Transitioning early in life: Mindy's advice

[* name changed to protect her privacy]

"Gay male, lesbian, bisexual, and transsexual youth comprise as many as 25% of all youth living on the streets in this country. Here, they enter a further outcast status that presents serious dangers and even greater risk for suicide. Without an adequate education or vocational training, many are forced to become involved in prostitution in order to survive."

"The shame of ridicule and fear of attacks makes school a fearful place to go, resulting in frequent absences and sometimes academic failure."

"97% of public high school students report regularly hearing homophobic remarks often and 53% of students reported hearing these remarks from school staff."

---Paul Gibson, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ("Report of the Secretary's Task Force on Youth Suicide,". 1989)

My Experience With Education and My Transition

High school was and still is a major part of young peoples lives. The things we experience and the lessons we learn from this crucial part of life will be with us for the rest of our life to come, for better or worse. Most times young people struggle to come to terms with their bodies, dating and social interaction, even getting a job and managing money. And these experiences will provide memories that we share with our children, grandchildren, and other special people in our lives, hoping to impart some of the knowledge and lessons that we learned. Maybe if they listen to us then they will have an easier time than we did when they are confronted with something similar. Let me share my story with you.

I was a bright child and was a good student. I come for a family that has three children, myself being the oldest, and my two younger sisters. I was in a program that I had been selected for from my standardized test scores that all students take. This program was an accelerated learning program geared towards students who wanted to take certain paths in life. Although there were many different programs, I chose the Health Professions Magnet because I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up. I wanted to start a clinic in my neighborhood for people who couldn't afford to pay for their health care. Many people who know me will tell you that I was always dreaming big. I was ready to save the world. And this program was like a mini Pre- Med. program for high school students to prepare them for the special schooling that they would have to undergo to get where they wanted to in the Health Professions field. They even set up a mentoring program that allowed you to shadow a chosen professional in your field of choice.

But I wasn't quite like my fellow students ... not in an intellectual capacity, but I had always felt I was different. Most transsexuals and trans people will tell you they felt different from an early age. Even gay and lesbians experience this feeling of awkwardness. And I was no exception to that. I started attending a group after speaking to my counselor at school called IYG. And I thought I had put my finger on it! I WAS GAY! I had found a group to foster me and help me with self esteem issues that straight society just couldn't and wouldn't do.... After being in the group for a while I did some honest soul searching and still I found myself feeling a little odd but pushed it out of my head thinking it was just that same old awkwardness that the teenage years bring about... At this time I was 14 and getting ready to turn 15 years old. School was amazing for me once I had found a positive support group and peers. I felt like I was coming along nice, all the while having that issue in the back of my head.

One Thursday evening we had a group speak to us at the Youth Center. But this group was from IXE. And they were speaking to us about transgender issues and about being transgender. I, being the young and proud "queer" youth that I, was had already started experimenting with gender bending, from painting my toe nails to cross dressing to sneak into the bars with friends to see drag shows ... but these people were different. They actually lived in the opposite gender that they were born! After the presentation, it was like a little light clicked in my head. And that little nagging feeling in the back of my head said "Hey you ... guess what??? I won't be pushed back anymore!". I didn't even think that something like this was possible... Men living as women??? Women living as men??? It was like my world got turned upside down again. I was devastated. What was I gonna do? I was so confused.

After the group meeting, I talked in length to Emily and then to the youth counselor at the time, Michele O'Mara. I also went home with a lot on my mind. The next few months seemed to fly by in school and before you know it school was let out for the summer and I was free to begin what turned out to be the best summer of my life. I started counseling with Michele over those months and we can to the conclusion that I was transgender and more specific, I was a Male to Female transsexual. I was like a kid in a toy store and I was more comfortable with myself than I had ever been. I finally knew what I wanted, and had the opportunity to live the way I needed to. Over the summer I educated myself, reading everything I could get my hands on. I went to the library and did a lot of research and even met another trans woman (you know who you are! hint.. at the library...) even though I was too shy to introduce myself. But I soon realized that I could live a happy and productive life as a transsexual. I had even begun my own transition. I got IYG to add "transgender" to the mission statement of the youth group to be all inclusive. After all I still went there!

