Updated: Oct 12
My gender journey has been VERY closely tied with being an OT. I was sitting in a lifespan class and a slide came up about gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexuality. I'll never forget seeing the bolded word "Androgenous." It was like getting hit by lightening. I remember being hunched over my table with my newly cut short hair and thinking "Holy snickerdoodles, that's me!"
I went home in a daze. I started googling terms and quickly discovered other gems, such as non-binary, gender nonconforming, and fascinating articles about how gender is WAY more complex than our Western societies may have us believe. A few days later I showed up to class with minimal makeup, a black t-shirt under a black blazer, and black pants and was like YES. THIS FEELS AWESOME. Androgyny felt so good! Little did I know there was more to it than that.
(Photo from August, 2018)
Shortly after this discovery, I had a desperate hankering to get a tattoo. I hit Instagram and found the fabulous Mr. Steven James in Hamilton, Ontario. I instantly fell in love with his art style including his motif of masks. After he agreed to take me on as a client, I made sure he knew it was VERY IMPORTANT that the figure in my tattoo have short hair. It was crucial.
Fast-forward a few months, and I am sitting in his chair. I was a squirmy wormy and so incredibly jumpy. Steven had the patience of a saint and managed to land an incredible tattoo on a very anxious and squirmy body. I remember him mentioning something about me being non-binary- mind you, this was YEARS before I fully admitted this to myself, let along came out. I asked him "How did you know?!" And he simply said "I thought you told me." I guess I was thinking and feeling it so loud that he heard it!
For a long time, I wasn't sure coming out was worth the trouble. All of that pronoun business sounded like A LOT. So I thought I was ok with being my version of a "woman." Until I wasn't.
Another parallel with my OT journey: I accepted my position at Roberts Wesleyan College (now University!) as a faculty person. Little did I know the next kick-in-the-pants to coming out was waiting for me in one of my students' seats.
Shae Davis, the student in question, came to me one day and confided in me their desire to be known by their true name and be honored by their pronouns. I told them, after they hesitated, that they had the right to be called by the name that they wanted to. I still remember after saying that a voice in my head screaming "You GIANT hypocrite!!!" Shae allowed me to accompany them on their coming out journey, and I found myself peppering them with questions and being very excited by the answers. After leaving my position at RWC and coming to NC, I knew it was time to finally come out.
My fabulous teammates at UNC have been incredible as I have begun the process of learning what it means to be out and non-binary, how to share my pronouns, and how to connect with each other with love and compassion.
When I describe my OT philosophy, I often find myself discussing empowerment, connection with all people, and coming into our full selves. I am grateful to be an OT because who knows when my gender journey would have started if I wasn't in a profession that encouraged pushing boundaries. We all have our own stories and experiences, and I am very grateful that mine has led me here.