I once believed gender was a blue and pink concept. I was always categorized in this pink box, which had all of these expectations of me even before I was born. Dresses, makeup, gossiping over boys — these were meant to be my future. But what happens if that isn’t me? What happens if I wanted to paint my box orange, and reside happily outside of this blue-pink issue that we are in? Because that’s exactly what I did.
It wasn’t an easy road to self-discovery. I spent days at a time wondering if I was trans boy, or if I was just a girl who wanted to be different. I remember buying my first chest binder, and the anxiety hitting me so hard that I never even told anyone I had it. I hadn’t even heard any terms that weren’t “girl,” “boy” or “trans” until I was an adult. The road to discovering you are nonbinary — having an existence that doesn’t fit the two common gender identities of male and female — isn’t always easy.
It was the internet where I found refuge. I found people who had these same experiences, or people who could connect through different experiences. I saw strongly femme-presenting people reminding others that being femme didn’t mean they were any less nonbinary. I saw reminders that nonbinary wasn’t just for skinny, androgynous white people. This world was radical and new, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to carve out a space for myself in it.
My fiancée and online friends were the first people I told. I started in the area of gender-fluid and they/them pronouns. A small step, due to my fears. I started going by the name Devon online, desperately wishing that one day it would stick. I remember the pain I felt when people questioned why I might want to change my name, because I couldn’t bring myself to provide the truthful answer. I was scared I would be seen as someone just putting on a show — trying anything to get attention. I couldn’t bear the thought of someone taking away the fragile validity of my identity.
It wasn’t until I started to take sociology classes that my mind opened up. I saw those words in an academic setting. “Gender is a social construct.” Those words validated my identity in a way no others previously had. I found a new confidence in who I was, and I started to grow restless with hiding it. I was Devon and I was nonbinary. That was the truth of me.
I came out in December, a few weeks before my birthday. I posted on Facebook that I was nonbinary, and was going to be known as Devon. I nearly had a panic attack after it, but others helped me through it. The comments came pouring in, and I was almost too scared to read them. However, the comments were overwhelmingly supportive. The relief I felt was amazing, because now I could finally be myself in society.
The fight didn’t stop there, though. On legal documents, my birth name was still listed and I was identified as female. I looked into the process of changing my name legally, only to discover that unless I was actually transitioning from female to male, I would have to pay around $500. That was not something I could easily afford, being a college student and living with my fiancée on our small funds. I considered fundraising the money, knowing I would have several people who would want to help, but I couldn’t bring myself to want to beg for money.
Then I saw hope. I saw that nonbinary might become a legally recognized gender. I was over the moon when I saw that headline, because that meant a lot more comfort for me. It meant I could actually choose my gender, it meant I could have the name I’ve been going by for a long time. It meant security in myself.
I responded to the article on Facebook. I read the comments on the post, and I saw people calling me mentally ill, scientifically ignorant and all other names. Of course, these comments weren’t originally aimed at me, but they did become directed toward me when I fought back. I tried explaining to others that I was nonbinary, and this bill would help me. I had all sorts of responses. People were telling me they don’t want their tax dollars going toward this one small step for me. I had people telling me to look to science (which has said in recent years that there are more than two genders). I had people tell me that God only intended for Man and Woman.
The reactions I remember the most, however, were from other people who saw my struggle and supported me. People saw what I was doing, and they appreciated it.
That’s why I write this today. People saw me and what I was doing. They need to see someone like me. That’s what I didn’t have when I was coming to terms with who I am, and that is what I want to be for the people going down this same road.
Jerry Brown has signed into legislation the ability for people like me to officially choose to be gendered as nonbinary. This step is crucial in the proving of the existence of people like us — we had finally made it into laws! Another step for us to prove to others that we are real and valid.
I am a nonbinary individual, who stands strong against all of the hate. I am a fully-fledged adult who has a real place in this world. I am fighting for my rights, your rights, our rights. I am here to help guide and support people like myself, people who need someone there for them. I am here to say you are not alone. I believe in you. You are valid in who you are. Stay strong.
Devon Crenshaw, 22, lives in San Luis Obispo, attends Cuesta College and hopes to transfer to a university to study LGBTQ+ issues or social justice.