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"My Name Is Mason Martinez," by Mason Martinez

Author: Mason Martinez

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Changing my name helped me understand my gender identity.

I sat in the back of the classroom during my sophomore year of high school, groggy from lack of sleep. I was anxious as the teacher began attendance. Minutes before, I had practically begged her to call me Scott, the name I felt more comfortable with. “OK, sure,” she’d responded with an exasperated sigh and a wave of dismissal, like she couldn’t be bothered.

Then I heard the name that didn’t feel like mine.

The teacher blinked back at me with indifference. She repeated my birth name again. My heart sank and I felt the heat in my cheeks. Reluctantly, I raised my hand and whispered, “Here.”

Attendance was the worst part of my day and I had to experience it in every class.

After class, I got up the nerve to approach my teacher again. She didn’t make eye contact with me. When I finally stopped stuttering, she looked at me and said, “Scott is a boy’s name. Are you a boy?” I heard hostility in her voice, like I had done something to personally offend her. My fingernails dug into my palms, and tears welled in my eyes.

I was silent. I wasn’t sure if I was a boy or not, and I was afraid of saying yes. After all, I had breasts that even the elastic binder I wore under my shirt couldn’t cover. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said, repeating the name that was not my own.

Unsure of My Gender Identity

Since freshman year, I’d been unsure of my gender identity and therefore what my name should be. People saw me as a girl, but I didn’t identify that way. I struggled enough to explain it to myself, let alone to my friends, family, and teachers. The only thing I was sure of, since the early days of 2nd grade, was that when I heard my birth name, it felt like a paper cut: a tiny, seemingly insignificant thing that bleeds and hurts more than it should.

Although the binder was tight and suffocating, I wore it for almost two years, when I identified more with my masculine side. When I first tried it, after much readjusting, a little bubble of panic formed in my chest. It’s not working, it’s not working, I thought as I kept moving my skin around to find a way to make my chest feel flatter. When I realized it was the best I could do, I was disappointed. It still felt like my breasts were visible.

I had a range of clothes, from dresses that were gifted to me to whatever fit my “tomboy” personality. But I mostly wore L-XL men’s clothing to hide what the binder couldn’t squish down. I felt I “passed” more as a guy when I took photos of myself. I found the perfect angle to make myself pass and received a lot of comments and people private messaging me, asking to get to know me. It helped my self-esteem. In real life, some days I felt I passed, and some days I felt I didn’t.

What’s Your Real Name?

I was fortunate to be in an environment at school where the majority of my friends identified within the LGBTQ+ community. However, I still felt self-imposed pressure to figure out my “label.” All my friends seemed so sure of themselves as gay, bisexual, or FTM (which means a transgender person who was designated female at birth but identifies as male), and I wanted that. I desperately craved that feeling of knowing where I belonged.

After the humiliating response from that teacher, I was too afraid to confront most of my other teachers about using the name I preferred or the pronouns he/him. I decided it’d be better to keep quiet and subject myself to discomfort.

On the rare occasion I was comfortable enough to come out to a teacher, I still felt hesitant. In some classes, teachers called me Scott, and in others, they called me by my “dead name”—the one I’d been given at birth and no longer identified with. And my classmates noticed.

“So which one is it?” one girl asked, in a demanding tone.

“Yeah, why do you have two names?” the boy next to her asked.

“Is this one your real name?”

I kept my eyes glued to the math handout. I scribbled random numbers. I felt my cheeks flame. I didn’t like to be confronted by anyone, let alone people I rarely associated with. “My name is Scott,” I said. I tried to tune out the snickering behind my back and the looks that felt like they left holes in my skin.

This affected my ability to do well in school. I avoided being called on in class. I feigned sickness to stay home. After a while, I told my friends not to call me anything. Being nameless was better than hearing the wrong name and feeling awful, or being called the right name and receiving glares.

Throughout high school I struggled not only with figuring out who I was, but with mental illness. I was hospitalized multiple times and put on several medications that made me feel tired and sluggish. Although my doctor tried to find the right doses, he never did. After three years of being medicated and nothing working, I began growing tired of being tired.

