As an adult trans-identified butch, when I was a youth I never would have imagined being able to live my life in the middle as I do now. I wear men's clothing, use male pronouns wherever possible, and go by my chosen name. I have solid connections with others similar to me across the gender spectrum. I have found some of the greatest mentors as an adult in other masculine-of-center folks, and people of varying gender identities. I have people in my life who show me that embodying masculinity and femininity is something that is not only acceptable, but is a sign of strength and can be anything that I want it to be.

In the work that I do with BUTCH Voices, Q Patrol PDX, and Basic Rights Oregon, there is a lot of overlap in helping the LGBTQ community to use our voices to tell our own stories, keep each other safe, and educate others about us. My advice to the younger butches and masculine-of-center folks out there is this: There will be people of varying identities who will like you just as you are. They will even desire you, find your blend of masculine/feminine to be hot, and also admire that swagger you have going on. You can be tough and you can be emotional—that's the strength of being butch. We also stick out in a crowd, even as adults, and even here in Portland. Some of the anxiety and violence of middle or high school fades away, but some of it doesn't. Living a life as someone who is seen as an "other" is not an easy road, even in today's world.

There are some ways to make it better now. Find a mentor. Walk to the beat of your own drum. Form your own opinions about what fits you. Resist the easy route of fitting yourself to someone else's likes and what is the norm. Find camaraderie with others who color outside of the lines of the binary. Be sure to have each other's backs; it will come in handy at times of need—with dating, potential bullies, and navigating bathrooms. As an adult, sometimes it does get better, but you can choose to make it better now—for yourself and for others.

Don't let the adults have all of the fun.