In my high school, people stuck to the cis-heteronormative. You never heard if anyone came out. My town was a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” kind of place. You wouldn’t be exiled for not adhering to the unfortunate “status quo,” but you would quickly become somewhat of an outsider in the limelight. There was no education in the curriculum, so this was totally foreign territory. The word “gay” was used as a slur, since we didn’t know what it meant in fifth grade. The slur used towards people who identify as transgender (I will not type it) was used sparingly, but it was still used. I had no idea what being transgender meant until my junior year. I had no idea what the queer community was, or how much they faced on the daily. I found out through social media. Social media is a large reason why I figured myself out. The main site that I used throughout high school was my key to unlocking who I am, and, oddly enough, it was Tumblr.
Despite being a social media website that is poorly maintained, it’s still a great platform. All posts are seen publicly, and can be commented on and expanded. It’s a social-private mix, with people posting very personal experiences or feelings or posting witty one-liners. Following a lot of people, I see all sorts of posts, ranging from long historical analyses to memes. Originally, it was an artist that got me exploring my own gender. Their art is one of my favorite styles, and it took me a while to understand what their gender meant to them. Their blog, and eventually other blogs with genderqueer people, became my go-to places. I wanted to understand how they figured it out. How could these remarkable people find the right pronouns, the right names, the right gender that fit them? Outside of that small world, I was in a second skin. I started to become uncomfortable with the phrases “young woman” and “pretty girl.” I didn’t feel attached to those terms, and the more I thought that way, the more it felt like needles in my chest.
I can now proudly say that I am bigender. I identify as female and nonbinary. I don’t always feel one or the other – sometimes I feel both (those are the most confusing times), and sometimes I can go weeks feeling one or the other. There are a lot of days that I accidentally misgender myself. Being misgendered really sucks, but I have a good circle of friends who get it, and support me. But despite being bigender, I am cis-passing. It can be a bit of a struggle, but it’s safer. It’s easier with relatives and strangers to not be shunned on sight, and I ache for those of you who can’t feel that privilege.
My story aside, social media (especially Tumblr), has become a safe haven for those who aren’t ready to come out to their family/friends, or who need a support group. There are specific blogs that answer questions or redirect to valid resources for trans kids. There is a mindset in large circles on social media that are accepting of all gender identities and sexualities. On Tumblr, it’s normal, even popular, to be trans. Stepping outside of that world is jarring, because there aren’t as many people who believe that gender is a social construct.
Older generations aren’t as tech savvy, so they are not prominent on sites as quickly evolving as Tumblr. It makes Tumblr our space to talk and learn about these (unfortunately) sensitive topics, and gain support from others. This community is uplifting and like a family in some ways. It gives me hope that younger generations will recognize that being trans isn’t abnormal, but normal, because of how normal it is online. That we are just as much a person as the next. This might all be because of the growth of confidence through social media, and I know that with more and more people understanding and accepting the queer community, we will be seen as normal in the future.