Finding My Name

IMAGE BY YC-ART DEPT

The summer before I graduated, my mom and I visited relatives in California. Bonding with everyone and getting in touch with nature made me feel better about continuing on my journey of figuring out my gender identity. I stopped wearing my binder. I worked on convincing myself that I could be comfortable without it. It was rough at first. I had a lot of days when I broke down and put it on for a while, but eventually as my mental health improved, I began the process of learning to love and feel comfortable with the body I have.

Several weeks later, with the help of my doctor, I began to wean off of my medication.

I found my name on a sunny morning. I had the curtains drawn, the AC blasting, and snacks littering the coffee table. I was binge-watching Glee, my all-time favorite show. Years ago it had opened my 7th grade eyes to the LGBTQ+ community, which I hadn’t been exposed to growing up in the projects of Long Island City.

One episode introduced twins named Madison and Mason. Hearing those names brought me back to a Sunday afternoon drive I’d taken with my father. He was still coming to terms with my gender identity, mostly because he didn’t understand what it was; I wasn’t sure I did. He often confused gender identity and expression, and seeing me dress in a more feminine matter while maintaining that I wasn’t female had thrown him off.

“You know, I wanted to name you Madison. Your mom hated the name, but I don’t know, something about it got me. Why don’t you just call yourself Madison?”

“Dad, it feels too feminine for me. I want something that feels neutral.”

Living Life Gender Neutral

I was unsure of many things in my life. But I was slowly realizing that I didn’t identify as male or female; it’s more like I’ve always danced between the two. It was OK with my family when I played with Barbies, but they tried to stop me when I did things that were considered “boy things,” although I kept at them. My only thought was, “If I want to stroll through the woods, get my hands dirty, and collect lizards in my wagon, why can’t I?”

Unintentionally and unknowingly, I’d lived my life gender neutral.

Hearing the name Madison reminded me of that car ride, but it wasn’t the cheerleader with the long beautiful brunette hair I connected with. It was her brother’s name, Mason. Hearing it felt like I’d found the missing puzzle piece.

Everything had suddenly fallen into place. It was the most beautiful and terrifying moment of my life.

I kept the name to myself for several months, wondering if it would stick. However, deep down inside I knew that it was my name and that it was perfect for me.

I realized that I am non-binary during a conversation with my friend Finley. The word is frequently used as an umbrella term and its definition can vary depending on the person. According to GLAAD, a group that advocates for LGBTQ rights, non-binary means “…falling outside the categories of man and woman. They may define their gender as falling somewhere in between man and woman…” I fall directly in the middle. Whenever people used gender-specific pronouns for me, it didn’t feel either wrong or right; it felt misplaced. It left this feeling in my stomach that I never knew how to describe.

I’d known my friend Fin’s pronouns as he/him, but one day I heard another friend use they/them.

Fin chuckled, seeing my confusion, and explained the switch. “I didn’t feel like male pronouns suited me and I’m frankly tired of people asking me if I’m sure all the time, because you know what, I’m not. So I just keep it neutral.”

This helped me realize why I hadn’t felt sure about identifying as FTM (female-to-male). I never felt 100% male, or female. Talking to Fin helped me determine that being non-binary and using they/them pronouns best suited me.

Coming Out as Mason

When I came out as Mason it was like a heavy weight was lifted off me. When I legally changed my name it felt like I was reborn. For the first time in my life I felt like I was free without being judged by anyone.

After taking a gap year to focus on self-care, my mental health, and my career aspirations, I started college last year. On the first day of my first class, I sat front and center. My professor began with an icebreaker. We went around the room. When it was my turn to say my name and a fun fact about myself, I hesitated. But then I said my name with pride. I no longer had to dread attendance. It felt like a victory.

Now that I feel more certain about my identity, I am more comfortable speaking up about my preferred pronouns. Now that I’m in college, I have given speeches and written research papers on educating people about the difference between gender and sexuality, as well as the different genders and pronouns. I also help others through the complicated legal processes of changing your name and gender markings on official documents.

Still, there are days when I wish I had my binders to help me feel more masculine. But I feel that less and less.

My name is Mason Martinez and I am a proud non-binary, pansexual individual. My pronouns are they/them. When people ask me where I got my name, I stand tall and proud and say, “I picked it myself.”

DMU Timestamp: November 09, 2018 23:10





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