I know what its like to feel alone. To feel like no one knows the real you. Like you’re playing a part in a play, wearing a mask, living in fear that someday, somehow someone will learn your secret and life as you know it will never be the same. To have to hide a piece of yourself, out of shame, or fear, or guilt. It hurts.
And I know I’m not the only one who’s ever felt this way. I’ve heard the same stories over and over from seemingly hundreds of my peers. Maybe you are one of them. But today I am here to tell my story.
My name is Rowen. I am seventeen years old and just finished my junior year of high school. I live in an apartment with my mom, stepdad, and my brothers. I have a lot of hobbies including playing guitar, drawing, writing poetry, card tricks, and volunteering at the local animal shelter. I have two pets: my cat, Shadow, and a rat named Nyx. I love animals and hope to one day have a career working with them.
I’m an ordinary person, but growing up I didn’t always feel that way. I felt there was something different about me, like I never quite fit in. I remember one instance when I was around seven years old, I realized I was getting older (I was almost ten!), and I decided I needed to start planning what I wanted to do when I grew up. I decided I wanted to be a veterinarian and I wanted to have a big house with lots of land where I could keep lots of pets. It then occurred to me that I would one day get married and I began to contemplate who my partner would be. I thought of all the kids I knew, and one in particular that stood out to me, Rose (not her real name). Rose was pretty and kind, and she liked animals, just like me. I didn’t really think much of it, and I soon told my older cousin about my plans to be a vet and have lots of pets… and to marry Rose. At this, he laughed as if I had told some hilarious joke. He explained to me that girls don’t marry girls, they marry boys. Being seven, I was a bit confused but since he was older, I took it as fact.
The years went by, and over the time I got more and more messages that being gay wasn’t okay. I heard things like,”Hate the sin, not the sinner.” And I soon convinced myself that I wasn’t any part of that. That is until I started going through puberty. That weird feeling of not fitting in that I had before came back, and I felt very scared and alone. I remember the first time my mom told me I needed to put on a bra, I was ten, almost eleven years old. I went to my room to find one. When I took off my shirt I looked down at my chest it all seemed just… wrong. Tears stung my eyes and I started to cry. I didn’t even know why I was so sad.
I didn’t know what was wrong with me, and I was afraid that if I told anyone they would laugh or be angry with me, so I kept my internal struggle a secret. When I started public school in the fourth grade, I tried to be as much like the other girls as I could. I wore similar clothing, styled my hair in long beautiful braids or in a ponytail, and only played with girls, but I still felt different and alone. I knew I wasn’t being true to myself, but I felt like I didn’t know who I really was.
One day in the seventh grade, I thought to myself, out of seven billion people on earth, I can’t be the only one going through this. So I decided to search the internet. I came across a video explaining what it meant to be transgender. For the first time I had a word to describe what I was feeling, and for once I didn’t feel so alone. But then I began reading the comments. A few of them were positive, but most were not. I found this to be the case everywhere I looked. There were endless rude comments invalidating my feelings. I was scared and alone all over again. This, along with other difficulties I was facing, pushed me over the edge. My grades began to drop, I started isolating myself from my friends, and I began to feel very depressed. I started to hate myself. I felt like it was my fault, and that I should just be a girl like I was “supposed” to be.
This went on until my sophomore year of high school. I made a new friend who would change my life. He was transgender, and he was out and open about it. When I finally built up the courage to tell him that I was also trans, it felt amazing, like a weight was lifted from my shoulders. Over time I learned to accept myself for who I am. I decided that my happiness was more important than what others thought of me. I soon built up the courage to tell my mom, and she was so accepting and supportive! I am truly blessed to have her in my life. My stepdad was another story, he still calls me a girl. But I know who I am and that’s who I’ll be. I won’t let others closed minds affect me. There will always be haters and doubters, but there will also always be someone who loves you for who you truly are. I lost some “friends”, but I made new friendships that are much stronger. I started going to support groups and lgbt+ events, and I finally found a community of people who accept me for who I am. Never be afraid to be yourself.
“I’d rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I’m not” ~Miles McKenna