After the big summer of change and discovery I started school. I had told my mom about my situation and after some tears and education, she was supportive of me and the change, but I had not even thought about school. What was I gonna do? Was they ready for all this? I attended a rather large high school and I figured that I would just try to blend in and get thru the last two years. You know, just bite the bullet, and forge ahead. After all, I had my family and IYG as a support system, if there was too many problems, right??? So I registered for school as usual and started shopping for clothes and supplies. I was all set for the first day of school. Or so I thought....

At school on the first day, we had to go to the cafeteria to check in and pick up our schedule for the rest of the year. We got to see what classes we were gonna take and who was in those classes. We also got to see all of our friends that we hadn't seen over the summer time. But I had been thru some changes. I had decided to break it easy to them (my friends and school). I had opted on not wearing a lot of makeup or outrageous clothing. After all I was there to learn and not to create a problem. So I wore androgynous clothing including women's jeans, a large t shirt, a little gloss on my lips, plucked eyebrows, and long hair. I had started to grow my hair out over the summer of course. And started to introduce my new self to my friends. I also said hi to a few teachers that I had liked a lot in the past few years. To my surprise the students didn't really act surprised at all. Some were even supportive and chatted with me briefly about make-up and my hair. The teachers were not even sure at first who I was. I personally didn't think that I had changed that much, but by the look on their faces when they realized who I was, I had changed a lot more than I thought. Some just got really quite. Others went white in the face. One even started crying and told me I was gonna go to Hell. I was let down a little by their reaction. In my mind, I had thought that the adults were gonna be easy to deal with because of the maturity level and the students would have a problem. As it turned out, it was exactly the opposite! But being the strong willed survivalist that I was, I just excused myself and decided to go get my schedule and go to class. I was almost out of the cafeteria when I was pulled aside by my student dean. The role of your assigned dean was to provide guidance and counsel when needed and also discipline when appropriate as well. My dean, who was very nice to me up to now, was very upset with me. She questioned me about "What was going on here?" and "Did I think this was funny?". I was trying to explain myself. After all this was MY dean! But I was abruptly stopped in my explanation and told the following.... "I am being disruptive and I was to immediately cut my hair, to dress like a boy and to act like a boy. My safety was at stake and if I didn't comply that I would be dealt with in an appropriate manner.". I was speechless!!! And if you knew me back then, that was a big deal to say the least!

I politely told my dean that while I could see her side of things that I was a transsexual and that I would not be complying with her wishes. I said that I didn't feel like it was an issue of safety and that the students I had talked to briefly had been supportive of me and that I was happy with how I looked and I then ask if I could be excused to go to class. A very unhappy dean excused me and informed me that she would be in touch soon.

I continued through the day and even the next two weeks with my schedule. All the while, my dean and teachers were harassing me, pulling me out of class to chastise me for my "disruptions" and threatening me with suspension or bad grades due to unruly behavior. And surprisingly enough, the students accepted me for the most part, with the occasional incident brought on by attention from teachers about what I was and what I was doing. I then decided to just give in and not go to school. Normally, it would be the dean to follow up with a long absence from school. I was told by friends that I might even go to juvenile detention for truancy. But no one ever called. When I went into school to sign myself out, I had a discussion with my dean and student counselor. I explained why I was dropping out and what had happened with my teachers and even told my dean that I didn't appreciate her harassment. I was informed that I wasn't welcome in school as long as I was going to be disruptive and that this was for the best, at least till I came to my senses.

Today I am writing this story after I just took my GED test for my diploma. And ironically enough, my graduation is gonna be held at my old high school. I wonder if I will see any of my old teachers?? I am 25 years old now, and I doubt they will recognize me anymore. I actually seen one of my old music teachers, when I was taking my test. She was the one who administered my GED test. I had a conversation with her and she even complimented me on my shoes! I didn't tell her about my experience or even who I was .... but I was glad that she was nice to me. Who knows where I would have been if all my teachers had been so nice.......

As I continue with my education and look back, I can only hope and pray that the youth who follow in my footsteps will have it a little easier than I did. And I hope that

I can do something to change the attitude towards us as a group of people. I have learned that the only way to do this is thru education of the public, lobbying to change the laws to protect our rights, and to be more visible when dealing with young people.

Because young people are OUR future, and maybe I can make a difference now where I wasn't given a chance to back then.

Send me your thoughts, links, and advice!

If you transitioned in your teens or twenties and have any advice you'd like to share, please contact me , and I'll give it a permanent (and anonymous) home.