Author’s Note: I wrote this piece for an upcoming anthology called Trans Bodies Trans Selves. The topic was being a trans immigrant, which I integrated with having non-binary gender. Enjoy!
When my life officially began on April 23rd 1986 in Mexico City, Mexico, I was a girl. The doctor peeked between my legs and proclaimed it so. Nobody questioned it much, except me; silently, of course.
From pre-kinder to 12th grade, fifteen years of an American School education branded me as an outcast in the greater Mexican culture. I grew up devouring Amelia Bedelia and Roald Dahl and singing along to the latest Disney hits. My failure to identify with fellow estrogen-bearing beings further accentuated my alienation, rendering the idea of friendship into little more than a fantasy. By the time I was 7 I decided I’d be going to Harvard, and maintained the secretly harbored wish that, like Pinocchio, I would someday turn into a real boy.
Thus the decision to leave my home and my country for a prestigious American university was a simple one; at least it was the only lifelong dream that still had a chance of becoming a reality.
“But you don’t look Mexican.”
“Are your parents Mexican?”
And my favorite: “I have a friend in Albuquerque.”
At first unexpected, these responses soon became the norm whenever an American asked where I was from. With my white skin and blue eyes I float by the American social fabric inconspicuously; nobody ever gives me a second glance when I order coffee with my flawless American English that I’ve been perfecting since I was three.
Despite blending in, on most days there is always that one small reminder that I’m not from around here. The way I say ‘latte’ with a flat ‘e’ at the end. The way I’m caught off guard when someone shies away from a hug. The US government, especially, loves to remind me that despite having lived my entire adult life in this country, I’m still just a temporary visitor, endlessly destined to trudge through paperwork just to prove I actually belong here. Begrudgingly welcome – but not really – even though I pay taxes for services I’m not even entitled to.
Yet I could never return to Mexico without feeling handicapped. I don’t even know how to say ‘friend request’ in Spanish, let alone navigate a cultural terrain I haven’t set foot in in nearly 10 years. Not to mention the friends I’ve made, the career I’ve built, and the home my partner and I have nourished, are all impossible to transplant.
I grew up in Mexico, but I came of age in the United States. My transition into adulthood brought alongside it another kind of transition. In college, I discovered what it means to be transgender.
After graduation, my significant other and I prepared for our cross-country move from Philadelphia to San Francisco. As we packed up our house, my gender was also being stuffed into boxes whose contents would shift the course of my identity when unwrapped. Figuring out that I wasn’t really a girl – and that I could do something about it – was just the first hurdle in an infinite race against the gender binary.
My gender is best described as not female and not male; a true exercise in logic. It’s a rainbow: a refraction of light you’re certain you see yet sure you can’t ever touch. It exists without form. I’ve had to create something out of nothing.
Surgery has had irreversible effects on my body; it’s now physically impossible to go back to the sex I once was. Not to mention socially cementing my identity as being part of the other side: I’ve stood in front of a judge declaring M is the correct initial for my driver’s license. Yet no matter how many times my co-workers refer to me as he, I’ll still look my father’s 16-year old son, and never like my father, because I refuse to grow up to be a man.
Even though my lack of facial hair and diminutive stature will forever prompt double takes whenever I walk into either bathroom, I’m comfortable where I am, finally happy to just be me. But the evidence of where I’m from will always remain, even though I don’t belong there anymore. Stranger in a home land; home in a strange land.
Nowadays people don’t look between my legs, yet they still proclaim that I’m a girl. Or a boy. Perhaps a young man. Their confidence has been shaken, to say the least. And sure, I voted once for a president, but I’m not a real Mexican anymore, despite what my birth certificate says. Someday, when I finally obtain a US passport, it will never say that I was female; it’ll say that I’m a real American man.