Sure, I have boy problems too. If by boy problems, you mean gender dysphoria.
As a 23-year-old nonbinary writer, it’s exhausting for me to keep opening up about my experience with being in/validated by society-at-large. But I have to admit, it never really gets old. I always discover something new that makes me go, “Oh, that really helps stop me from wanting the earth to swallow my body whole.”
A relatively new addition to the list of things that make me feel like a human being instead of Silly Putty is how my mom has taken to occasionally calling me Jungkook. Yes, as in Jeon Jungkook of BTS.
When I decided that it was time for me to chop off my bob with bangs, I showed the hairdresser a picture of Jungkook for reference. After getting my new ‘do, that’s when my mom started calling me by his name. I came to terms with my identity while stanning the K-Pop group. The Bangtan boys aren’t just my comfort artists; I aspire to be the type of boys that they are—not that I completely identify as a boy.
The members of the group have, on multiple occasions, talked about their support for the LGBTQIA+ community and their refusal to allow definitions of masculinity to limit their self-expression. It isn’t really novel. But since they’ve built a strong relationship with their fans, it comes off as a message from your BFFs. As a nonbinary person who doesn’t feel comfortable in the company of most men, I feel like I get to be one of the boys whenever I spend time watching their videos or some other fandom activity.
— 방탄소년단 (@BTS_twt) June 9, 2019
Anyway, back to my mom. We’re pretty close. We have our differences but we joke around each other on the regular. Before getting a K-Pop “boy cut,” I would ask my mom questions like, “Sino ako sa BTS?” When she read an article where I mentioned that I’m nonbinary, she asked me to explain what it meant. So I know that on some level, she understands what it means for me to be likened to someone like Jungkook—a demigod boy next door in the making.
I’m short and barely have muscle mass. I don’t really share any facial features with Jungkook. Despite knowing this, I’m still thrilled by any attempt to feed into my delusions that I could pass as his long-lost twin brother. If someone asks why it makes me feel so giddy, I have the option of simply answering “He’s one of my faves” as a guilt-free cop-out instead of confronting one of my trans struggles—feeling like a total impostor all the time. I know that nonbinary is under the trans umbrella so I really shouldn’t be giving myself an aneurysm over considering using he/them pronouns. The mind is an irrational thing.
While my mom is quite supportive, there are still things that she says that hurt me like knife cuts. She doesn’t try to convince me to get a more “feminine” hairstyle to be cruel. She doesn’t mention that she wants me to give birth one day to make me feel unloved. But they’re still painful reminders that maybe she’s not ready to meet me where I am.
I have savored each time my mom has called me Jungkook since last year. It’s one of my favorite ways that she tells me she loves me because it comforts me to know that, in the end, she will try. She might not fully understand yet that I’m not the same person I was years ago when she was raising me as her daughter. But whenever she recognizes that it’s not so bad to find congruence in the idea of me being unchained from womanhood, I feel like she’s halfway there.
If she can see me as Jungkook then she’ll be able to see me for who I am.
Art by Jan Cardasto
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