Realization, Acceptance, & Everything in Between


Nearly all of my life I have questioned my identity. In my elementary years I debated whether or not I was good enough to have friends, as I was always seen as ‘the weird kid’. In middle school I examined the seemingly endless possibilities of my sexuality, and whether or not I was capable of living up to my family’s academic expectations. All of these things led up to the hardest part of my life, September 2020 to June 2021.

I was a freshman in high school attending Benjamin Franklin Junior High. During September I moved to Plover from Knoxville Tennessee, where I had grown accustomed to my surroundings after only living there for a year. The weird hill I lived on, the awkward distance from any grocery store, among other things. But I was ready for new scenery, and a new school year in Wisconsin. After all, change is good, right?

It’s important to know that from September to late January I was only in school twice a week. Due to this I had a lot of personal time, which I spent nearly all of inside sitting in my room. A large chunk of this time was spent thinking about myself. I’ve never been an introspective person, but with that much free time there isn’t much else to do. And as a result of that I struggled to make friends, and was at one of the lowest points of my life.

 I couldn’t connect with my peers, which I initially thought was because I wasn’t a good person. In the past many people reminded me that I wasn’t. I was constantly told I wasn’t the person I was “meant to be.” Not good enough to make friends, not the right kind of person. 

Then I realized that I was sheltering myself from opening up to new people. Around October I met someone who helped me through my rough patch. For privacy reasons she’ll be referred to as Jane. This is how we became friends. 

“Pictures are in everyone, come get yours,” Mrs. Wanta, my PE teacher, yelled across the gym. 

“Oh great,” I sighed to myself, “I look like a worm in these!”

“No, your pictures look great!” replied Jane. 

“Oh, thank you, yours look good too,” I nervously responded while stuffing my pictures awkwardly into my backpack.

This was the only exchange we had for a while, until a few weeks later. We had to partner up to play tennis. I asked her to partner with me and she happily agreed. We were cracking jokes and laughing nearly the whole time, and that was when I knew that we were going to be friends.

She invited me to sit with her and her friends during lunch. Apparently she saw me sitting alone every day, which I thought was mildly embarrassing. I gladly accepted her offer, and started to have great conversations with her nearly every day, and I was very happy for a while.

Two months pass in the blink of an eye and suddenly it’s December. December was a special month. That month, because of rising Covid-19 cases, no one in the district would be attending in person classes. We had virtual check-ins for every class twice a week, but besides that everything was online. I had no human contact aside from my mom and sister for an entire month. This was especially hard for me because I struggle to function without a constant flow around me, and a school is the perfect solution to that problem. What was I going to do without that?
I found out quickly that the month was going to be hard for me. For the entire month I struggled to do the work that was assigned to me, and I was constantly breaking down. I pushed myself to my limit every day attempting to work on school, but I could barely start, let alone get them all done to my fullest ability. By the end of December the missing assignments were piled on top of me with less than 2 weeks left until the end of the semester.

I made a plan to get my work down quickly so my semester grade wouldn’t be damaged too much. I got all of my work done during the weekend before the end of the quarter. Not my best work by any means, but it’s what had to be done.

 With my struggles behind me I went into the first day of the new semester with a positive attitude. As a result of this uplifting attitude, I made a new friend in PE, who will be referred to as Mia for the rest of the story. Mia was a friend of Jane, so it wasn’t very difficult for me to strike up conversations with her. We started walking in the hallways to and from class and talking more frequently. 

Shortly after we became friends, we were walking in the hallway to PE when we had a short exchange that quite literally changed my life.

“I wonder what we’re doing today,” I said. “I hope we aren’t doing volleyball again, my wrists are still sore from last time.” I’m not the best at playing volleyball, I hit the ball too hard with the wrong part of my hands.

“Someone told me we’re playing pickleball,” Mia replied as we entered the gym.

“Oh whadda you know,” I complained while pointing at the pickleball rackets, “you’re right.”

“Yup, I know. I always am,” she boasted. “You know I never thought I’d be friends with you.”
“What makes you say that?” I puzzled. That came out of nowhere.

“You’re my only guy friend, all my other friends are girls.” 

“Oh that’s funny, guess I’m special huh?” I joked while we split up to go to our assigned spots. 

I acted like I didn’t think much of it, but what she said stuck with me all throughout the day and even longer. Was I even really a guy? Of course I was. 

 I had never really thought about my gender before this. I’m currently being brought up very catholic, so even the thought that I was anything but “normal” was out of the question for me, but I guess it would make sense. I was always made fun of for being feminine and I never really felt like a man. I hated my body too, especially since puberty where it felt like my own body betrayed me day after day.

