A Tale of Two Genders

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018

My name is Marshall Ragsdale. When I first took part in the NOH8 Campaign, I was 20 years old and wanted to show my support for my LGBT friends and family - specifically, I wanted to show my love and acceptance towards my gay dad. 8 years later, however, I've taken part for a more personal reason: to represent the trans umbrella! You see, my name is still Marshall Ragsdale, but I also go by a second name: Michelle Ragsdale. Why? Because I'm bigender! I identify as both male and female, and express these genders separately, depending on who I see myself as on that particular day.

But where did this all start? Well, 8 years ago, I was still trying to figure out who I was as a person, because all my life I felt like the reason I connected with the LGBT+ community was due to the fact that I was like them: I was different. Sure, I'm still a straight guy and all, but I always felt as if there was a feminine side to myself that had to come out - a side that didn't feel like mere sensitivity or flamboyance. I was certain there was a woman within me, but at the same time, I still wanted to be a man.

The moments that led to the discovery of my true identity, almost played out like chapters. The first "chapter" was The Look. In 2011, I took part in my church's cabaret show, the MCC Follies. The highlight of the show for me was when I played the Black Swan, in a parody of...well, the Black Swan! I remember when I was waiting to go on stage, and I was putting on the costume - a sleeveless black sequin top, a tutu, a black-feathered boa, black tights, and a wig with a tiara. When the makeup artists finished their work on my face, they asked me if I wanted to take a look. I went to the nearest restroom, looked in the mirror...and was in total awe. I felt so many feelings in that moment - shocked, surprised, exhilarated...awakened. "I look hot!" I remember exclaiming. And after seeing how amazing I looked in the dress (I must have stared at my own ass for a good 10 seconds, LOL), I thought to myself, I should do this drag stuff more often. Little did I know, God wasn't calling me to be a drag queen.

Fast forward 3 years later, and we come to The Voice. To develop a character I had planned for a YouTube persona, I started experimenting with changing my voice to sound more female, via vocal feminization tricks meant for transgender MTF's who are in the transitioning process. I also listened closely to the voices of different actresses, to see if I could imitate their tones and tweak them a bit for the character. Once I found a technique that felt comfortable, I began practicing every day, for months on end. Soon, I started to hear it come through, and I FREAKED. I had never heard myself sound like a woman before, and it was exciting. Normally, these techniques were being used by transgender folks who are on hormones, but here I was, doing it for the sake of art. Or so I thought, at the time. But eventually, there was that feeling again. A feeling that I was discovering something about myself.

Not long after that, I attended a mime show at Grossmont College, which was something I did every year since my involvement with the mime class back in 2012. It was here that the next chapter, The Name, began. There was an abstract piece that centered on two people covering the topic of gender identity, and after the show ended, I approached them and asked what it was about. They said it was to represent non-binary people, and that what they showed represented their own gender identities. One was a transgender male, while the other was genderfluid. "Genderfluid?" I asked. I never heard of the term, but they said that their identity flowed from one gender to another. Upon hearing this, I thought that was my gender. But nope! Jump toward the end of 2014, and I'm with this girl I met at church. We had been dating for a couple months by then, and I told her about my struggles with my gender. I explained how I felt like I could be both a male and a female, and how the two genders were always switching around. That's when she paused for a moment and asked, "Wouldn't the term for that be bigender?" I felt the lightbulb in my head activate. I could almost see it explode into a fireball and morph into a phoenix. This was it! This HAD to be it! I looked up the word, and sure enough, there was my answer. She had done it. My girlfriend at that time, helped me find my true identity label! Soon after, I started to think of what name to use for my female side, until I finally chose one that felt perfect for me: Michelle.

The excitement only lasted for a little while, however, because 2015 would prove to be the most difficult year of my life. This is when I entered Chapter 4: The Trials. Things were great the first few months: people at my church started donating women's clothing to me; I went to my first Dining Out for Life as Michelle, and made love to my girlfriend that same night; I started switching between male and female roles for voice acting projects on YouTube; I even got a chance to grow my hair out and try different makeup styles. But one day, I was fired from my job, after confronting the owner of the pub I was working in about him not paying the workers for weeks, paying utilities late and causing people to talk negatively about the service (most of those people were regulars and church friends). From there, everything fell apart. I lost the apartment I was living in, my girlfriend broke up with me because of my gender being "too much to handle", some family members forced me to only be a male around them, and I was barely getting by with unemployment. Depression hit me hard that year, and I knew why: I was rejected for being a gender others refused to understand.

But somehow, God got me through the pain, and brought me to the chapter I find myself in now: The Phoenix. 2016 was full of joyful moments. 2017 was the craziest emotional and spiritual rollercoaster of my life so far. But here I am to this day, still alive. Still delicate, but stronger. Still uncertain, but hopeful. Still rejected by some, but embraced by others. Still a male, but also a female.

I've fallen and risen up, time and time again, because of my unique identity. And it's made me feel like a phoenix trying to take flight, only to crash and burn once more. But I keep going. I keep being. I keep loving and living, because Jesus Himself said, "When the world hates and rejects you, remember they first did so to Me." You know what else He said? "Love one another, as I have loved you."

That's what I want to do. I want my story and my identity to be my way of saying to all trans* folk - to all LGBTQIA+ people - to all who feel like being different is somehow bad: be you, be loving, and know that you'll find hope and love in others, somewhere, somehow. God places certain events in our lives to help us find our true selves - our true potential. They - yes, They - helped me discover who I am, and I like to think They did so for a reason: because God loves me. That love can be found in all of us. In you, and in me.

I am Marshall. I am Michelle. I am human. And I have been trans-formed.

I love all of you, and look forward to hearing YOUR story of self-discovery.

The End...for now ;)



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