Syd West
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I Can Do This

A Personal Narrative by and About a Trans Man

My mind is weird. It doesn’t belong in my body. It took me until junior year of high school to recognize that disconnect and to start being myself. Instead, I tried to force my mind to fit perfectly with my body. I only wish I could have known earlier that it’s okay to be different; that it’s okay not to conform; that it’s okay to be transgender.

In middle school, I didn’t know what I was feeling most days. However, I knew what society wanted me to be, so I tried my best to fit in. I was in a group of girls, but I never felt like I belonged. They hung out together without me a lot.

The problem with middle school was no one was friends with people outside of their clique. There were the popular girls, the band kids, the guys obsessed with sports. Then there was my group: the choir kids who got 4.0s. You’d think I would fit right in, but alas, no. Although, it was partially my fault because I was quiet and tried to make everyone happy, excluding myself.

Anyone who knew me could tell I was like that. One day at lunch I was sitting at the table in the enormous, grey-scale cafeteria where I usually sat with my friends, when a girl came up to us and asked to sit with us. There weren’t enough seats at our table, but my “friends” wanted the girl to sit with them, so they made me move to another table.

'Oh well, at least they’re happy,' I thought.

There weren’t many activities for me in middle school besides faking happiness with my “friends” and using schoolwork to distract me from my thoughts. It was such a relief to transition to high school. That was when I could truly discover myself.

Meeting so many new people in high school opened me up to a whole new world. There was so much more than the cliques I came to know so well. I joined the school’s zombie apocalypse survival club—which I later became president of, I got into musicals, I was passionate about choir… Everything felt amazing.

Well, almost everything—I still felt off. I didn’t quite fit in. I found myself slouching to hide my body so often that it became a habit. I’d never feel confident about anything that I did. I knew then that everyone was different, but I didn’t know who I was.

When I got to junior year I decided to go to a meeting of the Gay-Straight Alliance at my school. I had a lot of friends in the LGBTQ+ community and I wanted to show my support. I stepped into the small classroom on the day of the meeting and was baffled by all of the art covering the walls. My eyes went on a journey through the array of style and color as I looked around the room. However, the walls weren’t the only things that caught my eye—the people were works of art as well. Most of the other students there had crazy colored hair or their own unique style. I could feel the acceptance and support radiating from each person’s smile. I met people who didn’t identify as male or female. I met people who identified as a girl one day and a boy another day. I met people who didn’t have a gender at all. I learned that gender is a spectrum. It was a beautiful turning point for me. Suddenly, the pressure of what society wanted me to be lifted off my shoulders. This is what I had been missing.

I had discovered I wasn’t a girl.

Telling myself “I’m not a girl” in my head for the first time made me realize that was why I’d been such an outcast. That was why I never felt right. That was what made me, me. It caused my brain to become a warzone—what I was used to against who I discovered I was. I was very confused and scared because it was something new. I’m lucky I met people who are like me in high school who were going through the same self-discovery that I was, so I knew I was not alone. I was encouraged to embrace whoever I am and not try to jam myself into spaces I didn’t fit into.

It’s been difficult being myself, but I don’t regret it one bit. Expressing myself has been a whirlwind of personal growth and excitement but also fear. Even though I’ve done nothing wrong, there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t accept me. There are always going to be people who try to change me. I know now that I can’t listen to them. I’ve gone through too much to get sucked back into the suffocating void that is society’s expectations.

Honestly, I’m not sure if I’ll ever know exactly who I am, but I’ve accepted that. I’m always discovering new things about myself and my gender. I’ve decided I’ll just be me. I’ll continue to do things that help me grow and make me happy, embrace the inevitable rough times, and keep moving forward.

I can do this.

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