“If you’re a faggot then you’ll kiss him,” one classmate said, pointing to the only other gay boy in our class, who assuredly hadn’t listened to Bright Eyes yet.
My identity had always been a secret. Now it was on trial for my peers to determine the truth. What was so wrong with trying to find myself? Isn’t that what a high-school student is supposed to do anyway?
I did as my classmates wished. Under the bright fluorescent lights of my cafeteria, I let the boy kiss me. Though it was sweet, it left my heart empty. He kissed me like a boy kisses a boy. I needed him to kiss me like a boy who kisses a girl. But I was thankful to have at least tried it out. Exploration was so crucial in helping me come into my own as a young queer person.
If I had stopped exploring after I kissed that one boy in high school then I’d still be lost. Ultimately, it was years of pushing back on adults and navigating my identity alone that helped me find my way. Unable to find a doctor to prescribe me hormones, I’d go on to transition without them. I was presenting as a woman, but there was still testosterone flowing through my veins, which never felt right. That was difficult. So was the way I was viewed, and treated, by others. After a late-night walk home from work, three men shouted at me that I was a tranny. They would go on to physically assault me.
After that, I detransitioned. I did not detransition because I wasn’t trans. I detransitioned because cisgender people physically and mentally beat me down until I gave in.
After a few years of building my confidence back up, I would go on to transition again, this time with access to culturally competent health care. My anxieties could have been alleviated if adults had simply listened, paid attention, and trusted me. It shouldn’t be that difficult for the generations to come.
This is what I was thinking about while reading Jesse Singal’s feature for The Atlantic’s July/August issue. “When it comes to the question of physical interventions, this era has also brought fraught new challenges to many parents,” Singal writes. “Where is the line between not ‘feeling like’ a girl because society makes it difficult to be a girl and needing hormones to alleviate dysphoria that otherwise won’t go away? How can parents tell?”
Singal is eager throughout his piece to stress to his readers that young people who are exploring a trans identity might not be trans. Singal notes, “Some kids are dysphoric from a very young age, but in time become comfortable with their body.” With this, Singal is attempting to provide hope to parents that their child who says they’re trans might not be. He leaves enough doubt for you to consider gatekeeping your child’s identity. This is irresponsible.
Singal goes on to express how investigating that identity could cause harm, if adolescents begin physical transitions: “Some of these interventions are irreversible. People respond differently to cross-sex hormones, but changes in vocal pitch, body hair, and other physical characteristics, such as the development of breast tissue, can become permanent.” Here, it sounds like Singal is essentially trying to scare readers into not letting young trans people be themselves.