In a world that’s increasingly pink and blue, what is someone that’s purple to do?
Everything from clothing and toys to colors and cars has a gender attached to it. And when kids realize they don’t fit into the mold of “male” or “female,” the waters can get murky.
“Growing up, we really have no concept of gender,” says Reyne Lesnau, 19, a non-binary transgender person from Troy. “Our only idea of gender is forced upon us by the adults around us.”
And that’s why it took a seventh-grade health class for Lesnau to become aware.
“It was the basic-level health class, mostly related to like puberty and stuff,” they say. “That was the first time that I felt uncomfortable, because none of the information really applied to me.”
After that, Lesnau set off to figure out who they were and, after a lot of research and trial and error, started identifying as non-binary, or neither male nor female, in eighth grade – and came out in 10th.
“I made a Facebook post for all of my friends and family to see that explained what non-binary was and that I’d be using they/them pronouns,” Lesnau explains. “It got a positive response, which I was glad about.”
They then forwarded their message onto their teachers, who took a bit longer to get on board. But in time, Lesnau did eventually feel comfortable at school.
“I wasn’t bullied and I wasn’t intentionally misgendered, which puts me in a better boat than most people,” Lesnau says.
And that’s a good thing, says Lesnau, who’s now studying geology at Middlebury College in Vermont – because when they did get pushback, it was usually “micro-aggressions,” like using their former name or the wrong pronouns.
“No one is yelling in my face that I’m going to hell, but you can tell they don’t fully respect me.”
And it’s that lack of respect that Lesnau says is the real struggle.
“I have to be constantly aware of how much I’m eating and drinking in case I can’t find a restroom that I’m comfortable using. Every time I come across a ‘his’ or ‘her’ or a ‘he’ or ‘she’ while reading an article or online, or even in class, it’s just a reminder that I don’t exist … to the majority of people in the world,” they explain.
Nevertheless, Lesnau strives to overcome misgivings people have to live authentically.
“I struggle to stay above that, to remain optimistic and to remind myself that I do matter,” they add. “I don’t want to be defined by my gender identity. It is just one small part of who I am.”
Read more about raising a transgender child, download our authenticity guide, plus meet Lilianna Angel Reyes and the Keith Family by clicking the images below: