Representation Matters: Using Literature to Reject Labels + Find Identity

June 17, 2021

By Artemis Stephan

Pledge to Take Action

In partnership with Hope in a Box and in commemoration of Pride, we held an LGBTQ+ Lit Contest that asked high schoolers to share how LGBTQ+ representation in books inspired them and impacted their lives. The following is a contest honorable mention story.

As a child, I never realized that there were options other than straight or cisgender that I could identify as. Throughout my childhood, I rejected anything and everything that was associated with being hyperfeminine. When puberty hit me, I started to experience gender dysphoria. Unfortunately, I didn’t know what gender dysphoria was because my school never talked about it, and my idea of what defined a transgender person was very limited at the time. 

When I was in elementary school, I came across Rick Riordan’s “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series. Little did I know that Rick Riordan’s books would eventually give me the help I needed in figuring out my identity.

I was in sixth grade when Rick Riordan had just released his first book in a series that was titled “Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard.” Alex Fierro, a genderfluid character in the series, was my first encounter with an LGBTQ+ character in literature. Within the first book of the series, Alex introduces herself/himself as transgender and genderfluid. At first, I did not understand how someone could be both transgender and genderfluid. I later did some research and discovered that a transgender person is defined as someone who does not identify as their assigned gender at birth, so this made sense. Even though I knew that I wasn’t a boy, I also felt like I wasn’t a girl. For the remainder of middle school, I decided that maybe it would be best to wait and see if my feelings about my identity would change. 

High school came around very quickly and by the middle of my sophomore year, my gender dysphoria only became worse. At this point, I knew that I wasn’t cisgender, so I started experimenting with different labels. At first, I experimented with the term genderfluid. However, this didn’t feel right because there weren’t really days where I felt more feminine, masculine, or in-between, as some people have described it. I also tried the term demi girl, but it didn’t feel right either since I didn’t feel like a girl at all. Eventually, I came across the term nonbinary and it felt just right. The feeling of being able to find a label to describe myself was incredible! 

After figuring out my label, I realized that my birth name had now become my dead name. I began searching for a new name during my junior year and settled for something of Greek origin since my birth name is of Greek origin, too. I thought back to all the characters I had encountered through Rick Riordan’s books and one name stood out to me in particular: Artemis. Artemis is the goddess of the hunt and she embodies many traits that I want to have one day; that’s why I chose the name Artemis.

If not for Rick Riordan’s books I would’ve never discovered that I am nonbinary. I now know that I don’t need to fit in with society’s limiting labels.

Pledge to Take Action