Eian Roston, peer partner at Pacific Clinics’ Rialto Clubhouse in the Inland Empire Region, helps those with mental illness find comfort, safety, food and resources.
“My job at the clubhouse is mostly having a lot of nice conversations and… being able to say, ‘I know what you’re going through.’ It’s the best job I’ve ever had. Everyone is so completely, utterly wonderful.”
Eian identifies as transmasculine (assigned female at birth) and nonbinary and says he tried “they/them” pronouns. “They didn’t work for me. I grew up very much a tomboy, ignoring gender binary from when I was young.”
In fact, Eian says he never really experienced gender internally, and it wasn’t until he analyzed his thoughts that he realized he was “outside the binary.”
And though he is comfortable on the masculine side of the spectrum, “femininity is also cool,” he says.
People talk a lot about gender dysphoria – a sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity – he says, but what doesn’t get talked about is gender euphoria – psychological state of bliss and comfort that happens when our gender expression is aligned with our identity. “I can remember the first time I felt it. In those moments you look in the mirror and say, ‘that person is me.’ It’s so freeing.”
To get an idea of what people struggling with gender dysphoria feel, he said, “imagine if your skin was too tight 24 hours a day. Your name, your clothes, every interaction with people is too tight, and there is a feeling you need to break out, but you can’t. It’s a constant state of looking at myself and being fine with what I see but knowing it doesn’t belong to me.”
“The body is not the problem; it’s the connection to it that’s the problem.”
The 29-year-old says he is a big proponent of gender performative theory, which defines gender as something we perform, not something we inherit.
“Being nonbinary, I get to have agency over my performance. For me, it’s a creative way to approach gender.”
There is freedom outside the binary, he says. Even for those who identify as binary or cisgender, stepping outside the binary as an experiment can be eye-opening.
Now in his third year of college, Eian is getting closer to his goal of becoming a therapist specializing in trauma and communication, both of which, he says, play a significant role in the complex environment of gender and gender dysphoria.
“We’re taught from a very young age that communication is the enemy and that it makes us weak or annoying. We’re taught not to express emotions that are uncomfortable and taught not to be vulnerable.
In older generations, you don’t talk about trauma, and then one day, you die. It’s a massive process of trying to undo that trauma.”