‘Taking The Risk To Be Myself’

Mar 15, 2017

The Trump administration recently announced it was withdrawing the protections for transgender students established by President Obama. The decision comes at a tough time for commentator and high school student Jay, who’s known since childhood that he was a boy. The hard part has been trying to convince others that’s who he is.

It’s been obvious since the first day of kindergarten, when my mom dressed me in all pink and I hated it so much. As I saw it, I was the only boy dressed that way. 

That same day, our teacher divided the class into two lines — a girls’ and a boys’. Being assigned with the girls’ didn’t feel right. As far as I was concerned, I belonged in the other one.

A few years later, I saw an episode of The Tyra Banks Show with a trans person on it. He said, "I’m a man, but I also have girl parts.” I sometimes look for that old clip because it brought me so much joy to finally see someone like me on television.

When puberty hit, I began researching different techniques for transitioning from female to male. Last year, I began binding my chest, and I get the most masculine haircut possible. I try to talk from the throat or chest in order to lower my voice.

Sometimes my family gets frustrated with me for behaving like this. For behaving like myself.

It can be hard to leave my house. In public — at school and work — there’s so much backlash. People call me a "tranny," or ask me things like, "Do you know you’re going to hell?" Onlookers rarely intervene when people hurl slurs at me. And since the election, it’s gotten so much worse.

And then, there’s the issue of bathrooms. If I go into the women’s room, I can tell people think I’m a guy, even though biologically I am a woman. But walking into the men’s room, where I’d rather be, is much worse. I get snide comments about not belonging there. One guy actually asked me threateningly, "What’s between your legs?"

Probably the scariest thing that’s ever happened occurred recently. I was alone in a café in a small town in Western Massachusetts. Four men came in and sat down at a nearby table. They were all much older. I sensed they were staring at me. One guy started talking loudly about how America had "gone to hell." Another said he hated "trannies." When someone boasted he would kill a "tranny" if he saw one go to the wrong bathroom, I quickly stole a glance at them. Three had hunting knives on their belts; the fourth guy’s was out on the table.

I left as fast as I could, counting the seconds between us. But I’m determined. I’m not going to let people who harass me hold me back. I’m more and more taking the risk to be myself. I’m more and more believing there’s nothing wrong with me.