I went through a huge life realization this past week. Maybe it’s because I’m a senior, and it’s about time I made big life realizations or else I’d be a bit screwed. Or maybe it’s because of this column, which has made me really think about my life. Or maybe it was because this past week was Transgender Awareness Week, where I met so many big figures in the transgender rights movement, and I thought about my own role in the trans community and what I can do for a movement that’s 30 years behind the LGB movement. Or maybe I wanted to procrastinate from doing my CS106A homework.
I remember when I was first transitioning, I felt so alienated, so alone. I didn’t think there was anybody like me in the world. It was a time in my life that I felt hopeless, and I was at the point of giving up. Ever since I was younger, I was told I didn’t deserve to be happy, that I didn’t deserve to have what the “normal” people had. My own narrative didn’t follow the “normal” narratives, and as a result, that made me an outsider, a freak. I was taught that it wasn’t any use arguing, I deserved to take all the blame for whatever happened to me — and I kept hammering that message into my head, even well into my senior year.
Now, when I’ve got a whole week devoted to people like me, it certainly helps with the self-esteem. I met some of the most visible and well-known transgender activists in the community. I listened to Willy Wilkinson, a transgender person who specializes in providing healthcare for transgender folks. I met Danielle Askini, the National Program Manager of the GSA Network. I had tea with Autumn Sandeen, a transwoman who handcuffed herself to the White House fence to protest against “don’t ask, don’t tell.” I met Rocco Kayiatos (aka Katastrophe) a trans-identified rapper who founded one of my favorite trans-centered magazines (I even landed an internship for it! Joy!). I talked to Jamison Green, a transgender man who has helped draft pro-transgender legislation and is one of the most famous transgender activists in the world (and I discovered, much to my elation, that he lives in my hometown). It was seriously like Christmas. Every day.
It wasn’t until this past week that I realized I’ve come a long way since that day sophomore year during Dead Week of fall quarter, when I came out to myself after an extensive Wikipedia search. I realized, as I sat riveted by their speeches and performances and in my conversations with them, that when I grew up, I wanted to be just like them. They forged paths to help the people who would come after them live easier lives, lives of a higher standard. It’s been a slow realization — something I’ve been slowly approaching through each of my columns — but every time I meet another transgender person, every time I think about what I’m going to write about next week, every time I get into a conversation about transgender issues, I realize that I want to help out those young transgender kids who are yet to come out. They deserve better than what we’re getting today. Transgender Awareness Week was merely a taste of what I want to do. Although that week will have long passed by the time these kids come out, just the fact that it all happened in the first place is more than significant. It’s part of our transgender history and our transgender community. And I helped out with that. My experiences during Transgender Awareness Week only further my drive to join this cause, to define my life in terms of activism. I’ve actually started looking for jobs at non-profits in San Francisco.
Things are changing. At Vaden, there’s now a third option, “transgender,” besides male and female. Your preferred name, not your legal name, now appears on your unofficial transcripts. The Stanford Services Center is working on the ID issues, so for the next trans kid, it won’t take two years to get a new ID. With the ROTC debate, transgender people are being talked about, thought about, not just at a Stanford level, but nationwide. And I’m a voice in this debate. If you had told me this as a terrified sophomore in college, I wouldn’t have believed you.
I’m growing into somebody, and I’m not quite sure who yet, exactly, but I’m headed towards something new, something beyond essays and problem sets and parties and toward something I saw in those people I met during this past week. I am becoming the person I was meant to be. I thought I’d be terrified. But I’m not. I’m growing up. And it feels good.
Cristopher likes life revelations. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.