On January 13, 2013, I “died.” Yet I’m still here, and I'm happier and more alive than ever.
That cold day, at the age of 15, I came out as a boy. In the weeks following, I was mourned by my family. I was mourned because I was a “new person,” although I kept my name and retained my personality.
Testing the waters before coming out as transgender hadn’t gone too well, and it even caused me to go further into the closet for awhile.
When I tried to buy a men’s sweater because I liked it better, my parents told me it’d be better to opt for a women’s sweater. When I cut my hair shorter than ever, I was told it was an “adjustment” that made my parents sad because I didn’t look like their “little girl” anymore. When I “phased out” of my tomboy phase of basketball shorts and tennis shoes, I was praised on becoming a “beautiful young woman.”
These things scared me because I didn’t want to cause my parents grief. They wanted the best for me, they wanted me to avoid criticism and being “othered.” And like any child, I wanted nothing more than to make them proud. Being a smart, feminine-presenting woman was the “be-all and end-all,” it seemed. But I couldn’t hide anymore. I wanted to be myself. I wanted to present masculinely and live as the man I am today.
When I came out, I knew what I was doing. My words, however, were a completely different story.
I stammered to my stepmom, “Mom — I’m a boy.”
She glanced up with a confused expression, then told me she loved me no matter what and that we’d work through it. Yet she still asked, “Are you still going to wear dresses?”
To which I replied, “No, I’m a boy. I’m going to wear masculine clothing.”
This came as a “shock,” as I had tried to fit in as a young woman by wearing dresses and keeping up with the latest fashions, like my peers in school. I appeared to really enjoy shopping for those things. So my family mourned their losses until they finally got professional help about transgender identities and realized that there was much more to life than “losing” the pigtails and dresses.
So, here are two things I wish I could’ve explained to them when I was 15.
1. Clothes are clothes
The gender expressions I present through clothing, makeup (or lack thereof), and mannerisms are my own for the choosing. While I may be treated “differently” by society for presenting more feminine, masculine, or more androgynous, I have to take into account my own comfort levels. If you’re a parent, learning more about any child’s ways of expression can be fun, especially if you enjoy sewing clothing or shopping together.
Just three months after coming out to my parents, I asked to go shopping for a simple formal outfit to go to my friend’s prom. My stepmom and I took two hours to find a perfect necktie. When we thought we found “the one,” it ended up being one of the most expensive ties in the store! We laughed so hard and agreed that we had good taste; that said, we settled for a cheaper one of a similar style. As my stepmom learned more about my style and that I still enjoyed shopping with her, the tension eased.
2. You’re getting MORE of your child than ever
The process of coming out to my parents was a huge leap for me in being transparent (pun intended) with them about aspects of my life. I gained so much trust through the process, and while I had to educate them on aspects of identity, we have come far in our relationships. I feel comfortable discussing anything with them. This is especially important to me as I look to them for advice in just about everything (changing majors, cooking healthy meals, relationships, time management) in my weekly calls from college over 2,000 miles away.
As my parents realized I was happier, more social, more productive, getting better grades, and just living my life as the man I am, I stopped seeing signs of grief. Now, we look toward to the future and embrace the present. They look out for my happiness, which, to me, is much more vital than what I wear or how I present myself.
This piece was originally published on TeenLife.
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