Hunter: "I'm A Fighter. I Know Exactly What I'm Doing"

Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
Hunter Park, 21, Charleston, South Carolina

I live in Charleston. Everything is very Southern here, and pretty conservative. I, personally, love it. Not that I'm wearing Lilly Pulitzer all the time or anything — but, the South is a really beautiful place, so its conservativeness is not the worst thing ever.

In early high school, I started really committing to becoming who I am now. That's when I started the full transition process. My family really embraced it; I have a really close connection with all of them. My friends were all, I think, a little bit weirded out — but it was just because they couldn't quite get into a practice of using the respectful pronouns and whatnot.

I live with my grandma. Neither of my birth parents are with us anymore. I think my grandma always knew something was up, that something set me apart from everyone. I think she was like, "Why does calling my grandson male feel weird?" So, we just gradually fixed the problem. Even she has moments where she slips up, but it's okay. It's all a learning process.

This is going to sound weird, but have you ever been on a road trip, and there's that moment when you're driving home and you're like, "I've learned all these things about the world and how it works, now I'm going to go home, and I'm going to apply them to my life?" (Or, you're coming home from camp, and you had a cool counselor who taught you about Nalgene water bottles. And, you're like, "now I'm gonna stay hydrated all day!") I had one of those moments. "Send Me On My Way" by Rusted Root should've been playing. What I realized was this: I have the rest of my life ahead of me. It was a freeing experience, and it's the end of a happy film. It's like, oh, I'm finally over all this confusion. I know who I am now, so I'm going to start the rest of my life.
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.

I think everything should be celebrated a little bit, so to celebrate this realization, I went to Target and bought shoes. But, I also do that, like, every other day, so…

There's this dude who I kind of like right now. He's also a musician, and he's super special to me. I always think about him — I'll be out walking or driving or something, and I think about him. He makes me smile, and I love seeing him. He's the polar opposite of my personality, but I think he's a genuinely good person. So, I get scared, because I start thinking, "Well, what if I was born biologically female? Would that make this easier? Would the relationship already be happening right now? Would I not have to chase him so hard? What can I do to make myself better?"

Then, I kind of snap out of that mindset. I figure, I'm already doing so much. I'm not just bragging about myself here; I know what it's like to fucking wake up at 5 a.m. and dry-shave in a parking lot, so you don't look awkward when you go into the Walmart in the middle of fucking nowhere. I'm a fighter, you know? If you know how to get your shit done, that should be the most attractive quality about you. Like, sure, maybe not all my parts match up right now, but I know exactly what I'm doing. I know how to do a lot for myself. So, I think this guy should find that attractive about me. You know?
Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.

No one ever said it was easy to be a girl. It's tough. I learned that attitude from my grandma, who is a very strong woman. I've grown up around very powerful women, and I've seen how hard they worked to carve out the lives they want for themselves.

And, I look at all of these musicians whom I aspire to be like. I look at their stage attitudes and behind the scenes, where it's not always diamonds and rosé. Sometimes, it's late hours in the studio, crying and chain smoking and being alone. It's being okay with those times when you are alone, because you are doing something that is going to change not only how you see the world, but — hopefully, maybe, someday — the way someone else sees it, too. 

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