The COVID-19 pandemic has been a lonely and difficult time for many students. While classes moved online and many in-person social opportunities were cancelled, solitude has become a regular part of life. With time to quietly self-reflect or access communities with like-minded individuals, this isolation has given a handful of students the unique opportunity to think about their gender identity.
Three York students are now opening up and reflecting on their own personal journeys to gender euphoria.
Prior to the pandemic era, Keith, a fourth-year liberal arts student who wishes to remain anonymous, identified solely as a binary trans man. Now, they present themselves as a genderfluid individual.
“I didn’t feel comfortable with any other gender identity, even though I had experimented with identifying as non-binary and/or genderfluid before that.”
Their discomfort with the way society treated femininity made Keith reject their own.
“I don’t think I was entirely wrong in identifying as trans, but I think that society made femininity leave a bad taste in my mouth. I wanted nothing to do with my AFABness. I didn’t want people to look at me and think ‘girl.’ My mind associated anything other than ‘boy’ with negative connotations.”
Time spent in isolation during the pandemic years allowed Keith to rekindle their relationship with femininity while simultaneously exploring their identity as a genderfluid person. After taking time to research and quietly self-reflect without being influenced by the opinions of others, they are now comfortable using the genderfluid, nonbinary, and trans labels for themselves.
“I still identify with the trans label but it’s not out of fear or shame; it’s alongside my gender fluidity, and that makes me feel more powerful and in control than ever.”
Myles McPhee is a first-year environmental science student. At the start of the pandemic, he identified as a cisgender bisexual fem. After his desire to transition to male was rejected by his mother, he lived as a non-binary lesbian — repressing his initial wishes.
“I identified as non-binary for quite some time, but I always knew it wasn’t fitting to be just non-binary.”
Meeting like-minded individuals in his first semester at York helped Myles regain confidence to present himself as a trans man. “I met some friends who shared my feelings. They gave me the courage to come out as trans.”
Myles expresses gratitude to his twin brother, friends, and partner, who have all aided him in his journey.
Two years later, Myles now lives as a transmasculine unapologetically.
Myles’ twin brother, Oliver McPhee, is a first-year social work student who also explored his gender identity during the pandemic era. He also transitioned from cis female to non-binary to a trans man.
The opportunity to self-reflect during this period provided Oliver with time to figure out how he wanted to present himself to the world.
“I was really unhappy, and greatly struggling with my mental health. It gave me time to figure out who I am.”
Having others purposely misgender him and use his deadname made his journey a challenging one, but he learned to grow past the opinions of bigoted people. Oliver is now confident in his identity as a trans man.
For Keith, Myles, and Oliver, the transphobia they experienced at the hands of family members was, and continues to be, the greatest obstacle in their journey. Myles and Oliver’s mother discouraged them from transitioning. As a result of this rejection, Oliver struggled with his emotional health. For Keith, they do not feel safe initiating conversations on 2SLGBTQ+ topics around his parents for fear of retaliation.
Gender is not static. Some individuals continue to identify with the gender they were raised as. Others come out as trans, or, like Keith, Myles, and Oliver, find comfort in a different label under the trans umbrella than what they used previously.
The pandemic period has proven to not be an easy time for many people, as a lot have lost more than they have gained. However, these three strong students at York remind the community that, even in the most difficult of times, moments of light and discovery can be found.