Hannah L., 18, Birmingham, Alabama
The first thing I did was go out and buy nail polish. I was in 10th grade and was starting to feel more disconnected with being identified as male. Buying that nail polish was probably the scariest thing I’d ever done — after all, this was Montgomery, AL. I was constantly hearing about people getting murdered or attacked because they were transgender.
The nail polish was black, because that way I could claim I was goth. Eventually, I got red and blue, but the first one was just black. Just knowing I had bought it was important to me. When you’re first starting out, the worst thing is feeling like you can’t do it — and feeling like you’re alone in what you’re going through.
There were signs when I was a kid. Of course, going against gender stereotypes isn’t what makes someone transgender; for me, though, it was a sign. I enjoyed reading the same things the girls in my class read. I didn’t enjoy the sports my guy friends did. Overall, I was not very masculine, but I attributed that to the fact that I only have sisters.
In a few years, I’ll look very different than I do now. I have not started the physical transition yet. My parents and I decided that — because I live at a boarding school and because of how so many people in Alabama see gender and trans people — that it would be too difficult.
My school administration has been extremely open, and they wish they could switch my dorm, but that’s just not the way Alabama is set up. So, I still live in the guys’ dorm. Do I wish I could live in the girls’? I think so. But, it might not be the best idea right now.
I’m not out to the entire school — not everyone calls me Hannah, although I go by that when I’m comfortable enough to do so. But, I do things that cause questions. I wear nail polish, I’ve slowly started to acquire more feminine clothing...stuff like that. It’s a slow process, and I’ll admit I get really frustrated with that sometimes.
The obstacles in my way aren’t un-moveable — just stuff that’s in the way at the moment. I do intend to start my transition over the summer, so I can start college presenting as feminine as I can. I’m applying to colleges that are highly accepting of transgender people.
There’s a lot of time when I don’t think about being trans. I do look at the girls and young women around me and think, What styles are they wearing? Is their body type similar to mine? If so, could that style work for me? Yes, no, maybe. I talk about it with friends, but it doesn’t take up the majority of my thoughts. I have way too much going on for that.
It’s really nice to have trans friends. They’re sort of the only people who understand. Like, when your cis female friend texts you a picture of her dress for prom, and you’re happy that she’s going and happy that the dress looks nice, but you’re still thinking, That could be me. That could be my dress.
With transitioning, it’s not an instantaneous switch, and it’s not a seamless process. For 16 years, I thought of myself as a “he.” Now, even though I know I’m not, sometimes I catch myself thinking that; 16 years of habit is hard to break.
I told my parents in a letter, which I delivered to them on top of a giant stack of research (which was maybe overkill, but oh well) on just about everything: how to come out to your parents, what to do when your child comes out. It was at least 150 pages, with the letter on top explaining it all. I left it in my room, knowing they would find it.
I let them see it, and I let them have their initial reaction. I know that the initial reaction is not only what we feel; rather, it’s surprise mixed with what we’re actually feeling. That’s when people say stuff that’s hurtful without meaning to. So, I wanted to give them their own privacy to handle it.
I was lucky that my parents were supportive. I can’t imagine how I would’ve been able to go so far without them. My happiest moments have been when family and friends have accepted me and started to call me by my real name. It’s weird how much happiness comes from just hearing my real name. If five people call me Hannah today, six will tomorrow. I’m one step closer than I was before.