The Trials and Tribulations of Being a Gender-Fluid Panromantic South Asian

Reid Graham/TMD.

I want to start by saying that I’m writing this piece anonymously for many reasons, but I still feel I should be able to share my story with you. It’s a story of confusion, acceptance, and self-love, and I hope this piece sheds light on what people might go through every day. I am not claiming that this experience is the same for every gender-fluid, asexual, or panromantic person, but it is a journey amongst the many.

My perceived notion about myself changed in 7th grade. Until then, I was the poster child for a straight cis female. I was an ally, but I also thought I was not susceptible to changing my identity for the rest of my life. That’s when an ILA project changed everything. The project was to raise awareness or talk about a topic that you believe needed more exposure. Some of my classmates chose to write about being a part of the queer community. This project occurred when I started having feelings for both boys and girls. I used to brush it off as a phase. Now, a good portion of my prior thinking comes from the fact that my South Asian parents don’t believe in being gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, or any other identity in the LGBTQIA+ community. And therein lies my hypocrisy. The fact that I supported the rights of those who identified as a part of the LGBTQIA+ community yet couldn’t support myself when I felt that I might be bisexual showed how much my culture played a role in understanding who I was. I talked to one of my classmates and asked about her experience of coming out. She supported me and told me I didn’t have to know immediately and that I had the choice to identify as questioning if I chose to. And with that, I labeled myself as questioning. It was not until the end of 10th and early 11th grade that I realized I was bisexual. 

With that, I sighed contently and thought that this time around, I finally knew who I was. Thinking back on it now, I laugh a little at how wrong I was. 

Identifying as gender fluid was more difficult. It started with the ideology, and for lack of a better way to phrase this,  of the “me” you and I physically see versus the “me” I feel I am. The “me” I feel that I am is different. He is masculine. He is different from the me I see. When I see my reflection in a mirror, I see everything that makes me physically feminine. The feeling of being masculine is gone, and I am back to being the feminine version of myself. But as soon as I step away from the mirror, it’s back to being him. This feeling led to acute gender dysphoria. I wanted so desperately to be male. That’s what I want my physical appearance to reflect. I tried to change my clothes, the way I do my makeup. Something has to work. Right? This constant confusion made way to an overwhelming feeling, and I told one of my closest friends I might be gender fluid. She supported me and told me that she was there for me no matter what. She had questions regarding what it means to be gender fluid (a question I still grapple with at times). Essentially, a gender-fluid person does not have a set gender and can choose to identify with one or multiple genders throughout their lifetime. The feeling that someone I am close to supports me made me feel at ease.

The constant confusion, however, did not go away immediately. I desperately wanted to be called using different pronouns. That would only happen if I let the people around me know about my preference. For some reason, I was afraid. I wasn’t sure what the reactions would be like. 

Would people look at me in disgust? Would they make callous remarks saying I would suit being a woman more than a man?  

One night, after thinking long and hard about what I should do, I turned on an ASMR video that exclusively uses “he/him” pronouns (to be clear: this video uses the setting of a pride parade, so there are videos with “she/her” and “they/them” pronouns). ASMR has always been a way for me to relax and escape the stresses of the real world. The following sentences might seem absurd, but I assure you this was the Holy calling for me to open up about my pronoun usage. That ASMR video made me emotional in a good way. I felt so accepted and so at home with the pronoun usage. I realized that this was what I wanted. And if people cannot accept me for who I am, then there is nothing I can do about that. 

And with that, I started telling people about my usage of  “he/him” pronouns. As of now, all reactions have been positive and supportive. People have asked many questions as well. Questions ranged from “what exactly is gender fluid” to funny hypotheticals like “if you fell in love with a guy and ended up in a relationship with him, then it would be boy love, right? That sounds like something straight out of the stuff I read”. My fear of being outcasted washed away, leaving me with contentment I hadn’t felt.

And with that, I thought that this is where it ends. I have finally discovered who I am. I should stop saying that because I started identifying as panromantic and asexual.

Identifying panromantic and asexual wasn’t as hard as the first two. I was already bisexual, so my transition to identifying as panromantic wasn’t too arduous. Instead of loving people who identify with two genders, I wish to love people of all and any gender. It was a similar thought process that led me to realize I am asexual as well.

These labels have a connection to the fact that I am South Asian. Coming out in this economy is difficult, so I think about the future. In the future, I will be economically independent. I will have more strength to come out. Right now, I prefer laying low. That does not mean I am not brave. It means I am trying to navigate my current circumstances and survive this situation unbroken. I love being South Asian. My interests and hobbies come from my culture and identity (as I like to joke around with my friends, my entire personality trait is being South Asian). Yet. at the same time, I would not want to give up the part of me that is a part of the LGBTQIA+ community to appeal to the South Asian community.

So, as a parting note, I would like to say one thing. You could view me as gender fluid, asexual, panromantic, and South Asian. But you can also see me as human. And when we see everyone as just human, I fully believe we can be more accepting of each other and lead a life void of bias and discrimination.