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It's never too late to explore your gender identity. Here's how to start


Everyone has a gender, and we express it all the time. But if you're an adult starting to think about your gender in a more expansive way, NPR's Life Kit has some tips on where to begin. Kyle Norris has more.

KYLE NORRIS, BYLINE: There's no one-size-fits-all to exploring your gender or identity, and it's never too late to be yourself. Imara Jones is a journalist. She says one place you can start is by remembering who you were as a child.

IMARA JONES: Like, that child who never got to be themselves is still very much in there. And once you reconnect with them, that voice, it will actually guide you through the adult world toward the things that feel right.

NORRIS: Jones was captivated by Wonder Woman when she was a kid, so as an adult, she spent time asking herself, why was I drawn to Wonder Woman? And what does that mean for me now? You can also explore what artist Alok Vaid-Menon, who goes by Alok, calls small acts of permission. For example, Alok remembers when they were not yet comfortable wearing a full dress outside.

ALOK VAID-MENON: So what I'd do is in the privacy of my own room, I'd put on lipstick. And then I'd look in the mirror, and that would be sensational. I was like, I can't believe I'm someone who is putting on lipstick. This is so much for me. And so I'd stay there for a week or two. And then on top of the lipstick, I'd wear a blouse that I wanted to wear.

NORRIS: They did all of this for an audience of one at first, and they say, you get to take your time.

VAID-MENON: It's just really about assessing your comfort level and then slowly, gently dancing with it and allowing yourself to be expansive and coming back to yourself.

NORRIS: Alok says, think of this journey as a return to yourself, not a betrayal of yourself.

VAID-MENON: There's been a multicentury PR campaign that tells us that if we express ourselves and cultivate a life around authenticity, then we will suffer. So it's better to remain silent and to fit into other people's ideas of who we should be.

NORRIS: Alok wants to reframe this myth and instead says, the more we're able to be our true selves, the more we're able to show up for both ourselves and everyone else in our lives. So you might find that not everyone in your life is able to show up for you at this time, but you still need to find support - people who love you for the you you are and the you you are becoming.

Matt Reiss (ph) transitioned 30 years ago in San Francisco. At that time, many of his friends were lesbians, and most of them did not support his transition. But the people who did support him were a group of gay men at the bar where he worked, the Lone Star Saloon. And these men were part of the bear community - think larger and hairier dudes who enjoy wearing leather.

MATT REISS: I once explained to someone, it was like having 1,500 grandmothers who would come up to you every week and be like, oh, my God, you look so cute. Look, your facial hair is coming in. Oh, my gosh. And it was absolutely pure, true love and support of me.

NORRIS: You can also find support by reading stories about what Alok calls your trancestors (ph) in LGBTQ history books because there are a lot of them, and you're in good company. You can also join support groups in person or online, and you can always ask people in your life if they know any trans folks who might be down to chat with you so that you can see more examples of what exploring your identity might look like down the road. For NPR News, I'm Kyle Norris.

KHALID: For more tips from Life Kit, go to npr.org/lifekit.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROBYN SONG, "DANCING ON MY OWN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kyle Norris

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