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Evolving Over Time: Our Stories of Gender Fluidity and Self Expression

Hear from Discover teammates on how they fought for acceptance as their identities evolved over time. Vibe with someone’s perspective? Click on their name to read their full story.

person with two dogsKayla Knoll
IRA Specialist
Lake Park, UT
Pronouns: they/them

I’m evolving more daily and learning to love myself! I used to think I was just a masculine girl, but after a teacher had me read a book featuring a transgender superhero, I started my journey of learning I am not Cisgender. The book helped me on my journey to come out as nonbinary immensely. I would tell my younger self that it’s okay to be feminine, it’s okay to like girly things. My relationship to myself and my identity now is honestly still a struggle. I battle with imposter syndrome daily, but I’m working through it! I’m also working on recovering from PTSD. On the journey of accepting my identity, I am almost there.

Natalie headshot with glasses onNatalie Kalmbacher
Lead Account Specialist Billing Resolutions
New Castle
Pronouns: She/her

Honestly, my relationship with my identity is a lot better than it’s ever been. For many years I hated myself and didn’t want to accept myself as a transgender person. I tried to live a “normal life.” Eventually, I came to the realization that being me, my true self and identity, was the only way to be happy. Coming to terms with my identity was the only way I could have a real relationship with myself and others. I stopped caring about what other people thought and started doing what makes me happy. I know that I can’t love myself or others if I’m not happy. When I transitioned, I tried on many different names, looks and almost anything else you can think of. One day it just clicked: Natalie Lauren. It was like a lightbulb went off and said YES! This is who you will become. I’ve been that person since.

Nicholas and sonNicholas Cash
System Support Specialist
Lake Park, UT
Pronouns: He/Him

If I had to label my relationship status with my identity, I would say “it’s complicated.” I love who I am, and I love that my identity is not considered the norm, but at times, I also wonder what it would be like to be looked at as “normal.” I thought coming out would be enough, but it wasn’t. I’m still learning about who I am and what truly defines me.

I also don’t want to be placed in a box. Within the LGBTQ+ community, we tend to place identities in boxes. Categorizing identities reinforces some obligation to act according to the label. This phenomenon is a constant struggle for me. Breaking down those walls and figuring out who I truly am has been the most challenging part of evolving my identity.

I’ve grown, forgotten things I loved, learned new things I love, revisited the forgotten and come out stronger in the end. I haven’t evolved from being a gay man, but I have evolved in learning about what it means to be a gay man. Just because I’m a gay man doesn’t mean that I need to act a certain way or pretend to be someone I’m not.

Person wearing a flower crownAvonlea Whitaker         
Lake Park, UT
Pronouns: They/Them

I originally thought I was bisexual, then demi-sexual, and now I am currently happy with identifying as a-sexual and bi-romantic. Then finally, coming out as non-binary. My identity has changed significantly over time for two major reasons. The first reason is denial, and the second reason is not having the words. My self-discovery journey really wasn’t easy. I felt judged by myself and believed that other people would judge me just as harshly.

It was also really hard knowing the people I’m blood related to aren’t as accepting of who I am. My relationship with myself is getting better, but it is still not perfect. I still struggle with gender dysphoria now and then because I get misgendered so often. I’ve learned to come to terms with my sexual orientation and I’m confident with calling myself a-sexual.

two friendsPatrick Opinion
Lead AML Compliance Specialist
Riverwoods, IL
Pronouns: He/Him/His

For me, acceptance doesn’t look like being explicit and boisterous in my gender expression. I find comfort in being mildly spirited. I’m protective of my own space and will speak my truth on my own time and in the way that benefits me the most. I haven’t been outspoken about coming out because I believe I don’t owe anyone an explanation. Nor do I need validation. I strongly feel that “coming out” is a process of self-discovery. It’s a personal choice to be vocal or passively approach it. But it’s done in your free will and not out of peer pressure.

Headshot of DawnDawn Hansen
Change Management & Communications Specialist
Lake Park, UT
Pronouns: She/Her

I first came out to myself about 5 years ago. It was a true “ah ha” moment. All the confusion and internal conflict I’d felt since middle school suddenly became clear. I felt liberated— like an elephant suddenly jumped off my shoulders.

When I first came out as bisexual, and it was very cut and dry to me. As time has passed, I’ve become much more comfortable with just saying I’m queer. The term queer is much more fluid, which is how I feel day-to-day. It allows me to fit in a larger spectrum and not feel so labeled.

I’ve also recently started doing a lot of introspection on what gender means to me and expect that understanding to evolve over time as well. My relationship with myself has completely changed. I’m finally embracing myself as a queer individual.

Camille Todd
Agile Coach, Cybersecurity
Riverwoods, IL (Permanently remote from Delaware)
Pronouns: He/Him | They/Them

My identity has definitely evolved over the years and it’s been a wild ride. When I was born I was AFAB (Assigned Female at Birth) and in my early adolescent years (11 or 12) I came out to my friends and family as bisexual. In recent years, I came out to myself and then family and friends as Trans. I now live as a proud pansexual transman. In regards to self-discovery and identity, I believe fluidity is the best approach for me and it’s how I’ve learned to love myself on deeper levels.

Laura Stoll         
Principal Release Manager
New Albany, OH
Pronouns: She / Her

I’m a bi woman, married to a woman who I’ve been with almost 16 years. Most of my life I knew that I was attracted to women, but because I was brought up in a Southern Baptist household, I tried to ignore it. In early 2000 after my engagement ended, I started dating a woman for the first time. I used to think I was either straight or a lesbian, but over time I’ve accepted that for me, it’s about being in love with that person— whatever they identify as.

Karlyn Steadman
Team Coach, Customer Service & Engagement Dept. Core
New Albany, OH
Pronouns: They/Them

Come high school, I knew I was different. I learned more about what it meant to be a lesbian and could easily identify with that label. Even still, I would force myself to show up as female because there wasn’t anything that described me fully. I didn’t want to wear dresses, or skirts. And wasn’t a huge fan of how my body was changing. So I hid myself in hoodies and baggy clothes and explored the more masculine side of myself.
When I graduated high school and was navigating the world of college, I learned what it meant to identify not only as a lesbian, but also as non-binary. Now as I approach my 30’s quickly, I’m finally comfortable in my own skin. I’ve used my past traumas to learn more about myself. I’ve built a foundation of support in my family, both chosen and not. I can be open and truthful out loud to myself— it’s ok that I don’t fit into a box of female or male. The ever-changing sliding scales of gender and sexual orientation can be difficult to navigate if you aren’t taught that it can be ever-changing.

Nathan Andon
Account Executive
Riverwoods, IL
Pronouns: He/Him/His

Over time, I’ve grown to accept myself for who I am more and more. Back in my teen years, if someone asked me about my sexual orientation, I definitely would’ve lied. In college, I would’ve answered depending on whether or not I felt safe enough to do so. Once I moved to Chicago, I felt comfortable enough with myself to not care. I realized there was an entire community that identified the way I do.

My identity is still ever-evolving, but I’m at the end of my journey of accepting who I am. As with anything, I have good days and bad days. My younger years were definitely full of exploration and trying to find out exactly who I am. I’m now more self-loving and self-confident. I know who I am, and I am proud of who I am. I identify as a cis-gendered, Latinx, gay male, and am 100% proud of all of those identifying labels.


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