Still hesitant, I decided to go out of my comfort zone and try out different pronouns, after all it might give me some insight. 

The next day I told Mia to call me Violet, a name I chose based on my favorite color, and use she/her pronouns for me. At first it was kind of jarring, being referred to in a feminine way, however I quickly realized that being referred to this way felt more natural than anything else had previously. It was like having a pebble removed from your shoe after it’s been in there for 14 years.

After about a month, and a dozen different names (I decided to go back to the original one), I was certain that I was transgender. I was ready to inform my best friend, Jane, who was completely oblivious to all of this, that I wanted to be called something other than my birth name.

“Hey, Jane, can I tell you something?” I asked her while we were making our way to the cafeteria for lunch.

“Yeah of course you can,” she kindly responded. “You two can go ahead without us,” she said to her friends that were with us at the time.

“Promise you won’t tell anyone?”

“As long as you didn’t commit a crime,” she joked.

“I’m pretty sure that I’m trans and I would like you to call me Violet from now on,” I stammered. 

“Oh my God, you should’ve told me sooner, of course I will! Can I give you a hug?” she politely asked.

“Yes you can thank you.” 

I didn’t show it at the time, as I’ve always struggled with physically showing my emotions but I was very happy to have someone that accepted me completely, even if I still wasn’t certain of my identity.

Life went by as normal for the next couple of days, until something I didn’t ever think would happen, happened.

“Hey, let’s go outside and play volleyball,” Jane said to me. We played volleyball every day at lunch.

“Give me just a sec,” I stammered through a mouthful of food. We made our way from the lunch table to the doors when Jane’s friends started walking to us and asked us to wait. They usually played with us.

“Oh hi Jess,” I greeted Jess, one of Jane’s friends, as we walked to get the volleyball from the ball cart. 

“Hey Violet,” she replied nonchalantly.

I immediately ran to the bathroom. How did she know? Who told her? The thoughts rushed through my brain a mile a minute. How could she have known to call me that? I never told her anything, we barely know each other.

Jane must’ve told her, I thought. But why would she do that? Doesn’t she know how dangerous that is? She knows that my family isn’t accepting and that I would be in big trouble if my mother found out. I felt so lost. Betrayed by the one person I thought I could trust.

My sister has friends at this school, I thought to myself. What if they find out and out me to everyone? Mercy, my sister, will tell Mom for sure and I’ll be dead meat. I can’t have that happening. I don’t know what I’d do if she found out. I don’t know what SHE’D do if she found out.

I didn’t realize how much time had passed until I heard the bell ring. I quickly made my way to my next class, Ignoring the fact that Jane probably told everyone she knew my secret. The rest of the day was the most stress inducing one that year.

When I got home that night, I went to bed immediately, not wanting to deal with any of my problems any more than I had to.

I avoided Ari and her friends the next day, not wanting to deal with her outing me before I decided how to confront her about it. In my head I kept thinking about the possibilities of things I could say to her about this.

It took a while for me to calm down and decide what to say. I was going to tell her it wasn’t right for her to tell her friends about me being trans, although I’m sure it was with good intentions. I rehearsed this in my head over and over until right before I saw her for lunch. 

My head was spinning but I managed to spit out a few words. 

“Hey Ari, I need to talk to you.”

“Oh where’ve you been? I’ve hardly seen you lately. What do you need to talk to me about?” 

“It wasn’t very cool of you to tell your friends that I’m trans, that could lead to a very dangerous situation for me. My mom would be furious if she found out, ” I shakily explained to her.

“Oh I had no idea I’m so sorry, I’ll make sure they don’t tell anyone,” she thoughtfully responded. 

“I forgive you, thank you for your understanding,” I said, acknowledging her sincere response.

I ended up talking to all of her friends individually also and they promised not to tell anyone. I was very relieved to hear that they were so accepting. 

For the next few months of school I experimented with many different names and pronouns within my small circle of friends. I’m still trying out different names, but during this time I was trying a different name almost daily.

Today I still struggle with gender related problems. I’ve come out publicly in school, and all of my friends, new and old, are very accepting of my identity. But I still have to be careful about who I trust, as my family would still not accept me if they found out. When I told my mother about my sexuality she did an exorcism on me, so who knows what she would do if I told her about my gender identity. But my freshman year taught me one important message. No matter what you are going through, being your authentic self can help with even the smallest of problems.