In The Right Skin

A sophomore speaks out about his transition while navigating adolescence

Amber Gallacher, Reporter

“At that moment, the tears he had been holding back fell down his bright red cheeks, and then a smile emerged. That smile told me everything would be alright.””

Coming out

My girlfriend sat cuddled into my arm, face red and hands fidgeting. Her words shook more than she did. This was the first time she had built up the courage to ask me: 

“Can you start to call me he/him pronouns?”

 Time stopped and I didn’t quite understand what she was talking about. My lips quivered, and my thoughts whirled as I realized I couldn’t find the words to respond. My stomach twisted and I sat confused and surprised. I couldn’t handle it all.

I breathed in and out, slow and deep. 

Finally, I looked her in the eyes. They sparkled with the tears she held back. 

I could never explain it but I always knew there was something different about her. About him. I know he did, too.

 

Elementary School

Alex Chavez had always felt different than other children. When he was 6, his father gave him a new yellow dress for a Christmas present.

He opened the gift and his parents told him to try it on. But when he put on the dress, he didn’t feel beautiful like most young girls would. Instead, his eyes filled with tears.

“I didn’t want to look at myself in the mirror ever again,” Alex said. “I felt so bad for my reaction, but I couldn’t help but cry.” 

Throughout elementary school, he felt extreme amounts of body dysphoria. Spending hours in front of a mirror trying to change his appearance to look more masculine, comparing himself to other males, and hoping that one day he could cosmetically change his appearance to his liking. He would always wish he could have been born without the very features he hated about himself. Overall he just wanted to be treated like the rest of the boys.

Even now, he can still recall that day in fifth grade when everyone was shoved into classrooms to watch videos on puberty and how their bodies would change.

“I remember wanting to hop over to the boy’s room because that’s where I felt like I belonged,” Alex said.

 But instead, he sat in the room defeated while tearing up at learning that his chest would continue to grow. He cried for hours that day, seeming to feel the first great amounts of dysphoria.

 “I felt as if I couldn’t breathe as I came to the conclusion that I would always be known as the lesbian dyke,” Alex said.

His childhood continued to be filled with gender envy, always glancing at the other kids wishing he could have just been born in the right body. Wishing he could have been born normal.

“I would look at other boys, and I would be jealous of everything they had. I wanted nothing more than to be like them,” Alex said. “I found myself feeling like an outcast because of questioning [my] gender identity. I just always felt alone.”

 

Middle school

Middle school was the first time Alex had gained the courage to come out as transgender. But, when Alex came out in 7th grade to his friends, they weren’t supportive.

“Most of my friends were not willing to understand or take the time to use my correct he/him pronouns, which made me feel unaccepted and uncomfortable with my gender identity.” Alex said.

But, what specifically forced him back into the closet was his girlfriend’s disapproval. 

“I remember she told me I would never be a man, and I was just confused,” Alex said. “I felt trapped and because of my mental instability, I stayed and I had to convince myself she was right.”

With Alex still in a relationship with his girlfriend, she continued to keep him from coming out as a transgender man. 

Throughout the relationship Alex continued to use she/her pronouns until the beginning of his freshman year, when the two broke up.

 

High school

Through his first two months of high school, Alex had been out to a few friends who called him by his preferred name and pronouns. But, everything changed on Sept. 6 2019, when he met me. 

“I was terrified my story would repeat. But Amber was different, and I knew I couldn’t lose her,” Alex said. “So I went back into the closet because I was too afraid to lose something I had already learned to love.” 

He had prioritized our relationship over his own identity. And though I didn’t know, he was suffering the consequences. 

“The dysphoria was unimaginable,” Alex said. “I would cry many nights, but I couldn’t tell Amber without outing myself.” 

I picked up on some hints but I never pieced it all together. I knew he wore a binder, which is a piece of clothing that can compress the chest area and make it look flatter. I knew he dressed more masculine, he always wore men’s clothing including sweatpants, athletic shorts, and mens hoodies. I knew he hated his feminine name and did whatever he could to use nicknames. But that seemed to fit the role people told him to fill. 

The first time he tried to come out he backed out and masked it as a joke, but at that moment, the light bulb started to flicker.

Of course, I was never sure until the night he came over. He acted normal until he started to get anxious. 

“I have something to tell you but I don’t know if I should,” he said. “It’s not really that important, I can tell you later.” 

He kept slowly backing in and out of the subject until he finally convinced himself to come out and say what he’d been longing to tell me for seven months. 

 

Acceptance

I stared back into his eyes. I could never stand seeing him cry. Another breath: in and out. “You know I’ll always love you, and I promise I’ll try my best,” I told him.

 At that moment, the tears he had been holding back fell down his bright red cheeks, and then a smile emerged. That smile told me everything would be alright. 

 

Alex has now been out to all of his close friends and family as a transgender male for nine months and even through our recent break-up, I’ve been along his side trying my best to support him. I’m not perfect but I try to help reassure him, encourage him, and give him words of affirmation, and I’ll continue to do so whenever I can.