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James

I'm what people in my community call stealth. It's not evident I'm transgender - I pass

considerably well, and only some people on campus know that I wasn't born a man. I started my transition in highschool at 16 and went on hormones at 17, and legally changed my name at 18. I got top surgery at 19 in the middle of a global pandemic. Of course, my story was typical, a tom-boy who hated dresses and refused to play sports on the girls' teams because I didn't see myself as one of "them". My short hair as a child made many questions me when I would walk into a restaurant bathroom, and my skinned knees and roughhousing raised questions. I was ridiculously okay with being pestered about my gender because I had to start so young, so I pulled back.  

By the time I arrived at Berry at 18, I was so scared of being myself that I chose to separate

myself from my identity. It was a distinctly personal choice. No one forced me into hiding other than myself, but now I can see it was purely defensive.  

I am a driven student - I work hard - I am determined to make something of

myself. I believed that was what was important - not my gender.  

But why? Why do I put so much pressure on myself? Does it have to do with a self-

perceived chip on my shoulder?  

Being trans has given me faith in myself. It has made me realize the real impact of hatred,

people believing I don't exist, or because I was 16, being told my identity was a phase. It has presented me with challenges I still struggle with. I know that it has made me stronger, more emotionally intelligent, and certainly much better at dealing with conflict. I am a stronger storyteller because telling everyone in your life at the age of 16 that they need to rethink their own biases and perception of you requires persuasion. I can deal with criticism and hatred as a self-assured person because I wasn't for so long. I am self-assured because I knew I could only count on myself for so long.  

But occasionally, I forget I wasn't born a man and that I've had to fight for a chance to be a

man. I will live my life in a way that matches my values and simply move from class to class and assignment to assignment until the semester ends. But I still feel it. Anytime I enter a bathroom, my heart rate spikes. When I meet new people, I always wonder if they can tell, handing my license to someone with the wrong gender and getting questioned. It all drains me if I overthink it. I also became an excellent liar, telling people their words didn't hurt or that someone telling me to "pull down my pants" to check my gender didn't make me cry for three days after.  

In these struggles, it is easy to lose sight that being trans has made me grow in ways like no

other. Because my family is supportive and allowed me to transition at a young age, I got a head start, and I have lived a seemingly ordinary college experience. But other times, it feels like a blaring siren.  

I am reminded by doctor appointments to get blood drawn every six months to check my

hormone levels, by my trans friends who feel more open with their identity- who join clubs and wear pins and are unabashedly themselves, random spotting reminding me I have a uterus, and the occasional misgendering. Not to mention the news coverage on new 'trans bans' or hearing stories of acts of violence against those in my community. It shakes me to my core. 

I feel like an imposter so much of the time, and most of my life is spent trying to figure out

how a cisgender person would react so I can mirror it. I live in the greyscale, still searching for myself but urging to find ways to help others who have felt what I have felt. I know who I am, but I am still struggling with the growth we all face in college.  

Because we are such a small community, especially in our bubble, our experiences go

unnoticed. But we are here, and we are resilient, and our gender has nothing to do with that.  

We don't have a chip on our shoulders but instead have whole lifetimes of experiences we

have gained through transitioning and living authentically. That's what I tell myself anyway because if you can't find a positive in a world actively working against you, it's hard to be confident in yourself. 

Spring DEI 2022