Gender Diaries: Jazmine Shepard
As the world continues to push against gender constructs, the conversation around how people are identifying themselves is constantly evolving. Each week, MILK.XYZ will feature a guest editor writing about their specific relationship with gender and, often, where it intersects with fashion. This week, we feature Jazmine Shepard.
Gender for everyone is different, and no matter how you choose to express yourself, every identity is valid. For me, I came out as transgender is January of my junior year. I was very fortunate to come out in such a progressive state, and an even more progressive town. I always showed to be more feminine, even at such a young age. I brought my Barbies to elementary school, and dressed up in my mother’s clothes as young as I can remember. As I got older, the way I expressed myself became more attacked by kids in my school. I remember in fourth grade, I was very close with a girl in my neighborhood, and at the time identified as male, but she strictly enforced that our friendship was only outside of school, and was actually quite mean to me in school. She said she couldn’t be friends with a boy. That is my first memory of feeling different towards gender.
Fast forward to seven years later, and I’m starting my transition from male to female. It was 2015, so gender was being talked about a LOT, with people like Laverne Cox, who personally, gave me hope and courage to come out. Coming out in high school is tough. I heard the whispers, and dealing with a new gender, you’re vulnerable. I built up a wall, letting only a few friends in my life and going to school, doing what I needed to do, and leaving. I didn’t connect well with people who were going through the same type of situation as me, I felt alienated. My family was somewhat supportive, but very awkward about it, and by them too, I felt alienated. In the summer of 2015, I became homeless. I heard all the statistics about how many trans youth face homelessness, but I couldn’t believe I was one of them. I was able to stay with an amazing women, who was the most open minded and open-hearted person in the world, and for anyone who says that the older generations don’t understand, this women proves that theory wrong. However I was just getting by in school, and eventually was jumping from place to place in order to survive.
Now it’s 2018, I am still from place to place, working, and trying to survive all on my own. What I can tell you is this, coming out was one of the best decisions of my life. No matter what has happened, I am able to express my gender freely. I am able to dress the way I want, and speak the way I want to speak, and be myself. It is so liberating to know that my gender is for the world to see. So many people, especially youth, are accepting and understanding gender on a different level. The kids I work with, are so open and say things like, “There is no such thing as boy or girl things,” and one girl even said, “Drag queens are pretty cool, and people, no matter what gender can do whatever they want.” That’s a pretty awesome thing to hear. It’s hopeful to hear elementary kids be so open about gender. I see transgender women and cisgender women breaking gender stereotypes every day, and it’s inspiring to me. One day, I believe there will be a world without gender expectations, or hate around gender.
Stay tuned to Milk for more Gender Diaries and see our previous installments here.