an advocate’s act of courage: an interview with Taylor

by Alyssa S., 17

“I have to learn to accept myself.” 

Although this statement should go without saying, self-acceptance is something that countless people must work to achieve every day. It feels like fighting a war where your own skin is the battlefield and every fired shot is aimed directly at your heart. Of course, a conflict like this is impossible to resolve in one day, and oftentimes, the journey can endure for years. This was the case for Shore House member Taylor, who recently came out as nonbinary after struggling with his gender identity for practically his entire life. He now goes by the pronouns he/him/they/them, and his story was incredibly compelling. It was a privilege to have the opportunity to interview such an inspiring individual.

Growing up, Taylor knew that he could never be a boy or a girl, and was always androgynous, meaning he had both masculine and feminine physical characteristics. In the beginning, he came out as agender because he thought he would be judged by other people who believed in the existence of only two genders, rather than viewing it as a spectrum. However, he felt like he was doing an injustice to himself, and despite some lingering confusion, he transitioned to being a female, which he now refers to as a “terrible mistake.” Initially, he did not fully understand the difference between the transgender and nonbinary labels, and it was only after his ex-boyfriend died that he realized he had not been completely honest with himself. “When I lost him, I lost myself, and I didn’t know what I wanted in life at the time,” Taylor recollects.

Following this tragic incident, Taylor began educating himself with YouTube videos, learning to understand the difference between who he was and who he wasn’t. He realized that he could not keep pretending to be someone he wasn’t solely because that was who other people wanted him to be. This lead him to detransition and to love himself as nonbinary. To him, being nonbinary meant, “You just have to love yourself and live in the human body form of who you are … and go by the pronouns you choose to be.”

Inevitably, Taylor encountered obstacles even after coming out. His family was not very supportive and he lost a lot of friends after graduating high school, but gradually, he taught himself not to care what other people think of him. Instead, he began to accept himself for who he is as a person. Every day, he learns more about who he is and can live his life to the fullest, finding comfort in his gender identity that he was once so torn apart over.

In addition to his gender, Taylor also faced difficulties regarding his mental health for a while, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), abandonment problems, attachment problems, and other diagnoses. All of these impactful personal experiences led him to discover his passion for advocacy and activism, which he hopes to pursue as a career one day. He explained that he wants to hear other people’s opinions and learn their life stories because “it’s inspiring; it’s beautiful.” Simply hearing others talk about similar experiences with gender expression and mental illness motivates him to work even harder toward change and allows him to realize that he is never alone in this world.

Currently, Taylor is an advocate for both the Pride Center of Highland Park and Shore House. As far as the strides he is making for the LGBTQ+ community, he believes that nonbinary rights should be recognized as different from those of transgender people and that more gender neutral norms should be introduced into society. He asserted, “It’s okay to be genderless and it’s okay to have a gender that’s not just male or female.” Clearly, he is adamant about making a difference in this world so that all people can feel as if their identities are actively validated.

The stigma surrounding mental illness in today’s world is undeniable, but Taylor strives to combat this issue as well by normalizing programs such as Shore House. Shore House is an accredited clubhouse offering unique opportunities to allow mentally ill individuals to thrive and remain hopeful for the future of their community. At this establishment, Taylor has met a plethora of genial people who understand his struggles, and he has learned a variety of different coping mechanisms, such as cleaning, cooking, and other life skills he never learned as a child. He even referenced his fondness for advocacy in explaining his additional love for Shore House. “People need to go to Shore House, learn about its motto, and understand that it’s a good place to be,” Taylor declared. “If I didn’t have Shore House, I wouldn’t have been an advocate.”

Now, Taylor knows that his gender identity and mental illness are deserving of recognition, and has summoned the courage to talk about who he is beneath the surface more frequently. When he gets older, he hopes to expand his advocacy to an even larger scale, such as having his own Ted Talk as a platform to stick up for his rights and advocate for Shore House and other welcoming programs. “It makes me extremely happy to know that I’m making a difference toward things that matter to me, and making sure we’re all wanted in this world,” Taylor revealed.

When I completed my interview with Taylor, I was left with an overwhelming sense of faith in humanity. Indisputably, we still have a long way to go until every human being is treated as an equal. However, with people like Taylor in this world, who continue fighting every day to make change, I know that society is in good hands. The transformation of pain into power never fails to fill my heart with hope.