I feel like I cannot build a future for myself, at least not one that is authentic.


by Indigo

My younger brother and I are three years apart. Like most siblings relatively close in age, we quarreled frequently as children. When it came to our extracurricular activities we were rivals.

He has always been much more athletic than me, and he excelled at sports. I have always been a high achieving student, and excelled academically. He has always had an easier time making friends, so he was invited to sleepovers and partiers far more often than I was. I have always been more artistic and creative, so I went on to do freelance photography and video editing. Though we acknowledged one another’s strengths, there was we still a healthy competitive spirit between us and the steady attempt to one up one another.

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When we were children, this was all innocent. Though we bickered and occasionally became jealous of the other’s abilities, we loved each other deeply and would never wish for the other to fail. Now that I am twenty and my brother is seventeen, this rivalry is much less playful and my jealousy is instead transitioning into resentment.

Our mother would often settle our childhood disagreements. She would sit us down and let the individual in the wrong know why they were in the wrong and compel them to apologize. But that’s because when we were children our conflicts were because someone was being too loud during homework time, or because we wanted to host a sleepover on the same day, or because we had pizza for the third night in a row because the other sibling refused to eat anything else.

But now, I don’t know what to do or who to go to about the fact that I am angry that my brother gets to bring romantic partners home to meet our parents, and I do not.

I don’t know how to handle the fact that I am angry that the girls my brother brings home are invited to go on vacations with us, to go out to dinner with us on Friday nights, and to spend holidays with us.

No one ever told me who to go to now that I am angry that my brother never even had to announce that he would be bringing girls home or that, if he had, my parents would likely have laughed and said, “Well, obviously.”

The only thing worse than being forced to love who you love in secret is having to do so while being forced to watch people around you love who they love openly, and to see them celebrated by the very people who have prevented you from loving openly. 

I cannot bring my current partner home. I cannot introduce them to my family, or share details about my relationship with them. I cannot plan holidays and milestones in my life under the assumption my partner and my family will both be apart of it. I cannot build any type of future with my partner.

I feel like I cannot build a future for myself, at least not one that is authentic.

I stopped believing in the institution of marriage and in my own ability to be in a long-term relationship because neither feel tangible or possible for me. At my age, very few people are comfortable with the idea of being in a semi-secret relationship with me, even individuals who have not adopted a “date to marry” mentality.

The truth is that I don’t entirely believe that I am lovable, and so I am always prepared to wake up one day to a text confirming this notion. It should go without saying how difficult it is to maintain relationships when you spend everyday preparing for an inevitable break up.

Things have only grown more complicated as I have moved forward with my transition. I have utilized the preferred name policy at my university so that my name, as I want it to appear, is featured on my professors’ rosters, my identification card, and elsewhere. The majority of folx I interact with address me as Loni and refer to me using “they, them, and theirs” gender pronouns. But every time my mother calls me to check in, or I have to print out my train ticket to travel back to Massachusetts with my given name, or I spend a holiday with my family, I’m reminded that I am only Loni on my college campus, and that Loni cannot yet have a life outside of this space.

My mother does not believe that my gender is real. She does not believe that “they, them, and theirs” can be gender pronouns. She does not believe in me. But she believes in my brother, and it’s not fair. 

I have spent my entire life compensating through academic success, and I have always been pushed much harder to be academically successful than my brother. I was forced to look at four year universities out of state, to look at graduate and J.D. programs and to only participate in activities I could turn into a section on my resume.

My brother, on the other hand, never showed any interest in college until this year, and he was never expected to. He is only interested in college now that it is possible for him to attend a local community college, to have our father drive him to classes, to live at home, and, of course, stay close to his girlfriend. Of course.

My mother and father have always said that they pushed me because they wanted me to feel empowered and to never internalize messages about my race or my gender from euro-patriarchy. I always had to be three times as good, but my brother did not. He’s a boy.

What I wish my parents would understand about whatever variation of feminism they think their parenting abides by—raising their son to not only be comfortable in his privilege, but also to flex it so that he can rise above Back women who are better than him—is both anti-feminist and abusive, and it has directly contributed to my panic attacks and substance abuse.

It is abusive to encourage me to pop pills when school becomes too much rather than to seek out mental healthcare.

It is abusive to constantly feed me the idea that my Blackest features are the most ugly.

It is abusive to make me feel guilty for struggling with my mixed-race identity as a result.

It is abusive to have children if you are not prepared for them to be queer or trans, and to then terrorize them for something that they cannot help.

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Even though none of this is my brother’s fault, I absolutely resent him and the fact that he will never experience this kind of hurt that I feel, because his gender identity aligns with society and my parents’ expectations.

No one ever told me who to go to when my rage at cisnormative, heteronormative, and patriarchal society that should be reserved for the institutions that perpetuate them slowly begins to redirect itself toward my own brother. This isn’t an innocent sibling rivalry anymore; it’s about a life of authenticity that only he gets to live, and I don’t know where to go from here.

Indigo, who uses both they, them and he, him gender pronouns, is a Black Puerto Rican lesbian essayist and recovering community organizer. While pursuing their undergraduate degree, Indigo served as the inaugural president of their campus’ Queer and Trans People of Color Coalition, organizing educational program on social, economic, and political issues impacting primarily Black and Latinx queer and/or trans persons. Currently, Indigo is pursuing a juris doctorate degree at CUNY School of Law.