WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Home to Myself

By Mare Martell

“Fitting in is becoming who you think you need to be in order to be accepted. Belonging is being your authentic self and knowing that no matter what happens, you belong to you.”
—Brené Brown

In 1978, I was in the sixth grade in West Michigan at a public school. We had a student teacher in our classroom who had a Dorothy Hamill haircut and a kind demeanor. I trusted her so much that I got the courage to tell her a secret I’d figured out about myself: I told her that I wasn’t a girl.

She dismissed my secret by telling me that being a woman was incredible. “Give it time,” she told me. I was confused at her response. In my heart of hearts, I knew that I was neither a boy nor a girl, but the language that fit who I am didn’t exist yet. Gender was either a boy or a girl. I became upset because I knew there were more genders. I remained, unhappily, a girl.

A nonbinary teen--white, with freckles and shoulder-length brown hair--holds a camera up, partially obscuring their face, as they look at the photographer.

As the years passed, I tried to be what everyone else expected of girls at the time. But trauma, abuse, neglect, and assaults took a serious toll on who I was becoming, which wasn’t who I was, knew myself to be, or wanted to be.

A few years later, I was reading an article where the author identified their gender as neutral, or a they/them. My epiphany steamrolled me into ashes. Finally! My aha moment: I realized that I’d always been who I am—but without the language to express it, I perpetually felt like an unworthy, unlovable outsider.

When I told my mom and dad that I was gender nonconforming and wished my pronouns to be they/them, they balked. Although it's sometimes a challenge for them, they actively put effort into being mindful of my pronouns. My friends embraced my authenticity, took me at my word, and respect my identity.

I fit in the created world by using language where I belong as who I am. Being non-binary, knowing I belong, embracing who I’ve always been, has finally brought me home to myself where I am worthy, loved, and cherished—not only by myself, but also by others.


Spirit of Grace, May every human being find their way back home to who they were born to be, with their authentic voice: loving and living out loud. May it be so.