As a kid, I remember that I loved to run around shirtless just like one of the boys. My only issue: I wasn’t a boy. I was able to get away with it as a child, but as I got older, I knew that I had to stop. When I was young, it didn’t bother me much that I was a girl because I didn’t really pay any mind to gender or gender stereotypes. I was just a kid and didn’t know what any of it meant. Now that I look back at how I acted and dressed myself, I was a straight up tomboy.
One summer, I remember that I had on a safari hat that I got from the Denver Zoo, and I wore it the entire summer with my hair in a braid. That fourth of July, one of my distant cousins and I were playing. I was wearing the hat so my face was pretty much covered up and you couldn’t see my hair. He called me “He”. At first, I thought, “Wait, I’m a girl.” But after the initial shock of being called a boy for the first time wore off, I realized that it didn’t really bother me — I actually kind of liked it.
Once I started middle school, changes began to happen, and I wasn’t happy about any of them. I was a happy-go-lucky kid who didn’t really have anything to be sad about. I had an okay life; I lived with my mom and sister; nothing bad ever really happened; our family was close. There was nothing that should have made me sad. But once puberty hit, everything went down hill for me. I waited as long as I could before wearing a bra. My mom always tried to get me to wear one because I wasn’t flat-chested anymore and it was starting to become noticeable. I wore baggy shirts (two sizes too big) and hunched my shoulders trying to hide my chest; but eventually, it got to the point where I couldn’t. All these changes were happening and I was dreading them. My only preparation for the changes was an American Girl book on female puberty that my mom left on my bed one day, which I promptly threw to the back of the closet so I wouldn’t have to look at it.
By the time I was in the seventh grade, I was super depressed and uncomfortable with my body. I had gained a bunch of weight from medication for my depression, and my body didn’t feel right to me. I discovered self-harm through the internet and, at one point, ended up doing it every day, or I would get anxiety attacks.
No one at my school ever really payed any attention to me. I was the quiet weirdo with no friends. The only friends I had were online. For some reason, I was desperate for someone to actually want me. I would go online looking for people to talk to. It was the only time that I felt like someone actually liked me, and it made me feel a little better. But now I know that most of the people that I talked to would have talked to anyone.
By the time I hit high school, I thought that I needed to start wearing more feminine clothing and make myself look more like a girl to get people’s attention. I had long curly hair that reached down to my mid-back and wore makeup and frilly dresses. This became one of the worst times of my life. I finally had a few friends, and I was not as shy as I was in middle school. But something still didn’t feel right to me. I laughed around and pretended that I was happy with who I had become, but in reality, I was miserable. During one of the bad parts of my depression, I decided that I needed a change, and I cut all of my hair off. I shaved one side and the other side went just a little bit below my ear. I still tried to be girly, and the hair cut helped for a while, but I eventually fell into another deep depression. It seemed as though the older I got and the more I tried to hide my emotions, the more and more depressed I became. I didn’t want to be alive anymore. I felt like I was worthless and didn’t deserve to be here. I wished that the innocent people who died would have been replaced with me so that they were able to live and I wouldn’t. These were my thoughts daily, and they only got worse as I kept hiding.
Around the end of the summer of 2015, I came across a video on YouTube. It was a foreign language short film simply titled Boy. This was the first step for me in my transition and basically where everything began for me. I had never heard the term “transgender” before and didn’t even know there was really anything like it. After the first time I watched that video, I started doing extensive research on what it meant to be transgender. Every piece of new information that I found was like a door unlocking for me and it just hit me that this was me. In November of 2015, I told my mom that I didn’t like being a girl. She instantly was understanding with me as I told her all of the things that I had learned. I am lucky that I was raised in such an open family. She instantly accepted me for who I am even though the process of my transition didn’t really start until a few more months after I told her. We got my hair cut and she bought me more masculine clothing, trying to do everything in her power to help me through this. No one else really knew except my close friend, and no one had started to use my preferred pronouns yet. I was happier with who I was, but I still felt like something was missing, and I wished that my transition would move faster. I found a transgender support group, and I was super excited to go to my first meeting. I, to this day, still go to the meetings. I met so many amazing people there who have helped me in my transition journey. They made me realize that I wasn’t alone in this and that there are more people like me out there; even in the area that we live in.
