“No one but I has the right to say who I am”: The NYC alt-folk singer-songwriter shares a new video and her coming-out essay on Non-Binary People’s Day
We’ve all heard about how when it comes to expressing affection, English falls short on the language front, but even more impressive than Sanskrit’s 96 words for love is the way the meanings and nuances of the world’s best and most multi-dimensional noun and verb can be expressed via music. How the platonic and personal, the inspiring and infuriating, the confusing and unconditional and passionate and painful can be perfectly captured with the right combinations of lyrics and notes. Just like every love story is different, every love song is different, whether it’s directed outwardly to others or inward to yourself. And just like our lives, music can contain multitudes.
When explaining her new song “Falling Into You,” NYC alt-folk artist EVVAN discusses the head-over-heels feeling of romantic love, but she also describes the complicated journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance—acts of self-love—that got her there.
“This song is about falling completely into the person you’re pursuing and all that goes with that, the good, the bad, and everything in between,” the artist said of the track. “My journey coming out as non-binary was a long one and it was full of worry that I’d never live a life without judgment, mainly judgment of myself. Would I find someone who’d accept me for who I am, fully and truly? Over a year after writing this song and coming out, we filmed a live performance and just watching it fills me with courage.”
Formerly known as Evan Petruzzi, EVVAN recently came out as non-binary and pansexual, and today—on International Non-Binary People’s Day—the artist has released a new video featuring a performance of the beautiful song, which I’m thrilled to present to you here.
And because there’s no better person to share it, and no better day on which to share it than today, here is EVVAN’s coming-out essay—her own story, in her own words:
“I’ve been in a self-reflective mindset over the last year or so. I’ve put myself in a much-needed self-isolated state. The quarantine holds strong ownership over this self-isolation, but I started this journey of introspection because I felt something off about myself. I didn’t feel whole; I felt as though I was wearing a disguise and blending in with the crowd because I didn’t give myself the opportunity to truly explore who I am as a person, as a human.
I lost myself in books, fiction for distraction and nonfiction for self-improvement. I picked up new hobbies; I started and finished projects. I wrote. I wrote. I wrote. I felt at times I was vomiting out my thoughts and feelings, but every time I’d read back what I wrote it was in a different language. I couldn’t figure out what I was trying to say, and moreover, I couldn’t figure out what this meant.
There were so many times I felt this out-of-body experience when I’d go into a store and not see where I’m meant to go. I’d see my physical body, but I wouldn’t see my actual being and wouldn’t see it represented anywhere around me. I’d think to myself, “What does this mean? Why do I feel this terrifying sense that I am not who I think I am? WHO AM I?”
That became the question I desperately needed to answer. Who am I?
I look into the mirror and analytically can list that I am a female with brown hair and pale skin. Cool. But why does that feel wrong? Why do I feel hesitation when I tell myself this? I mean, it’s true, right? But maybe I’m getting away from myself. Maybe I’m losing the true point I’m trying to make.
Simply put, but not so simple, I felt lost, like I was in someone else’s skin.
So where does this leave me now? Well, I talked it all out. I exhaled all the noise in my brain out into the open. And when I was through, I felt like I just endured the battle of a lifetime. I beat my enemies and won the war. I felt drained, yet I was floating. The answers were right in front of me. That’s who I am. That’s who I am! This was all a lie. Was it a lie? Did I just not look hard enough? Was it society that taught me this was who I was, or was supposed to be? Was my truth beaten down by societal norms and social constructs so that I had to actively seek it out?
Not anymore. I am free. But I am chained. I am alive. But I am targeted. I am surrounded by hate, jealousy, negativity. I am drowning in the unfairness of generational ignorance.
I’m that person so many people don’t understand. I’m that person I didn’t truly understand. I’m that person who gets mocked, who gets told I’m a fake, an attention seeker.
Call me what you want, but today I’m totally and completely me. I want people to see who I really am. I’m non-binary.
I’m not that female with brown hair. I’m a non-binary person with brown hair. I’m not a girl. I’m not a boy. I’m non-binary.
This realization came with a downpour of other realizations. I had this gender dysphoria that would terrorize me as a kid. Why did I want to wear something inherently masculine? Why did I enjoy looking feminine the next week? Why were those the only choices I had? Why couldn’t I just wear what I wanted, look how I wanted, FEEL how I wanted, without society feeling the need to micromanage my thoughts and label me as who they believed I was and should be?
I’ve struggled with mental illness for most of my life and some of the demons I’ve battled in the past were the voices yelling at me that I was different and that it was wrong. I became so brainwashed by society’s manipulative explanation of gender that I truly believed I could only be a girl or a boy. The stigma surrounding gender binary was something I had to abide by and if I didn’t then I had a target on my back.
Some of my earliest memories are of getting viciously bullied by singleminded kids who didn’t know any better and were essentially programmed to attack anyone who went against the grain, whether with their fists or their words, or if they were masters of multitasking, their fists AND their words.
Girl acting like boy? Cannot compute. Must destroy.
So again, non-binary is my gender, if you’re wondering. I use the pronouns she/her because any other pronouns don’t feel like me and she/her are what I’ve known my whole life. Make no mistake, this does not mean I am a girl. They’re just the pronouns I feel most comfortable using at the moment. Maybe that will change over time. I have the right to change my mind. Maybe a new pronoun will be created and universally used and acknowledged. I have the RIGHT to change my mind. Maybe a few years from now after more self-reflection I’ll realize a different way I want to label myself that represents me better. I have the RIGHT to change MY MIND. No one but I has the right to say who I am, nor do they have the right to judge me if in the future things change.
For those who read this entire thing, I thank you. And for those who have supported me and loved me through this process, who have held me, given me a nice kick in the arse when I needed it, and who have treated me the same regardless, I’ll never be able to express the gratitude I have for you.
Find your people. Find the people who build you up, who learn with you, who ask questions, and who will fight for you. If you haven’t found your people yet, keep searching. They’re out there and they’re waiting for you. The biggest reason I feel brave enough to step out of the disguise and reveal who is underneath is the people I’ve surrounded myself with. My people let me live my most authentic life and encourage me to be who I want to be.
“Falling Into You” is the fourth track on the artist’s EP, Home, which dropped earlier this year. Catch the artist’s alt-folk magic LIVE at Rockwood Music Hall on July 28th (tickets here!), and take EVVAN’s words to heart. No one knows you like you do. Your authentic self is beautiful. And you deserve love—in all 96 of those Sanskrit forms and more.
Photo (provided by the artist): Chris Basford