My name is MJ Hébert. I’m from Lafayette, Louisiana.
It’s 2016 and I’ve just met someone that I have overwhelming feelings for. And I fall into a whirlwind romance with them. About three months into that, we ended up engaged.
When I met this person who I became engaged to, I was very hyper feminine. I was wearing, like, very provocative and suggestive clothes, like short shorts and crop tops. I was… I basically looked like a little tart. I… and I… everything I wore was about accentuating my body, exposing my body, like, making my… my femaleness really apparent.
In my relationship with him there was… there was a lot of building me up and tearing me down and there was a lot of gaslighting. He would say, “You’re my big, bright shining star. Like, you’re the most special, perfect thing in the world. And nobody can protect you from the world except for me.”
Over the course of the relationship, I started to experiment more on the journey I was on with gender. I started… I started to not welcome the attention that I was getting from the way that I was dressing. And it became sort of a protective thing for me to dress a little bit more androgynously, call less attention to my body or to the femaleness of my body. And that wasn’t necessarily met with welcome from my partner.
And he felt threatened by my bisexuality. He would demean me and belittle me. He would do things like call me a lesbian, which to me, I didn’t understand ‘cause I was like, “Well, first of all, if I was, there’d be nothing wrong with it, but I’m bisexual. And you know that I’m bisexual.”
And I remember one day I was wearing these like baggy Levis and this oversized Sons of Anarchy shirt, and that was an outfit that… that I’d still wear today, that made me feel comfortable, made me feel confident. And of course, he went back to that classic line. He told me, I looked like a lesbian.
It felt so confining to me that he was telling me, No, if, if you’re bisexual, you need to present like a woman. You know, if, if you’re really into men, you need to prove it by being female. I never changed. I never changed my clothes. I kind of just, after that, I would have, you know, a little bit of weight on my shoulders for the rest of the day.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was this conversation between him and my dad. They were getting in this argument about the back door, like, being broken. And my dad thought that it was his fault for some reason. And they had gotten this bickering argument back and forth. And my dad’s a very reserved man with a lot of restraint. So for him to argue with anyone means he must be really pissed off.
In the course of the argument, my dad looked over at me and he said, “I don’t know how you put up with him.” And in that moment, it felt so damning for my dad to actually offer his opinion. It hit me so hard because he’d never said anything before. He’d always withheld comment. And to me, for someone to… to piss off a guy like my dad, who was nothing but sweet and kind and generous really said something about his character. I don’t remember the fight that finally was the end. I just remember that at one point I told him to leave and that I didn’t want him to come back.
I remember after he left this… this one night, I was, like, lying in bed and I, like, started crying ‘cause I was so happy and I – I’m not a religious person, but I literally thanked God because I felt like a prisoner that had been set free. Having the strength to leave that relationship became the stepping stone in embracing my sexuality and my gender identity.
And I can remember this night that I went out downtown on Jefferson Street in Lafayette, and I was wearing basically the same outfit that I’d been wearing when my ex called me a lesbian. Like, baggy jeans, big t-shirt. And I had this like swagger to me. I felt so confident, so much like myself. I felt like I was inhabiting my body in a way that I hadn’t been able to before. Because I wasn’t dressing for anybody else, I was just dressing for me.
It’s now been three years since that breakup and I feel stronger and more confident than I ever have. I also underwent sort of a transformation in terms of how I identify myself, because when this story began in 2016, I was this femme-presenting woman and I was going by Madeline, which is my given name. And in the time since then, I’ve started to go by MJ. And in the years that I’ve been MJ, I’ve been more confident and more myself and less apologetic and less likely to change who I am to conform to somebody else’s ideas of what I should be.
Now I just am, and there’s just flow and I just exist and I’m not trying to fit myself into any box. And I know now that anyone who tries to fit me into a box, that’s not love. Just keep burning brightly and don’t let anybody try to put that flame out.