True Life Im Genderqueerupdate
MTV's 'True Life: I'm Genderqueer' followed two people who don't identify as entirely male or female and live outside the gender binary. We had an opportunity to check in with Brennan and Jacob to see how their lives have changed since filming wrapped. Take a look at our follow-up Q&A below:
Did your extended family accept the invite to your graduation?
Well, graduation is still a while away, so we haven't sent them out. We hope to get lots of wonderful responses, but we'll see. I'll keep the world updated on my YouTube channel (YouTube.com/brennenbeckwith).
What are your plans after graduation?
I hope to go to college for technical theater, but I want to continue speaking for the genderqueer community both online and in real life talking at schools, conferences, events and even talk shows if they'll have me.
How was it coming out as genderqueer to your mom on camera?
It was a very unique way to come out for sure! My mom told me afterwards that it was the only time she forgot the camera was there. She really loves me and wants me to be happy.
How/why did you decide on the name Brennen?
My mom actually wanted to name me Brennen but decided on a different name. In a way, Brennen was always a part of my life -- I just didn't know it until now.
Do you still use the binder? How has your experience been with using the binder?
I use it as often as I can. I feel great whenever I wear it.
Will you be changing your name legally when you turn 18?
I hope to change my name after I'm in college. Right now, it's just really hard because all of my documents for school are in my given name. And I plan to keep Kaitlyn as a middle name, because Kaitlyn will always be a part of my life, and I'm at peace with that.
Have you parents got any better with using the pronouns you prefer?
They have gotten better at using my name. The truth is, pronouns have never really been a big deal to me, and in a lot of contexts it's just easier and less confusing to use 'he' 'him' pronouns. I'm really okay with that. I understand. My parents love me so, and their support has meant the world to me through all of this.
How has the relationship with your dad changed since you were out in public with him presenting femme?
My relationship with my dad has definitely deepened since we went out in public together for the first time with me presenting femme. I feel like this big wall between us has come crashing down; I'm able to be more open with him, more honest, and I feel like he knows me on a deeper level than he used to. I'm really proud of my father for how far he's come and for the role model that he is for other parents. Being the parent of a genderqueer kid isn't always the easiest thing, because your child has needs that you were never taught to deal with, so I have a lot of empathy for where my dad is coming from. I am so happy that we're moving forward in our relationship and that he is learning to see me more as I am.
What advice would you give to someone who is having issues with their parents about their gender identity?
I think the main piece of advice that I'd give is for folks to approach their parents with a spirit of forgiveness. I know firsthand how hard that can be, because parents can do and say some really terrible things, especially when they're uncomfortable. And while it is totally okay to be angry at your parents when they mistreat you, and while no one ever deserves to be verbally or physically abused, it is so important to try to forgive them because they are probably operating from a place of trauma too. So often, parents who are the most stringent about gender norms with their children had parents who were also very stringent with them, and it takes time and love to unlearn that behavior. The cycle of abuse -- around gender identity, or in general -- is hard to break and can only be broken through forgiveness and love. So even if you don't speak to your parents anymore, and even if you never will because that's what you have to do in order to protect yourself, trying your best to forgive them within your own heart is the best way to feel free and loved.
Are there any speeches or events you will be appearing at soon?
I have two big events coming up soon! I will be speaking at the Transgender Day of Remembrance vigil in Charlotte, North Carolina on Nov. 20, and I will also be attending the Emery Awards hosted by the Hetrick Martin Institute (an incredible organization that works with LGBTQ youth in New York City).
What kind of support have you received from the LGBTQ community since the airing of your episode?
The supportive response that I've received from the LGBTQ community has been overwhelming in the best way -- especially from genderqueer, gender non-binary and agender activists that I know. I am so proud and humbled to have this chance to tell my story, and I hope that it will only be the beginning of so many more gender non-conforming people telling theirs!
What advice would you give to someone who is genderqueer and is afraid to have a conversation with their family?
Be patient with yourself and know that you are loved. Coming out as genderqueer isn't something that you can do overnight, and for many people (myself included) it takes years to really feel comfortable around your family. So I think it's important to be patient with yourself and practice self-care and self-love throughout the process. Also, try your best to surround yourself with loving friends and mentors who support you. That makes talking with your family so much easier because you know that you have people to turn to for love and affirmation.
How would you describe your sense of style? Does it change day to day?
I would describe my style as butchfemme goddess glamour, meaning that I embody my masculinity, my femininity, my wisdom, my ethereality and my inner glitter without apology. I give myself permission to sparkle when and how I want to, and I express my gender in ways that make me feel supported and whole. I want to live in a world where everyone can do that. My fashion inspirations are Katharine Hepburn, Michelle Obama, Dr. Frank N Furter and (obviously) Grace Jones.