I cook every day.
I double over the chopping board, dicing and mincing vegetables. I’m mixing eggs in a pan, unscrambling all the thoughts that have ever passed through my head. I’ve indulged in cooking recently, because writing is, simply, not enough to unravel my internal monologue.
I’m a chronic over-thinker. I think about the present, the future, my breakfast and sometimes my lunch, the possibility of a career that I have no skills for, the life I wanted to live at age seven, and the life I’m living now. I think about my gender, my clothes, the style I want but can’t pull off, the style of the girl that passed me in the hallway when I was in school, her smile. I think about how sad it is that I’ll never be fully understood by so many people in the way I see myself .
Another thing about me, I’ve always been envious of others. I always wished to be someone else; a stranger, a lover, a best friend, a genderless-vibrant-eccentric plant that everyone admires for no reason other than its existence. I wished I was the person who always had a journal. You see them with their profound stare into nothing and then watch their eyes scramble for the pen and paper. They’re always sitting on a blanket in the park, enveloped in a blissful scene that everyone envies. Plastered on journals lies a recollection of their deep, great emotions - some are great novel ideas that will never be read, some become the next bestseller.
But when I journaled I wrote about food. I never worried about a stranger finding my journal in a century and publishing my shitty memoir. At best, they’d be able to make a decent cinnamon roll.
I wrote about cooking because that’s when I’m feeling my deep, great emotions. That’s what I and the person in the park have in common - we’re both feeling these deep feelings. Why has my childhood been clouded by a fog of someone I was trying so hard to be? Why is it so hard to write about the person I want to be? What parts of my identity are scripts by society and what parts have I written? Should I roast or fry the garlic in my new spaghetti recipe?
The person from the park and me - we may both lose our reality, troubled over our gender identity; we share the disconnect and the longing for someone to acknowledge us as we see ourselves. But, they write about it and I write about chopping onions.
I’m the type of person who empathises with stories and experiences instead of sharing their own. I’m always waiting for someone else to write or speak a story that helps me better understand myself. But, during quarantine, I had to look inward. It was that time that helped me feel confident in labelling myself as genderqueer.
When I re-entered the world, it didn’t take long for those self-assured feelings to fade. When people understood gender fluidity, they questioned why I didn’t present as androgynous. I felt like I was constantly being urged to explain myself, in the face of norms I didn’t even think to unravel. After a while, I stopped bringing up my gender identity and I never questioned those who assumed.
When people didn’t understand gender fluidity, I was simply ignored. I was never urged to explain my identity, only my ‘bad attitude’ at family functions or supermarket interactions or on dates. I was exhausted, and consciously or not, I was becoming a version of myself that I hated.
I hated the way people interacted with me, so I started to embody a stereotype. I dressed more androgynous, I exclusively adopted they/them pronouns. But, I felt like the fog was returning. Even so, people started to validate me. Even the LGBTQ+ community gave me more reassurance. I clung to that acknowledgement, despite the hurt that loomed.
I turned 20 and it felt like a hard reset. I was playing an act for people that didn’t even care to notice. Now, I try my hardest to always introduce myself as I am. I’m Zayda - bisexual and gender non-conforming. I’ll dress the way I want. I’ll be called she and her and they and them, and I’ll still be valid. My pronouns can change and be fluid and I am still genderqueer. I can accept myself for who I am despite whether others choose to.
I turned 20 and I stopped writing about cooking vegetables and overcooking my chicken and the mediocrity of my cinnamon rolls. I started packing a snack, a blanket, and my journal and writing about my great, deep emotions in the park.