Figuring Out My Identity Was Like Trying On New Clothes
by Ryan Cassata
When I first came out, I was confused. I confidently knew that something was different about me, but I couldn’t pin point exactly what it was that made me feel so different. From the beginning of the time that I could dress myself, I was androgynous and called a “tomboy.” The onset of puberty and sexual attraction, around age 12, is what made the gears in my mind start turning. I realized a sexual attraction to girls and sometimes to boys, sometimes to only boys, and sometimes to only girls. It was confusing and as I danced the dance of trying to figure out my sexuality, I called myself many different labels from “bisexual” to “lesbian” to “gay” to finally settle at “queer.” I came out several times as different labels to my friends and thankfully they allowed me the space to explore and experiment with different identities and labels so that I could fully find my true self. It’s hard to look at something from a distance and know if it is truly right for you. You have to try the clothing on to know if it’s the right fit. Personally, I had to try labels and identities on to figure out if they were right for me.
Still after coming out about my sexuality, something still felt different about me. I eventually realized that it wasn’t so much my sexuality that was so different, but my gender identity. I’ve been out now as a trans man for what I consider to be a long time considering I am only 25 years old. I came out to close friends and immediate family at age 14, and to the world at age 15 through an international TV appearance on CNN. I so confidently identified as male, using he/him pronouns since coming out, even though my gender expression has been slightly more fluid than most well-known trans men. I had very long hair to mimic my classic rock idols like Jim Morrison and Robert Plant, I chose not to take hormones as part of my medical transition, and I maintained a pretty androgynous look. I was okay with it and the people around me were also okay with it.
In more recent times, I have felt myself to be more socially dysphoric and anxious as the trans community has become more in the public eye and everyone has an opinion on what it means to be trans and what each individual needs to do to qualify as trans. Many members have chosen to put up gates, instead of breaking down walls.
The thoughts infiltrated my brain and I started to question my masculinity in a toxic way, I started to really judge myself harshly. I wouldn’t allow my hair to get past a certain length, I wouldn’t allow myself to go through feminine things without highly noticing and acknowledging my dysphoria. Then I realized, how would I act and feel if I didn’t judge myself based on the judgement I may feel from other members of the trans community? Would my social dysphoria be lessened and only my true body dysphoria remain?
What if there are actually no guidelines to being trans? No secret manual? No code? No rule book? What is there is actually no wrong or right way to transition and each person just naturally goes their own way? What if we didn’t have to follow someone else’s path to seek justification and only followed our own path? What if we all worked to lift each other up, instead of pushing each other down?
Many people experiment and explore their gender. I am sure that humans have been doing this since the beginning of time. I encourage everyone to allow others the space to experiment and explore. Allow people their own journey to self discovery and love. I wasn’t shunned by the LGBTQ community for exploring my sexuality when I came out. If I was outcast from the community because of my exploration and experimentation, I don’t know what would have become of me. I might have never come out as trans due to fear.
The trans community is already so highly discriminated against. We need equal rights so desperately so that everyone could live their authentic selves without fear. We need to come together, instead of distancing ourselves from each other so we could get the entire community to a safer place among society. If don’t accept each other, how can we expect the rest of society to accept us? We need to listen to each other, lift each other up, and spread love. We could all use a little more support and love in our lives.
For further information and thoughts about this topic, please enjoy my new YouTube video which explains why we should all be spreading love instead of hate.
About the Author:
Ryan Cassata is an award winning singer-songwriter, actor, performer, writer and LGBTQ activist & motivational speaker based in Los Angeles. With features in Rolling Stone, Billboard Magazine, The New York Times, Buzzfeed, and The Daily News, Ryan has made the most of his young career, which started when he was just 13.
As a musician with over 550 performances touring across the United States and internationally, including dates on the Van’s Warped Tour, SXSW and at the worlds biggest pride festivals, Ryan has been praised by The Advocate saying he’s a “Transgender singing sensation”, Paper Magazine put him on the “50 LGBTQ Musicians You Should Prioritize” list, LOGO put him on the “9 Trans Musicians You Need To Get Into” list and Billboard put him on the “11 Transgender & Non-Binary Musicians You Need to Know” list and premiered his most recent music video for “Daughter.” He has also been heard on Sirius XM Radio, BBC Radio 4 and other radio stations around the world. MORE INFO AT: http://www.ryancassata.com/