I attend a private Christian school in a fairly conservative part of the Midwest, but I decided at the beginning of the school year that I was tired of being closeted. I came out at school as transgender, and teachers and classmates began using preferred name and pronouns. I didn’t come in with a list of demands, but instead respected the boundaries and reservations of those around me in hopes that they would respect me in return. Early in the year, I got to choose the name for my diploma, graduation, and the yearbook. Or so I thought. In late January, my principal informed me that there are had been parent complaints and the school board was reevaluating my situation and the potential harm to my school. Understandably upset, I wrote a letter to the school board explaining my situation. I talked about how I had no desire to be a pioneer, but merely wanted to live authentically in my final year of high school. I stated my goals for transition, which are “to remain calm in the face of opposition and ignorance, educate people on transgender issues to hopefully prevent discrimination based on lack of knowledge, and when people come after me for who I am, to stand up with pride.” I discussed how the response I’d received had been positive as my teachers, peers and mentors have accepted me and respect my journey to self acceptance. I also expressed my hurt at their concerns about the potential harms to my school and asked them to reconsider their decision, as I wished to finish off the last few months of my senior year as smoothly as possible.
The school board met with my parents who shared my letter, but the results were less than I’d hoped for. The yearbook will read how I want it to, but all graduation related information will be under my birth name. It is completely legal for my school to do this because it’s a private institution, but it’s still disheartening and frustrating. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been questioning whether I really have a place in the school that I’ve attended for the last fifteen years. I’ve been reflecting, and the most influential lesson I’ve taken away from the last six weeks is that the negative reactions do not take away from the positive ones.
I had low expectations when coming out, fully believing that my teachers or peers would push back against me. Much to my surprise, however, it went smoothly. The people in my life who really matter have embraced me. I have been struggling to accept that I have any place in my school, but I was too distracted by the conservative drama to realize that the positivity of my peers was proof that I belonged. This isn’t exclusive to me; I’ve known many people to become completely bogged down in the negative and forget all the good. This does nothing but hurt everyone involved. My friends, family and teachers have stood beside me and offered their support, so while this may be a low point in the early stages of my transition, it does not define my relationship with my school.
It’s hard to be different. There will always be people who fight back against your existence or life choices, and it will hurt. However, their uneducated opinion shouldn’t be what defines interaction with an entire community of people.
About LGBTQ+ of FIRST
LGBTQ+ of FIRST is an organization dedicated to raising awareness and acceptance of LGBTQ+ participants in FIRST Robotics. LGBTQ+ of FIRST was started to spread visibility of the LGBTQ+ community within FIRST and help teams become safe spaces for their members.