I think the one thing I am most proud of is how I’ve always maintained the core of who I am no matter how uncomfortable I have been made to feel at times. It’s not always easy to remain in a state of self-love and acceptance, especially in a world that can magnify traits we believe to be imperfections. However, ﬁnding that place of unconditional love is possible.
Whenever I encounter a moment where someone or something calls into question my identity, I hold fast one particular childhood memory to help dispel any self-doubt.
As a child, and as early as two, I can recall toddling around the swimming pool in a pair of my brother’s swim trunks. They were a faded orange, accented with stripes of pale blue and green. We were at my grandmother’s swimming pool and I was enjoying a Smarties Lolly Pop, cruising around the edge of the baby pool.
I remember the awkward moment my mom experienced when a kind stranger complimented her cute boy/girl twins, and her having to make the correction that my sister and myself were both girls.
I ﬁnd it interesting that I was mistaken as a boy— should gender be pigeonholed into a certain way of dressing?
I was simply dressing how I felt most comfortable and conﬁdent and, though that may be the case, I have met many who consider it a problem.
I counter: Is it really a problem or is the true problem that our language limits our ability to embrace exactly who we are? Why are boy’s clothing labeled distinctly boy’s clothing and not just clothing?
I love the Pride ﬂag because in its fun rainbow pattern I ﬁnd deeper meaning— the notion that all colors, all races, all people should be accepted and loved as they are.
In nature, colors exist in a vibrant, vast and beautiful spectrum. Flowers, birds, and insects thrive in our forests, plains and mountains in the thousands, all distinct and diﬀerent as denoted by the many categories and subcategories listed in our science books.
If humans are one of the most evolved species, why has our language not evolved to reﬂect our vastly diﬀerent experiences and vastly unique ways in which we express ourselves through art, dance, music, language, and love?
Though the deﬁnitions for “he” and “she” are relatively short, the impact of their denotative meanings are long-lasting and severely limiting.
Take a moment to consider for yourself: Does he or she wear dresses? Does he or she play sports? Does he or she cook? Clean? Play video games? Wear makeup? High heels?
Where I grew up, I was taught that girls wear dresses. If I refused to wear makeup, I was asked why or told that I would look better with some color on my cheeks.
As an identical twin, I was always compared to my sister and asked why I didn’t like to dress like her. When I did try to dress like her, I would still receive jeering remarks because those in the room could not believe I was capable of picking out an outﬁt for myself.
Clothing has always been a huge cause for conﬂict in my life— when going up to give my speech as my High School Class Valedictorian, the only thought on my mind was, “I hope I don’t fall in these heels.”
I was more concerned with embarrassing myself in front of my family because of a stupid pair of shoes I felt obligated to wear, versus being present to a moment I had worked so hard to achieve…
When I moved out to Los Angeles for acting, I ﬁnally met that breaking point where I stopped dressing from a place of obligation— if I continued to let the opinions of others bother me, it would only serve as a block to my work.
Just like a painter needs a blank canvas to begin their work, actors have to clear their canvas so they are thus able to add the layers needed to create a character. If you can’t get past caring what other people think of you, the paint cans will remain sealed. Fortunately, I was able to break into my paints and the world began to look very colorful.
In one of the ﬁrst theatrical productions I was cast in, I got to play the nefarious, zoot-suit wearing Evil Eye Fleagle. The gorgeous green suit that the costuming department cut for me seemed to possess a touch of magic as, each time I put it on, a whole new side of me came to life that I had never seen before.
Never before had I taken up space the way in which I did while in that suit. Never before had I had such a deep, distinct, and daring voice. Never before had I been in love with women, but now I was letting my ﬁrst-ever crush give me a cute peck on the cheek as an added boost of energy just before going out onto stage.
In the moment everything felt so right. However, once the production run was over and I had fully washed oﬀ the character, I was left questioning if I truly liked women or if I had simply been caught up in the emotions of my character. I dwelled on that thought for over 3 months until I ﬁnally had the courage to call up my parents and tell them straight out that I was bisexual.
