Experiences of a Transgender Student at Blaine

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Experiences of a Transgender Student at Blaine

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Elijah is a Junior attending our school. Eli has been in marching band since middle school, and has continued to play French horn for Blaine marching band. Although, Eli wasn’t always Elijah. Eli was born as a girl. Just last year his family and friends knew him as Elizabeth. He has been openly trans since his sophomore year, but his transition had begun already three years earlier.

Elijah’s Transition

When Eli was younger, friends would call him a tomboy. He would normally wear masculine clothes that he felt most comfortable wearing. On the other hand, Eli was made to wear a fancy dress and decorate himself in makeup for his stepmom’s wedding. He remembers thinking that he had much rather have switched out the dress for a sleek tuxedo. It was one of the most uncomfortable memories he has had. This made him realize that he feels uncomfortable in attire that emphasizes the femininity of his body.

This feeling of being uncomfortable in your body is called gender dysphoria. It can be described as having to wear a tight, scratchy, wool sweater that you aren’t able to take off. It tortures you. It is when the body that you are born in does not match with the gender, or lack thereof, that you feel you are on the inside.

The first time that Eli had ever heard the term “transgender” being used when he was watching a Top Chef cooking competition when the announcer reported that one of the contestants was transgender. Later, Eli visited the IMC at Blaine, and checked out an informative book about identifying as transgender, continuing to investigate the meaning behind the label. He had begun to feel that being transgender might be part of his identity.

Eli had a eureka moment when he realized that subconsciously, he had always viewed himself as a boy. Whenever he dreamed, even when he was a ‘girl,’ Eli was a boy in his dreams. These dreams may have also reflected his deep, secret, desire of becoming and being known as a boy.

Eventually, Eli decided to come out. After realizing that he identified as transgender, so much pressure had built up within him that he just couldn’t hold back his true identity from the people that he knew. He first came out to the members of the GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) club after school, and when he did, he was overwhelmed with hugs and acceptance from his friends. The GSA was successful in helping Eli gain courage about his new gender identity. On his sophomore year birthday, Eli decided to come out to his immediate family. Prior to this, Eli was aware that most of his family were homophobic and transphobic. During extended family gatherings, Eli would would have to listen to negative, comments about transgender individuals: “It’s uncomfortable, offensive, and a little terrifying to think about what they would do if they knew about my identity,” he recounts. That’s why he only chose to come out to the people who lived with him. Eli explains what emotions he had during his experience: “Coming-out to your parents feels like telling them that you did something very bad. It’s scary, and it made me very anxious.”

After explaining to his parents that ‘Elizabeth’ is now ‘Elijah’ and asking them to now use male pronouns, his parents were confused and bewildered. At first, Eli’s dad thought that he had raised Eli in a ‘wrong’ way. But eventually, as time went on, his parents were accepting.

Overall, Eli’s transition from girl to boy wasn’t very drastic. The main change was the use of male pronouns: replacing she/her with he/him. To many people this may seem like a small change, but to people like Eli, it is a profound change that affects his daily life in a positive way, everyday. Currently, Eli is cautious when he reveals his identity to new friends or new teachers. Eli wants to avoid possible harassment, so he comes out only to people that he trusts. Sometimes, he is afraid to even come out to some of his teachers.

Students’ Views on Transgender Individuals

Along with Eli, I had also interviewed some students that don’t identify as transgender. I asked them what they felt about transgender students attending Blaine. One student admitted that they thought that being transgender was “weird” but they were completely OK with it. Another said “I’m minding my own business about these issues, as long as they don’t affect me in a negative way.” A few students expressed feelings of being uncomfortable when transgender individuals used the bathroom of their new gender. The students agreed that they would prefer it if transgender individuals used a unisex or gender neutral bathroom. Unfortunately, these bathrooms are not always available. Eli explained that he uses a gender neutral bathroom at Blaine to avoid awkward and possibly dangerous situations in the boys bathroom.

Another student believed that sex was the same thing as gender. This is a common misconception. Eli wants to make it clear that sex and gender are two different aspects of your identity. Your sex is what reproductive organs you have at birth, and gender is what you feel you are socially and culturally as you begin to mature. Your biological sex may influence your gender, but it does not determine your gender. Sometimes your sex does not match gender identity. This is reality, and at times even a painful reality. Gender dysphoria can cause depression, anxiety, and self-harm among other things.

Eli is disheartened when people, unaware of his and other transgender students’ struggles and pain, mockingly say, “Did you just assume my gender?!” Although it is a joke, to many people it is not funny, but rather disrespectful or hurtful to them. Gender dysphoria shouldn’t be made fun of in that way. “People saying that don’t understand how difficult the journey is of discovering who you really are,” Eli says.

The Journey is Worth it

The discovery of your identity can be very rewarding. Eli encourages people to continue their search for their identity, and keep pushing through the difficult parts. “The journey of discovery may be long, and at times daunting and lonely,” Eli explains, “ But finding your own identity is worth it.” Eli adds that gender itself shouldn’t be defined by society, but rather by you. It shouldn’t be a black and white yes or no question, but rather a very large, diverse spectrum. Don’t try to fit into a mold that other people have created for you. It is important that you respect who you are. However, often you will meet people that will not respect your gender identity. For some people, being transgender and is associated with negativity and controversy because of some people’s religious, cultural, or social beliefs. Eli is aware that there are many people who believe that being transgender is ‘wrong.’ Eli wants to tell those people to remember that we are all human, no matter what labels are put on us, and it important to let each other live freely. Elijah declares: “You are human: Live.”

In the future, Eli hopes to receive sex-reassignment surgery, and to finally fully become what he was and is meant to be.

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