My name is Tyler Ford, and I’m a queer, transgender writer and advocate. Ever since I came out as trans on national television on “The Glee Project” three years ago, I’ve received tons of questions and calls for advice about being LGBTQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Asexual)-identified, and about life in general. I’ve carved out a space here to share my life experience with you, and to discuss any fears, feelings and curiosities you may not feel comfortable talking about with anyone else.
So let's get started with the questions!
How do you stay positive and happily express yourself if someone doesn't accept the fact that you're agender?
If someone does not accept me for who I am due to my gender, sexuality, race, beliefs or any other aspect of myself, that has very little to do with me as a person, and more to do with harmful ideas that person has learned and internalized over the course of their lifetime. This is the primary thought that helps me get through whatever people throw my way. Many people have not been taught about the existence of people like myself; many people have been taught to hate those who are different from them. I do my best to talk with others, to understand where they are coming from, and to attempt to show them another point-of-view -- but, sometimes, it is really difficult and upsetting when I cannot get through to them, when they insist on tearing me down, and when they deny me my humanity.
There are so many people in this world who do not accept me for who I am and who may never do so. If I worried about every single one of these people, I would have no time for myself at all. As much as I want to educate the entire world (and do as much as I can to educate as many people as possible), I also need to balance that out by taking care of my needs and my health. I take care of myself first and foremost, because I am my most important responsibility. If I cannot care for myself, I cannot live my own life, do what makes me happy or adequately care for those I love. So, while I understand that some people may never care for me or may never see me as human, I will never allow their thoughts or beliefs to dictate my life. I will not give someone else that sort of power over me. I have the right to exist as who I am, and I am worth my own acknowledgement and love.
My self-worth has to come from within. Allowing it to stem from anywhere else feels unhealthy for me, and if I allowed other people to determine my worth for me, I would crumble. With that said, I am lucky to have friends and family who support and love me, and that has helped me to become more confident in who I am and the ways in which I express myself. My sense of self did not spring fully formed out of nowhere -- I have grown up surrounded by love and support, as well as with the freedom to experiment and find what resonates with me. As I have come out and have grown to better understand myself, many very close friends have fallen away (it has been heartbreaking every time), but because I have that sense of understanding and am at peace with who I am, I am able to continue to live proud in my truth.
Sometimes self-expression is not fully possible, depending on where I am and who I am with. If I am walking home alone late at night, I try to wear clothes that don’t attract as much attention as some of the more vibrant items I enjoy wearing. When walking at night with friends, I try to keep my voice down so people don’t have an extra excuse to look my way. If I am in a room with a bunch of people who have proven themselves to be bigoted, I will generally keep my mouth shut most of the time and sometimes refrain from outing myself. If you find yourself surrounded by people who stifle your self-expression, that does not make you any less than who you are. Your safety is most important, and if you cannot express yourself or come out to those around you, that is a 100% valid decision.
You deserve to live your life in whatever way you see fit, whether that involves coming out to no one, coming out to a few people, or coming out to everyone you know. Being out is a process, self-expression is a process, and everything in life ebbs and flows. Some days I am able to talk about my identity and assert my pronouns and other days I am unable to speak and feel unsafe correcting people who misgender me. However you choose to express yourself is valid, regardless of whether that changes depending on circumstance or on how you feel.
Almost every day is a struggle. I will not lie to you and tell you that I am happy all the time or even most of the time. I have lived with depression and anxiety for most of my life, and the ways in which people treat me do affect me -- I am only human. Sometimes getting out of bed and going about my day is scary. However, regardless of my feelings at any given time, I truly want to live my life and want to help make this world a better place for people like me. That is what keeps me going: That there is so much work left to be done, both personally and interpersonally.
Thanks you for trusting me with your questions! If you have questions or need advice, send your concerns to me via Twitter and Instagram @tywrent. Tag your questions with #heytyler! For longer or more private questions and concerns, you can message me at facebook.com/heytylerford. Your questions will be posted anonymously.