It took me much longer to come out to my grandmother but, when I did, I was met by the most beautiful reply from the most Beautiful person I know; “So what? So I’ll stop loving you? No, I don’t think so.”
Coming out is a layered process and, though I had come out to my sister, parents, and grandmother, I was still hesitant to admit it openly to others. Upon ﬁnding myself in a plethora of LGTBQ+ youth and mentoring groups, the conﬁdence eventually came as did the freedom to explore my preferred pronouns.
In most LGBTQ+ safe spaces and programs, introductions include names and preferred pronouns. During earlier introductions, I always found it interesting how, whenever the introductions came around to me, I either forgot to include or completely stumbled over my “She, Her, Hers” pronouns. Subconsciously I think this act was very telling and brought full circle my experiences from childhood.
During these moments, there were several times when I had to concede that I didn’t know what my pronouns were. Though I had never been given the choice before, it had been made very clear to me that I was not a “she.” And, while I like wearing boy’s clothing, I have never thought of myself as a “he.”
So, where do I belong? How do I identify if not a “she” or “he?”
I grappled with where I felt I landed for several weeks until one fateful day when a very close friend and mentor used “They” when referring to me in conversation with another individual.
It was in that moment that I felt seen for the very ﬁrst time in my life— the expectations of being she or he were immediately lifted and I could ﬁnally take a deep breath of relief…”This is me.”
I am both masculine and feminine; some days one, some days all, all days me.
My name is Moira McFadden and my pronouns are proudly: They, Them, Theirs.
Dear Younger Self,
Do you know why I’m proud of you? It’s because no matter how bad people have made you feel, you’ve always found a way to ﬁght for who you are and I think that is the single most courageous thing a person can do.
Right now you may feel small, meek, awkward, geeky, gross and ugly. You might want to hide — and you do behind those glasses and your baggy clothing — but know that one day you will break out of that cocoon (i.e., dye your hair blue, shave your head, and get a tattoo…) and all the pain you are feeling right now will be yesterday’s problem.
Distance yourself from that pain, but don’t let it become too distant of a memory— keep it in your pocket as a powerful reminder to treat others with the same kindness, compassion, understanding, and love you wish to receive in return.
Expect to be laughed at (Lady Gaga was and look now…#MetGala2019), but never take it to heart. Embrace the moments when you are called “weird” or “strange” as victories— being exceptional takes moments of weirdness and a willingness to experiment in order to ﬁnd the true essence of who you are.
On this journey to self-discovery, you will inevitably disappoint some very important people in your life— many loved family members and close friends — and that is okay.
It will hurt because you love them so deeply but trust that one day they will come to understand who you are— if it takes us a whole lifetime to ﬁgure out who we are, how can we expect others to know us unless we tell them ourselves?
Learn to love yourself ﬁrst and then look to share that love with others. Those who can’t or won’t accept you as you are, are not worthy of your love or time so pay them no mind.
When you do fall in love, trust in those feelings, even if that other person happens to be a woman. Love knows no gender. Love knows no limits. Love is love (for proof: please reference the right side of your Pride Converse high tops…)
On the note of shoes, please know that a nice pair of Converse absolutely work with a suit. Don’t worry about learning to tie a tie (hint: type in “Zipper Tie” in the Amazon search bar) but do learn how to iron or invest a steamer…
Dress how you feel most comfortable and shop in whichever section (men’s, women’s, or kid’s) has the coolest clothing.
Have fun and use every opportunity as a means of artistic expression. You are a canvas so don’t be afraid to try all the colors.
When you are frustrated with life and need a pick-me-up, put on some Queen or David Bowie and dance like no one is watching (except your twin sister…in the next room…who has probably already posted a video of it on Instagram…)
Lastly, and most importantly, do nothing with the sole intention of seeking validation whether on social media, the internet, or from another person.
You are enough exactly as you are and no amount of likes, views, shares, retweets will ever match the value of you.
I love you so unbelievably much and am so unbelievably proud of the person you are becoming. Please don’t ever stop being the amazing person that you are.
Your Friend, Fan & Future Self.
Contributed by Free2Luv Advocate, producer, actor and LGBTQ+ activist, Moira McFadden.