by Alayna Steward

Content Warning: This article discusses gender dysphoria and body image.

My body has always been different. Not just in the way that “all bodies are different and diverse,” because I know that. No, mine was different in another way. A way that set me apart from not only from my peers, but from my family.

I overcompensated in my presentation of myself throughout my school years. I wore cutesy dresses and frilly skirts, shoes that made my feet hurt, and over-styled my hair to the point where it was dry and damaged. I even wore makeup every day from the time I entered sixth grade to my junior year. Part of this presentation was due to the fact that I thought girls were just supposed to be that way—and part of it was pressure from my parents to look good. I remember the day my stepmother told me to “dress like every day is picture day.” I looked cute, but it was fake. All of it.

I was uncomfortable in my clothes and in my body. I looked in the mirror and told myself that I loved what I saw, but I was lying. I was bigger, taller, and curvier than most of my friends. I hated how wide my hips were, how broad my shoulders were. No matter how much I told myself that girls could look like this— that girls did look like this—I never felt better. But I loved looking at women whose bodies defied that standard… that “normality.” I loved them and their bodies.

So why couldn’t I love my body?

When I entered high school, I wanted to chop off my hair. I didn’t like how long it was. Yet I kept it long up until my last semester, because it would be hard to put it into a ponytail for cheerleading. I thought it would look weird with my body type. Because, according to my father, boys didn’t like girls with short hair.

I cut almost all of it off last summer.

The disconnect between me and my body continued into college. Nothing felt right. Everything was uncomfortable. I couldn’t look at my own reflection without feeling self-hatred. I felt like my mind was simply inhabiting my body, and not one with it.

Then my friend got me my first chest binder. I stared at myself in the mirror when I tried it on—pressing my hand against my chest, now flat, gaping at how much I looked like… myself.

Last summer, I realized I was nonbinary. I was not a girl. I was not a boy. That realization was like a puzzle piece that had been missing for nineteen years, and now that I had found it, the puzzle was complete. Everything clicked into place. It made sense. My body is nonbinary. I am nonbinary. And I love my body.

My experiences are not universal. This story will not apply to all trans people. But I hope it will help some.

Click here for a great resource to learn more about queer identities as well as how to support and protect trans and nonbinary folx.

About Alayna Steward

Alayna Steward is a sophomore at Bradley University majoring in Music Business. They have been invested in music and writing their entire life. They are involved in a few musical groups on campus, including Bradley Chorale. They like strawberries, the color yellow, and cats. As a queer disabled person, Steward understands the importance of creative and self expression and having your voice be heard. They hope that their work will not only inspire readers, but also give them a voice and let them know that they are not alone.

Art by Aryanne Westfall

Aryanne “Ary” Westfall is a sophomore at Bradley University majoring in Animation and minoring in Theatre Arts. She is pursuing a career as a storyboard artist and enjoys creating graphic novels in her free time. As a member of the Digital Art Team, Westfall spends her time connecting with other artists and creating as much as she can.