Widgets Magazine

OPINIONS

The Transitive Property: Homecoming

So, last week I went to my high school to speak about my experience as a trans person. I know that nobody is really what they were like in high school — but for me, it was kind of extreme. I don’t think many people switch genders after they graduate. (During my high school years, I went by my former name and gender pronouns.) So going back was, to say the least, perhaps one of the stranger things I’ve experienced in my life.

I’ll admit that I was pretty miserable during high school. I had low self-esteem, I was confused about my body and I had friends who taught me I didn’t deserve to be happy and that I’d never be good enough for anyone. I was also stressed out all the time — try taking every AP and honors class possible, playing sports, plus working as editor in chief of the school newspaper (Stanford students, I’m sure that you can relate wholeheartedly). Part of me is surprised I managed to get out of it alive.

Coming back was strange. Ms. Dwyer, my former honors English teacher (and I admit, the person who started my love for English), met me at the front desk, and we headed toward the room where I was going to speak. I passed by classroom after classroom, recalling I had English there, AP U.S. history there. I remembered where my old locker was. I could even recall where I sat during class. The bell rang the same incessant ring that had separated my days into chunks and made each day rhythmic and familiar — and the high schoolers streamed out, clutching their books, talking among themselves, opening and slamming shut lockers, walking like turtles with their overstuffed backpacks. They were so young, and yet, I remembered when I was that young — I remembered when I was always nervous, always risking damage to my spine from carrying around more books than recommended by an orthopedic doctor. It was all so familiar.

But at the same time, it didn’t feel like my school at all. It was as if some phantom had occupied this space of me while I was in high school, and I could no longer claim this space as my own. The soul who currently took up my body was merely a shell of who I was back then — or maybe back then I was merely a shell of who I am now. Either way, the person who had gone to high school in my body and the person now seemed like two completely different people — hell, they literally were two different people.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. No doubt, I did feel old. I thought that I’d get maybe a max of 10 students. I then discovered, much to my amusement and horror, that my visit had been publicized school-wide. My arrival was announced on their school-wide television broadcasts and everything. And when I arrived, each chair was occupied — we had a full house. And I was terrified.

It was awkward at first. I said my hellos, introduced myself. The mere sentence “Hi, I’m Cris. I’m a senior at Stanford studying English and feminist studies” made me sound a lot more impressive than I actually was. But from the beginning, they were riveted. I told my life story, how I was confused during high school, the two times I came out. I even read two of my columns. I just started talking, and for the first time, I managed to form a coherent narrative of my life. I was surprised they were so interested in me, of all people.

The residual bitterness I felt about my high school years slowly faded away as I spoke. As I heard my voice speak, I came to terms with myself, with my past experiences. Yeah, high school wasn’t the best for me — I was moody and miserable and confused most of the time — but all that moodiness and misery and confusion allowed me an opportunity to grow, to learn, to mature. I managed to feel out who I was and who I wasn’t. I realized that while I was rambling on that podium. Perhaps for the first time standing there, on my high school campus, I genuinely felt at ease. I genuinely felt — happy. I wasn’t vying for anyone’s attention or approval anymore. The students there respected and acknowledged me as me, as Cristopher. And to be acknowledged in a space where I didn’t feel acknowledged at all when I was a student — that meant a lot to me.

So thank you, students of Moreau Catholic High School. You may have learned a lot from me, but I learned a lot from you, too.

Cristopher has been going through a lot of self-realizations these past couple weeks, apparently. E-mail him at cmsb@stanford.edu.