Deciding to own your truth and live as your authentic self is hard to do—and being transgender in a scholastic environment can feel like an added weight on your shoulders. If you are preparing to go to school within the next few weeks and are in the midst of a physical and/or hormonal transition, it can be hard to foresee a happy academic future. You may have questions such as, “How will peers perceive me, treat me, and socialize with me?” You want to be treated like everyone else, but most people may not understand. So, what should you do?
My experience with transitioning from male to female started during the fall of my junior year of high school in 2009. I took the transition process slowly, starting with wearing my mom’s clothes that she graciously offered me. I didn’t know what would come from this, but what I did know was that I was going to start feeling more like the woman I knew I was on the inside.
In May, I felt seen for the first time when I became the first openly transgender girl to win the coveted title of Prom Queen. Within those seven months, I was able to learn how to navigate life in my changing body with my classmates and our town of very judgmental parents. When I graduated high school that next year I felt better equipped to take on college and even closer to becoming the woman I had always wanted to be. I’ve taken what I’ve learned from both high school and college and made a guideline for surviving this incredible time in your life.
Each transitional journey is unique.
There is no one way of being transgender or transitioning. Take this very important journey in your life at your own pace. In a world where social media has consumed us, it may be easy to get caught up in comparing yourself with other transgender people you see online—but there is no need. This transition is yours, and you are allowed to transition in whichever way makes you feel the most comfortable.
You can dress however you want to.
When it comes to wardrobe and transitioning, things can get pretty tricky. It may seem easier to over- or even under-dramatize your wardrobe, especially when you’re thinking of the company you’ll be around. There is often pressure on trans people to conform to a binary style—but you don’t have to. For me, walking into school and wearing a wig and a dress just didn’t feel natural to me. But if you feel this would be what makes you happy, then that’s okay, too. The point is to feel both secure and safe. It’s wise to have a parent, professional, or teacher that knows about your transition, someone who you can confide in. Ultimately, you should feel free to express yourself however you like.
Don’t let others get to you.
It’s true that high school never ends—at least when it comes to facing some, uh, opinionated people. Both in school and in the world outside of it, you’ll find that you can’t please everyone; so focus on pleasing yourself. There will be people who won’t accept you, treat you nicely, or understand you in the way you ought to be. Try to not let this upset you. Instead, take deep breaths (which will relax both your mind and your body) and channel your frustrations into something that brings you peace. Perhaps, the thought of knowing you’re working on yourself is all you need. Think about it like this: You’ve discovered yourself and are on track to being the best possible version of you, and not many people get to that level in their entire lives. You are so strong and courageous for doing this. Keep going, and never stop evolving.
Stay on track.
If you’re in school, focus on your studies and an extracurricular activity that you’re passionate about. Don’t worry about dating—you’ll have time for those experiences later. Find a passion that you can indulge in so that your transition and those around you aren’t what you are thinking about 24/7. If gendered sports or theater productions don’t make you feel the most comfortable, there are so many gender neutral activities—like art, books, science, gaming, and yoga that you can take part in. Lose yourself in a hobby that makes you happy.
Two things my mom instilled in me growing up are 1. Keep your wits about you, and 2. You never know what could set someone else off. Unfortunately, in a world like ours, you need to protect yourself. And so I’ll say to you, too: Keep your wits about you. Maybe taking up martial arts or a self defense course could help you feel more safe, empowered, and better prepared. Sometimes, transitioning in high school may not be the safest experience. And if this is the case for you, know that there is always college and an entire life outside of school as well.
When it comes to restrooms, consider all your options.
One of my major concerns in this political climate is where transgender people can go to the bathroom. Discuss this with your administration, if you can, or ask a guardian, doctor or faculty member to speak on your behalf. If changing in any gendered bathroom doesn’t make you feel comfortable, ask to use the office or nurse bathroom. This goes for changing for gym class, as well. If you have the option to pick your activity during P.E., take dance! That’s what I did, and I made a lot of great friends while being able to express myself in a less judgmental environment.
Remember that this is a beautiful journey that can teach you a lot—if you let it.
Think about the bigger picture: You are making a huge decision and, in many ways, will have to mature faster than your peers. In fact, you probably already are. Mantras I love to have at the ready are, “This too shall pass,” and “It gets better.” Not every trans person has a support system at home or at school, so please be safe and also keep in mind that your beautiful transition and life outside of it are something you have to look forward to—revel in that. Take the time to enjoy what’s happening to your body, although at times you will be uncomfortable, sweaty, and moody. You can learn a lot about yourself, your body, and this fascinating process if you pay attention. It might be fun to journal throughout your transition and life beyond it, too. This is something I didn’t do during my own transition process, but I wish I had.
Above all, I want you to know that confidence is key and you can definitely do this.