I was 16 when I realized I was bisexual. It took months for me to come to terms with it and many more months to begin coming out to my close friends and my family. I had the coming out that everyone dreams of having. My friends and parents hugged me and told me they loved me and that nothing would change—it was exactly what I wanted.
Despite the euphoria I felt from being honest with them, I kept my identity close to my chest. I grew up in Michigan and if you’ve ever lived in the rural Midwest, you know that very few people come out as LGBTQ. I lived in an extremely rural part of the state and graduated high school with a class of 70 people. No one—not a single person—in my high school had come out as queer and I sure as hell was not going to break that norm. At the time, I was more than happy to slide under the radar but as the years went on, I began to regret my inaction.
What if I could have made it easier for someone else in my community to come out, simply by being myself? For LGBTQ people, representation is everything. We cannot be what we cannot see, both as individuals and as a society. If we want a world where people know they can be 100 percent themselves and be happy, and fulfilled, and loved at the same time, then we had better show them that it’s possible.
This kind of representation is what sparked my own exploration with gender. In 2019, I watched season eight of “Are You The One?”. AYTO is a stereotypical MTV reality dating show, but for season eight they brought in an entirely queer cast. One cast member in particular caught my eye from the first episode—Kai Wes. Kai is a genderqueer person who was assigned female at birth, and decided to medically transition to present more masculine. For some reason, this blew my mind. I thought that to medically transition, you had to identify as the “opposite” gender. I never even considered the possibility that you could be something completely outside the gender binary and transition medically. I had just never seen it before.
What made the mindfuck more intense was when my then-partner turned to me and asked, “Do you think you would ever want top surgery?” Top surgery was never in the realm of possibility for me because I never felt like a man. I never felt completely comfortable identifying as female but also knew I didn’t identify as male either.
I shrugged off my partner’s question but it continued to race through my mind for months. I shoved it down almost daily as my dysphoria increased, too scared to confront it and everything that would go along with it. I knew what it probably meant and that conclusion terrified me.
It wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic hit the nation and I was forced to move back to my parents’ house that I really had time to think. I turned to the internet, as I had when I was questioning my sexuality, and found a handful of YouTubers who voiced feelings that were nearly identical to mine. They were trans, some identified as male and some as non-binary or genderqueer. It was through seeing them and their journeys that I was able to accept myself.
There are so many things in my past that I look to and wonder why I didn’t question my gender identity sooner. It’s because I never met any gender non-conforming people or even saw them in the media. There was never any representation for me to identify with when I was growing up.
So, for my second coming out, I’m going to do everything I wish I had done the first time. This is my do-over. I’m going to be unapologetically, loudly myself, because I know there are so many people who don’t have that privilege.
My name is Parker Purifoy. I am a non-binary person who will be medically transitioning and I’m going to be talking about it a lot. We cannot be what we cannot see and so I’m going to show you that I can be happy, and loved, and fulfilled while also being a trans non-binary person who has a long road and a lot of struggle ahead of them.
To anyone reading this who isn’t comfortable or safe with coming out, seek out your representation any way that you can. Find them on YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok. They are out there and seeing them will make you feel better, I promise. And remember to be patient and be honest with yourself. It’s going to be okay. You have an entire community of people who will love you and greet you with open arms, whenever you’re ready.
To every LGBTQ person who is in a safe and comfortable environment, please be loud and proud about who you are, whatever form that takes, whatever that looks like for you. We have a responsibility to open doors and make the path easier for those coming behind us and for those who do not have the privileges that we do. Being visible is the easiest way to do that. You never know who you could be helping.