At some point, a kid starts to think for themselves. They start deciding what to do instead of letting their parents do it for them. For the first twelve years of my life, I didn't think about myself much. I didn't have to. All I focused on was doing well in school, playing the violin, and being there for others. I was much more of a follower than a leader, but I knew that at some point I'd run out of people to follow. To be independent I had to take the lead, but it's hard to do so when you don't know how to be yourself.
Over time, I felt more and more fake. Living life felt like an act, I was just fulfilling a role. My role was to be the middle daughter in an intelligent family. I had no problem with the former, but being a daughter and a sister never sounded right. I knew there was something off. In seventh grade, my anxiety and depression increased dramatically. I doubted and hated myself for seemingly no reason. I found it hard to see a future for me, because I didn't even have a sense of self. Someone asked me where I saw myself in five years; I couldn't answer. I looked to others for any help I could get.
Junior High provided a much more diverse group than elementary school. I started getting involved with the LGBTQ+ community online, and I read about people being so happy and comfortable with their identities once they came out. I learned I didn't have to be a girl, even if I was born one and this really clicked with me. I now identify as non-binary, but leaning on the masculine side. I'm fine with others seeing me as anything but a girl.
Eventually, I came out to my mom, and to my dad shortly after. I began transitioning and finally felt some sense of who I wanted to be, even though I had a long way to go. The difference between the inspiring stories I read online about trans kids and my story was that they realized they were trans at a much younger age than I did. I still felt that I was faking it, that I was invalid, and there was not a single place in society for me. I really don't think I'd be here typing this if it wasn't for my friends and some of my family. They are the reason I kept going, even though I didn't want to. It took months of ups and downs to get past others' views. I got comments such as: "You are such a beautiful girl, why would you do this?" and "You're just a tomboy.” This is truly who I am, and I'm not transitioning for anyone but myself. I want to truly live my life no matter how hard that life may be.
My family had a difficult time getting used to calling me Ray and using he/him or they/them pronouns. I hadn't seen my dad's side of the family for about four years, so I thought it'd be easy for them. Whether they forgot or they were doing it to spite me, my week in Kentucky with them was difficult because of how often I'd be called by my birth name and be referred to as a girl. A few months later, I heard from one of my aunts, she told me how proud she was of me for transitioning and just living my life. Because I get so hung up on little things, I saw it as an apology and I forgave her. This short phone call made me realize that some of my extended family is trying, and that really helped me push forward. But of course, there were still other problems to deal with.
In general, middle school sucks no matter who you are. Every student walks around with a figurative label floating above their head. Kids try so hard to make sure their label doesn't have a negative connotation. Mine was the tranny in our class, and there wasn't much I could do about that.
On top of dealing with ignorant students, I had to talk to teachers about referring to me as a different name and gender than what's on the roster. Most still used feminine pronouns. Every "she" and "her" brought my confidence down a bit. I've heard time and time again that I should just ignore it, and that others' opinions don't matter, but I strived for some confirmation that I was doing the right thing. It showed that even when people were told to use masculine pronouns, they defaulted to feminine ones because I wasn't a guy in their eyes. School was a crushing reality check, it felt like I didn't deserve to be there, and I was just the trans kid.
The only time I felt welcome was GSA, where I met some truly amazing people. Going to meetings helped me realize I do have a place in society, and that not every student is so close minded. I'm so grateful for my friends, for them having helped me through some of the hardest times. They always support me without judgement as well as defend me when I don't have the courage to stand up for myself. I would insert some sappy quote or saying about friendship, but, if you've had these true best friends, then you know how much they're worth. No writing can ever encompass that feeling.
I'm incredibly grateful for the people I have in my life. Their support allowed me to start pushing forward. Even though life is still so difficult, I can see a bit of light. It's so far away, but I'm convinced I'll pull myself out of this hole. I just want to be me, that's it. No labels, no acting, just to be myself.
My advice is that no amount of labels can define you, life would be better if no one had labels floating above their heads. If you find some term to describe your gender or sexuality and it gives you the confirmation you're looking for, good for you; if you can't find something that clicks, it's okay. You're you, and you don't have to fit under a category.
Life is like a puzzle, and every person is a piece. None of the pieces are the same, but they all fit together in the end. You may just be in the wrong spot with the wrong people, but I promise that you belong in this world. You deserve to exist as much as anyone else. In the end, everyone is human, no matter their gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, or appearance. No matter how long it takes you to find it, you do have a place where you belong in this fucked up world we all live in.