I Was a Trans Kid Once

We should listen to young folks about their gender identity. The risks of not are far higher.

I was a trans kid once. No one around me knew it at the time, though. I was too afraid to tell them. And, after all, why shouldn’t I be? In the 90s, the only encounters I had with people like me were in lurid portrayals on television shows like Jerry Springer. Once, I saw a trans woman on a more dignified evening news show, but my father, who was in the room commented how “stupid” it would be to do that — though, thankfully, he accepts me now.

Many of my earliest memories involve wishing I was a girl. There was a phase during elementary school where I deliberately integrated myself with the girls in the grade as much as possible because it felt more right. These feelings only intensified as puberty hit.

When I was fifteen, I studied abroad in Japan, where I was placed in the same high school as my host sister. As the prefecture’s international high school, only those who wanted to go there did, and it led to a gender imbalance in the school where the majority of students were girls. I wound up in a class of all girls, and, for the first time in my life, things felt natural and right — I did not have to perform my gender for the satisfaction of my male peers. I could just be, even if, to the world, that was a young man.

As pleasant a time as that was — one I think about daily — it took an enormous toll on my body in ways that are difficult to reverse: body hair, bone growth, a deepening voice. All of these could be prevented with hormone blockers, which would have prevented testosterone from deepening my dysphoria in devastating ways.

Despite being mostly happy with my body these days, my biggest regret will always be that I could not stop this process from happening. My voice is androgynous, which is fine but not ideal. My shoulders are somewhat broad. At least I appreciate being a little over six feet tall — most of the time.

But the toll it takes is far more than physical. The constant dysphoria is a never-ending grind of low-level trauma. Even for those who can find perfect peace in their physical form in a post-puberty transition will have emotional scars that are slow to fade. Every time I have had suicidal thoughts in my life, a major component of it was dysphoria. Every single time.

It was not until I was twenty-four that I finally took the leap that I knew I needed to for so long. Why? By far the biggest reason is that society signaled to me that I would be a freak. An outcast. A pariah. Growing up, I was one of the kids heralded as having so much potential, and I worried transitioning would be throwing it in the trash. But, after three years of college, I dropped out because of how crushing the dysphoria got. The dysphoria took — at least for a time — my aspirations down with it.

The reason I pour my heart out to you is there is an onslaught of bills in state legislatures now designed to make the lives of trans kids hell and punish their parents and medical providers. This must be stopped. This will have a body count. This will leave so many survivors with lasting trauma.

For the best possible outcomes, we should do everything we can to ensure that trans people feel comfortable coming out and transitioning as soon as they are able to understand their gender. This will make the lives of so many people inordinately easier at no real cost to society. Anything else is inhumane.