This story was told to Lyra Hale by Vico Ortiz and edited for length and clarity.
If I had the vocabulary since I was a kid, I would know I was non-binary.
Even talking to my parents and looking at pictures and videos of me as a kid, and them understanding the vocabulary that I use now, it’s like, “Yeah, you were always this very fluid sparkly fairy that was very comfortable navigating feminine and masculine energies.” And my parents thankfully allowed me to explore myself in those ways, like wearing my dad’s clothes, shaving my not mustache, or plays when I was a kid.
And we didn’t know the language at the time, so we just continued what we were taught; even though I feel like internally there was always this understanding that I felt comfortable expressing myself in multiple ways, and that I felt this dance within me that was different. So that meant that while performing, I could be me, but outside of that, “You’ve got to wear this” or “You’ve got to wear that to this activity.”
Essentially all of us were unconsciously going through this gender performance for the social side of our lives even at a young age.
Performing Womanhood & Turning Away From Myself
It wasn’t until I was a little older, that I began realizing maybe I should perform womanhood in a more socially acceptable way because that’s all we had ever known and had the understanding for. It was then that I turned away from my authentic inner energy and that sparkly fairy I was as a kid, leading me on a journey to return to that kid years later.
Once I began performing womanhood, I felt like I was somewhat accessing more spaces in a way that I hadn’t before when I was going back and forth between feminity and masculinity. But that wasn’t the only way that I was turning away from myself. I also began presenting masculinity and manhood in a way that also is socially acceptable, which is really toxic as well because I was negating my feminity.
A part of this “turning away from myself” also happened during acting school where it kind of forced me to perform gender in a way that they expected gender and that the Latin experience did as well. And it wasn’t coming from an authentic place. Instead, it was me performing roles on top of other roles while wondering how I could break free from that and find myself again.
Coming Out & Realizing Social Construct
I started realizing it was all a social construct when I finally came out and started surrounding myself with people that knew the vocabulary of what “non-binary” or “gender non-conformity” means. And seeing them challenged my own expectations of what gender is. Because I was taught to assume before even getting to know someone. And I’d done the same thing to myself.
That’s when I began challenging myself and then reclaiming parts I’d lost throughout the years. In essence, I was starting to reflect on that sparkly fairy in a way that made me reconnect to that kid and understand who I saw in those photos and videos when I was younger. And it was like a catalyst for the rest of my life where even my parents could understand that I wasn’t just puckish as a kid. I was non-binary with a curiosity for the self, other people, and the magic that it all is.
It’s not to say that it wasn’t scary. It was. In America, saying that you’re anything other than straight gender-conforming can be used as currency to blackmail. And it made me afraid of even holding my girlfriend’s hand because of things like wondering if I’m going to get fewer roles when it came to my acting career. But it’s love and we’re both consenting adults. So I kept pushing forward, every step forward bringing me back to my authentic self.
Finally Taking A Deep Breath In
After that, after coming out, after connecting with “non-binary” as who I am, I felt like I was finally taking a deep breath in and knowing that I deserved this. I deserve to be in these spaces; acting and the many facets of life. I belong in these spaces. And I’m going to take this space.
“I belong in these spaces. And I’m going to take this space.”
Not only that, but finding myself and my non-binary identity, makes me excited for others and their journeys. I’m so excited to see what finding oneself does for them in 2022. Because they don’t owe anyone femininity or masculinity. Like, you can be a woman and be a man and express that however you want to. Do what makes you feel happy and beautiful and reclaim that. Just like I did.
Now, years and a whole journey later, I think about that sparkly fairy I was as a kid. I think they would be so relieved that they can be loved the way they are being loved. And ultimately, I think I’ve become the kind of person that kid me would’ve loved to have as a friend when they didn’t know who they were. I’ve become that person.