My friend Lenny wrote an open letter for Jeremy and I have zir permission to share it here:
I wanted to write you a letter about my experiences of being non binary gendered, queer, and coming out, but I’m finding it tough. I might have to make it more than one letter, and you or your Ma can email me.
The reality is that I was more torn up about who I am before I came out. Once I’d come out, I really felt relieved. I’ll just start writing and see where I get to.
As a kid, I was the messy outdoor sort. Trees and animals were fascinating. I nearly ended up at agricultural college. Bugs, birdwatching, rock pooling, going outside. Swimming, or my favourite thing, climbing trees. Loved my Fisher Price garage. Both parents and I have lamented the lack of a train set in their lives, yet we still don’t have one.
I have a probably apocryphal memory of having been in a ‘special group for girls only’ talk from the school nurse from middle school where I cried and they thought I was sad because I hadn’t had a period yet when actually I was crying because I didn’t want to have one ever.
I started writing letters to a girl a year or two older than me who I really liked, respected, and thought I could trust yet I never sent them. It was a kind of one sided romance. Not stalker-y but shy.
Cross country running. Camping. I spent most of my time around guys, watching them roleplay and beat each other at MTG card games. Then came puberty.
Puberty was no laughing matter. The cramping pain, unpredictability and the frequency of floods and leaks . I think that was actually still not as bad as the boobs part, they hurt, always felt sore, and were prone to being targeted by boys elbows. They probably wouldn’t have appreciated it if the same movements were applied to their scrotum.
I didn’t really need an AA bra, but if there was any slight dulling from sensation, it was worth the stress we experienced trying to find one.
The changing rooms at school were an issue, small and open plan, no corners to hide in. I just felt so embarrassed. Who cared if I didn’t have a shower? Not I. I did not want to be naked around these people who I barely knew. I remember thinking I might have felt better next door with the boys. I don’t think they showered either.
There was just always something wrong. Like I was just looking at desire from a really weird angle. Like maybe my body doesn’t do that or fit or work properly.
I came out at college thanks to a poor choice of location and a lot of Jack Daniels. Went back in the closet within a very short space of time though. I really hope in retrospect that I didn’t hurt her badly, make her feel bad about herself, last time I heard of her she was involved in the students union and doing well. I really do not recommend doing that to someone.
I wore men’s clothing exclusively for a time and felt better in it. It was expected of me, almost. I’ve restarted that in the last couple of years, and feel an awful lot more comfortable.
I came out as bi to my family at 22. It was eventful, but I chose a moment, because I didn’t want my first girlfriend to be the one who’d ‘turned’ me. I decided I could make the statement that I was bi without any practical tests. I didn’t want to ‘try’ because I didn’t want to hurt anyone else. I didn’t need to.
I was truly prepared for it to be the worst possible moment of my life, but it wasn’t.
Mum got me to call up my dad whilst he was asleep on another continent to tell him, and she wanted me to promise not to tell my sister. It made things significantly uncomfortable and painful in places, it felt a bit ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ (though I now recognise that it was probably imposed by myself rather than my family) . Yes I had to face up to who I am. Sometimes people want to know the person they thought you were.
It’s taken me years to realise that my parents love me regardless of my sexuality and gender (even though they don’t think they are what god wants) and it took a really big extreme period of mental illness to show me that they have my back.
It took me til 2010 to come out as transgender. I’d been staying with my then boyfriend and had come across the term neutrois. I looked it up and found that the term genderqueer was for people who felt like I do about myself. I cried.
I told him about it and he said he couldn’t love me if I was a boy, he cried and told me that if I wanted to be one of his loved ones, I had to be a girl. I’m not a girl (but I’m not a boy either) and soon enough after that he pushed me away.
I started to be more of who I am, not trying to fit into someone else’s ideal-me.
I recognise and accept that neither my sexuality nor my gender are binary – in the case of sexuality, there are people of all genders, not just male or female identified that I’m attracted to. I don’t much like the word pansexual. It makes me think of horned goat god Pan who liked to induce panic (named after him) in people, and it’s not about shocking people, it’s about being myself, loving people for who they are. I tend to use queer instead.
In 2011 I changed my title to Mx and my name to Lenny Grey. My family were not best pleased. When I told Pops though, he said “you always have been a tomboy” and another dear friend said “you always did hate your boobs”.
This is a really basic account of how things have been for me regarding gender and sexuality. There are doubtless many happy and sad stories still untold. I want to say that I am still here, I am supported by people who care about me, and that coming out takes however long it takes.
Your mum will still be there for you whatever label fits you best. Be who you are, however long it takes to work that out.
Nobody else can be you.
Keep being fabulous.