seeing yourself in stories and what you have around you is literally life-giving. So many transgender folx finish their lives early because they don’t feel they belong. So many non-binaries are depressed because they don’t have a word for what they are. So many of us are trying to fit into a place that isn’t ours and it’s making us sick.
Because what we feel doesn’t mirror what we have around us. Because our experiences don’t match with what we hear about when we grow up. Because what we are doesn’t exist in anything that we see in the world.
And that’s why representation is literally life-giving. Because it enables someone to live a life that is theirs and keep living.