I’m Andy, and I’m from Tallahassee, Florida.
So I was raised in an evangelical cult. I didn’t realize that at the time. I thought this was a normal church and normal religious things going on. There were all of these rules that were along the lines of women weren’t allowed to speak about religion in front of men. Women weren’t allowed to teach men. Men were always prioritized as the head of the household and had a level of authority and sometimes ownership over women in the community.
And to me, it was very obvious that, yeah, no, nobody would want to be a woman. It was not obvious to me that some people do want to be women. And that me so intensely not identifying as a woman was actually a sign of me being trans and not just being in a patriarchal cult.
I wanted to be good at being a girl because it seemed like that was what God wanted. And frankly, my number one was like, how do I make God happy? So I asked my parents, I asked other people in my religious community, “What does God think about being trans?” And their answer was pretty much like, “God does not approve of you transitioning.” And so it was clear to me that that would not be something that was accepted, but I still thought all of the time about what it might mean to transition.
I got to this point where I was going to church three or four times a week. It was… it was a lot. And all of my energy was going into maintaining what I was supposed to be, which was a nice Christian lady. But I realized that if I was going to continue living, that I could not do it… I couldn’t do it as a woman. But within my church, there was this really extreme idea that it would be better for you to die than to sin in a way that would cause you to go to hell for sure.
It was the day before my 22nd birthday because I was just like, I just can’t go into another year having this unhappiness and these questions about what I want my life to be. Thinking about what it meant to be trans, I thought, well, what does it mean if I feel like my whole body is the problem? Within the framework of that religious tradition what it meant was it would be better for me to die now rather than live if I know that I have to transition in order to want to live.
I looked up a list of household items that people use most often to commit suicide. I ranked them by efficacy. I figured out what I had, and I figured out how I would kill myself if I did. And then I said, Okay, I’m going to really sit here and pray about it and think about it. And so I set my timer. I was like, I’m going to really think about whether I want to stay alive. And I remember actually that I decided that I couldn’t transition because it would disappoint my family too deeply and it would disappoint God too deeply and that I wanted to die.
And I do not remember what happened. I don’t remember anything, but I woke up three or four hours later and I was like, well, it seems that the time has passed and I am still here, so I guess I’m going to try transitioning.
I called a friend and I said, “Hey, I just want to let you know that I think I’m non-binary.”
And she said, “Oh, so should I use they/them pronouns to refer to you now?”
And I was like, “Yeah, that’d be great.”
And she said, “Okay, are we still getting lunch on Wednesday? I’m really looking forward to sushi.”
And I’m like, You mean it was this easy?? And not that she didn’t think it was important, but it was just not consequential to the nature of our friendship, and that was a shocking experience. That was sort of the signifier that there might be another type of relationship available that wasn’t going to be contingent on like a shared set of values and that was going to be contingent on mutual respect.
With my own family, there were a lot of challenges in getting them to accept that I was trans. And it reached this point where my mom did not use pronouns to refer to me for like six months to a year at one point, and that was really difficult. I was strongly encouraged to attend cult services because I was staying with people who were part of it. There was a really unfortunate incident where I was barred from using a restroom, which is against the law in… well, it’s probably legal now, but at the time it was against the law in the setting where it happened. So that really stunk. And I started to realize that I could reject environments and relationships where people were making my identity a source of friction.
And I started to realize that I could reject environments and relationships where people were making my identity a source of friction.
After I initially came out to that one friend, I started to take more chances on sharing, not just that I was non-binary, but other aspects of my life with more people. And one of the people who I really wanted to be closer to, who I had always wanted to have more of a friendship with, was this person who I met in undergrad in my very first class. I never really felt like it was a close friendship. And so actually a year after I had considered killing myself, I found out that their sister had passed away. Not that I knew their sister, but I felt like that was what I would’ve wanted somebody to do if I had passed away. I started trying to just be more of an emotional support, and that ended up deepening the friendship in a lot of ways. And eventually, we realized that we both liked each other and started to date.
After getting married, it started to feel the amount of support I was receiving from people outside of my own relatives, was just… it was like a different thing entirely. And ultimately, it really helped me to make the decision that Florida was not a safe place to be so we decided that we were going to move out of Florida, and so we moved to New York in the summer of 2021.
My life is so much different than I would’ve thought it could be as a kid. And really, it’s very different than I would’ve thought it would be even three years ago. The world is huge. There are so many people who are not going to react to me the way that people in the cult that I was raised in did. There are so many people that are not going to react the way, frankly, that people in the Florida education system have. And it’s amazing.