A Vine Star Talks Gender

I never really discovered who I am. I still haven't! Well... perhaps it's more accurate to say, I'm still discovering. Whenever anybody talks confidently about who they are, I get this tinge of jealousy: How can they have it all figured out?


Usually in an article like this, the author starts somewhere around when they 'discovered' themselves. I can't recall the time. In other words, while it was always clear that I had certain tendencies, it was always unclear what that meant about me. I always leaned hard towards glamour and shine and sparkle. I always sounded like my mom on the phone ("Jeffrey isn't feeling well. I don't think he'll be coming to school today.") I always fell for the male lead in any TV show in which Scott Bakula was the male lead. And I can remember that all being fine with me. What I eventually did discover, much to my horror, was that other people had a problem with me. I can remember feeling like a Jeffrey always, not like a girl or like a boy, but like a 'me.' And it was a total shock when people kept trying to teach me that's not ok.

When I was very young, not quite talking and walking yet, my parents bought me a long night shirt with baseball players on it. It was very long in fact, and it was made with a zipper at the bottom. It was made so that at bedtime your legs would be zipped in. This was a neat feature. You were meant to totally encase your tiny little boy legs and feet inside the shirt. Maybe it was for warmth? Maybe to keep yourself from bolting during the night? The garment was for sleeping, and sleep in it I did. Gladly... for years... long past the point where my legs grew too long to be comfortably zippered in. I was a 5-year-old in a long shirt. I was a 5-year-old in a dress. A dress with baseball players on it, mind you. Players who were swinging and batting as if to announce their masculinity. And I loved them. I loved my dress -- my cozy sleeper nightie sporty dress. I LOVED IT FOR YEARS.

The point of this fashion flashback is to emphasize that if there was a specific moment I 'discovered' I was gender different, it was long before I can remember. I was always me -- always wanting to wear a dress. The hard part came not from who I was and what I liked, but from the anxiety that created for everybody else. That's still the hard part! I love being me and love being me in any dress as often as I can, and many people can't handle it. I've grown to accept my part, my role. I'm trying not to be too grandiose about it, but I feel like I'm here to help people through the process of accepting that I exist.

I know not everybody approaches things this way. Some people feel we need to take the "f*ck 'em" approach; as if our job is to make people accept that we exist. But that's so often a losing battle. If someone is not in a place where they can accept that gender means different things to different people, then I don't want to hang with them. If, on the other hand, someone is on the edge, someone is willing but just doesn't understand, that's who I'm happy to talk to. And you know, we probably won't talk about gender. We'll talk about our favorite Youtube channel, or the best lip gloss. I've found from interacting with all kinds of people on Vine that forcing doesn't help, begging doesn't help. Being yourself, being honest, being willing to meet someone halfway and walk with them to an understanding about the humanity in all of us, helps.

So, that's what I try and do.
Visit Jeffrey on Vine and at jeffreymarsh.com