Let’s face it, it’s still lockdown and there is nothing to do other than binge your favourite show on Netflix. We’ve all seen the same show about 5,000 times and we’re not going anywhere soon. Ellie Desautels is a rising, non-binary star who first came into the public eye when they starred as transgender boy Michael Hallowell in NBC series ‘Rise’ – first premiering in 2018. Since then, Ellie has been a rising star in the LGBT community as a trail blazer for non-binary talent. We wanted to get to know more about the star and what their experience as a gender fluid person has been.
When did you first feel you were gender-queer?
My gender expression was always unconventional, even before I knew I was trans. However, I was 20 when I started questioning my gender identity, and it took me three years to fully give my gender a term; gender-queer and agenderflux. Everyones gender journey is different, and there’s no deadline for figuring it out – especially at the beginning of figuring it all out. It can certainly be quite confusing.
What was the coming out experience like for you?
That’s kind of difficult to put into words because it took me three years to fully figure everything out. So, I didn’t really feel like I was coming out, more that I was letting everyone in on my journey. Telling my immediate family about my gender and pronouns luckily wasn’t that scary of an experience.
My family are super accepting and understanding. I’d always been able to express myself however I wanted, so I knew I would be accepted. It’s kind of a blur, but I think what I did was tell my mom my gender and pronouns. Then eventually just did a post on Facebook to let everyone know. It was intimidating later on when I wanted to go strictly by they/them. It was intimidating to tell my mom. I don’t know why that is, because I knew she would support me. Ultimately, all the reactions from my friends, family, and the faculty at college were positive and I’m very lucky I had that.
Have you experienced any issues with being gender fluid from people in society?
I didn’t face any issues with people at school. I think at first it was difficult to remind everyone of my pronouns. I would get misgendered a lot, but mainly because at the time (2015-2016 ) they/them pronouns weren’t widely known the way they are today. I had to be my peers’ and my teachers’ educator on what it means to be non-binary, how to use they/them pronouns etc. Then again, this was college. I was an adult equipped to be that beacon of information for everyone. I wanted everyone to understand genders that are different from their own, so I felt a responsibility. Luckily, I am not met with many issues in my day-to-day life. Living in North-East USA there’s much more toleration for folks in the LGBT+ community. Also, I am white, which gives me massive amounts of privilege. Being a public figure and having a large social media platform, I have come across transphobic people. I simply educate where I feel like I can make an impact, and I ignore/block/report those that I can tell I won’t be able to influence.
How do you think the older generation could be more involved in supporting trans youth?
Well, for one I think having more trans officials in government positions would help support the entire community, and especially help vulnerable trans youth who are facing all of these anti-trans bills. But, in general, it’s so important for the older generations of trans/non-binary people to take these issues seriously. Get involved in protests and sign petitions! More importantly, share information with the world, share information about these issues on social media. We need awareness for trans youth. They truly need protection, and the more awareness we have on these issues, the better we can protect them.
Finally, what advice would you have for anyone who is struggling with gender identity issues?
My advice is that there is no deadline for figuring it out. It sounds so cheesy, but seriously, it is your own journey. It’s your path and every step you take to figure out what is right for you, you are doing with your future-self in mind, and that is self-love right there. Stop worrying about being an inconvinience to others. You inconvinience yourself by letting your gender journey be about everyone else. This is for you. Do it all for yourself.
If you need help or someone to talk to in the US or Canada, Trans Lifeline is a fantastic resource. It is a hotline by trans people for trans people that offers direct emotional and financial support to trans people in crisis.