I was still kind of confused about what I really felt my gender was and who I felt as a person. I was afraid to became a man because I still liked all the attention that I got from men online and didn’t want to lose having someone like me for how I looked, or even liking me at all. I still liked men, and I felt like becoming a man would ruin my chances of finding someone as a partner even more; which, for some reason, was really important to me. I didn’t feel like I acted enough like a boy when I was younger because I did wear dresses and played with barbies and dolls. I felt like I didn’t show enough signs that I was really a boy. I felt like I wasn’t “trans enough”. All throughout 2016, I kept doing research and questioning who I really was. But by the middle of the year, I was pretty certain that I knew that I was a boy and that I wanted to live my life as a boy.
I didn’t really come out to anyone else until October 11th, 2016, which is National Coming Out Day. I debated all day whether or not I wanted to say anything on my Facebook. Close to the end of the night, I asked myself: “Why not just do it?” I didn’t know what people were going to say about it, but I was met with nothing but support. There were a lot of people who didn’t really understand it, and I didn’t expect them to. I honestly didn’t even know everything about it. I was most afraid of my grandpa’s response to it because his side of the family is made up of conservative ranchers, and I didn’t know what he was going to think. He was pretty supportive of me even though I know he doesn’t really approve of it, still slips up on my pronouns, and talks about it with my family behind my back. But that is better than what his response could have been. It took my family a while to get used to the new pronouns, and even now they slip up. But I know that it’s better to have them slip up on my pronouns than to completely disown me for being who I truly am.
After I knew that this was the path that I was taking, and getting all of the help and support that I needed, I wanted to put myself out there and stand up for the kids in my area who are also transgender but didn’t receive the love and support that I got. I came out to my school as transgender and started an LGBTQ+ club at my school, which was a pretty big deal because Sturgis, South Dakota is a conservative town. The kids at the school can be cruel. The first time that I put up posters for the first club meeting, people would tear them down and throw them away. I didn’t want to let that break my spirits so I just put up more posters for every one they tore down. I knew the other students were saying harsh things about the group, but I didn’t let them get to me. I ended up having several people message me and ask me for advice; some even came out to me. It felt amazing that people trusted me enough with something so personal and that they actually wanted my advice.
The time had come in South Dakota when the legislative session was open and bills were being introduced again. The year before, I wasn’t really out yet so I didn’t realize that there was an anti-transgender bill out there. When the next year came, and another anti-trans bill was introduced, I wanted to do something to help. I wrote up a testimony and went to the state capital. I was ready to read my testimony in front of the legislator to oppose the bill that they were trying to pass. I felt like it was what I had to do — I had to be the voice for the other transgender students in South Dakota that would have been affected by this bill. Luckily, I didn’t even have to read my testimony because the bill was killed right then and there before anything even happened. It was a big win for the LGBT community in South Dakota.
I went through a few months of counseling to get my referral to an endocrinologist in my area and got an appointment on March 16, 2017. The reason that I remember that date is because I got my prescription for testosterone that same day and took my first shot. I’m a pretty impatient person, and I wanted results that day, so I got frustrated when my changes were happening at a slower pace than those of people I had seen on Facebook. I know that the changes differ for every person as well as the time that it takes for the changes to occur, but it was frustrating to me. A few months after starting T (testosterone therapy), I fell into one of the worst depressive episodes I’ve had. I ended up going to a care center that night to talk to a counselor and to stay over night to be watched over. It was a long and awful night but I got the help that I needed at the time and I am still here today because of it. A year later and I am happy with my changes so far. My voice is a lot lower, I have a little bit of facial hair, and I look more masculine than I did pre-T. And as much as I want my changes to be greater, like a full beard on my face, I know that I have come a long way from where I was to where I am now. I’m a lot happier with myself now and I am the happiest that I have been for quite a while.