Being Transgender in High School
Learn what it's like to be Grayson, a transgender male attending his freshman year in high school. We'll discuss relationships, mental health, and even pick up some advice along the way!
This article is a transcription from an episode of the Life With Leyva podcast. If you'd like to listen along or check out other episodes, click here!
Jasmine: Hey, everyone! Welcome to the Life With Leyva podcast where we talk about mental health, conspiracy theories, sexuality, feminism, and gender. More specifically, today we’re going to be talking about being transgender at the age of fourteen. With me today is my younger brother, Grayson. Grayson came out to us as transgender a few years ago and has been living as a boy ever since.
Grayson: Hello, um, I’m Grayson, I’m 14, and I’m a freshman in high school, and uh—yeah! I’m transgender; female to male.
Awesome, so um, I know the answer to most of these questions ‘cause I’m your sister…
Uh, but I think it’s good to express these opinions and experiences out into the world so we can help any other underage transgender people out there. So, let me ask you a few questions and we’ll just get started.
Were you nervous to come out to your teachers and students?
Um, yes—I think anybody would be, just, like, generally—and it's not more of a fact as like, they "won't accept" you—depending on different people, it's a different subject to bring up because you can't just look at someone and know their beliefs on everything. Whenever you do tell someone, it's like you're pulling out random cards, not really knowing what you're doing and hoping that the person understands what you're talking about.
With teachers, it's better ‘cause teachers have been around longer. And people might think, "oh it’s the students," ‘cause, y’know, they’re born in this age so they’ll be more accepting, but I found that more teachers come to understand and take the time to understand more than, um, students. Students are very… y’know.
It’s a mixed bag, I think.
Yeah—and it also depends, like, where you come from and generally what schools or, y’know, public places you visit very frequently. For my school, there’s a lot of the same kind of people, and so it’s either they don’t really care, or they’ll—they’ll make some side comments or opinions about it. But, come to my attention, I’ve actually found at least ten or more female-to-man transgender people at my school.
Yeah, and I know one who has actually had top surgery and has been on hormones. It’s—it’s pretty cool. But, um, that’s basically the whole anxiety thing about it.
Right, yeah, I can imagine. Was it, like, was it what you were expecting when you told people?
Um, it actually wasn’t on so many different levels. I thought that—I didn’t come out in middle school and, with the teachers that I thought would be more accepting about it, weren’t. And the teachers who I thought maybe they weren’t gonna be accepting of it were the most accepting. It’s, like it’s very mixed. I don’t know. It’s very, uh—it’s very iffy. You can't—it’s one of those things you can’t really guess.
You have to figure out once you do it. And once you do it, there’s no going back so you can’t be like, "haha, just kidding, bye!"
[Laughs] Right—um, what has been your, like, by far, worst experience with it?
Um, my worst experience so far with being transgender was, um—middle school was fine. I didn’t have a lot of, um, bad experiences there. And I think that’s just ‘cause, y’know—in middle school, you’re more kind of babied because it’s, like, the middle of elementary and high school so, they tone down some things.
But with high school, I think my worst experience so far was, um… bathroom issues. And with transgender people, y’know they use the bathroom that, y’know, they want to use. So, a male-to-female person would use the female restroom because they’re a female. And, y’know a female to male person would use male bathroom, etc. Um, I generally avoided the topic of using the restrooms just because, um, I didn’t feel comfortable in general.
And—and you knew it would be a shit storm, pretty much.
Yeah! And so I told myself at the beginning of the year, I was like "you know what? We’re just gonna avoid all use of public restrooms." [Laughs] But one day, I really had to use the restroom, and I had went up personally to my theatre teacher. And this is one of those things where it’s like, you try to guess on how the person feels about it, um, and I thought my theatre teacher would be more understanding, I guess. And I was like, "Is there any gender-neutral bathrooms or—do you know of that I could use, like could I use the nurse’s restroom?" And, she was like, "Well honey, what were you born with?"
And I told her I am a biological female and she knows that I was transgender because I had briefly explained it to all of my teachers in the beginning of the year. And she was like, "Why don’t you take Morgan..."—which is another student in the theatre class—"...to go with you to the female’s restroom and she can look inside all of them to make sure there’s no females in there." So I had walked around for 15 minutes with this girl named Morgan by my side, looking in every single women’s restroom in the building to make sure there were no females in them.
And while on the way to the restrooms, she stopped by and hung out with like five of her female friends and just said: "Oh, um this is Grayson, I’m just taking her to the restroom."
And at the time, I had started filling in my facial hair because that’s just, y’know one of the things I like to do. And they all stared at me, and looked at me like I was crazy! [Laughs] So, I remember going into the restroom, and then a storm of females came in, and um… let me just say, that’s—y’know if you have a transgender friend, and there’s an issue that comes with this, just don’t do that ever. [Laughs]
That’s one of the worst experiences I’ve had, and I’m kinda glad that’s the worst because I know that, y’know everywhere else, there are way worse things that could be happening, so.
Yeah. Um, what about the best experience you had?
Um, let me think about that...
Like, in high school.
My best experience would probably be, um—I got called in the principal’s office and, um, in my school they make us wear student IDs. So—I think that’s a thing with all schools, and it’s just a—y’know, identify who you are and make sure you’re not like a random person walking around in the halls. And my ID had said the name given to me at my birth. And it’s… not Grayson. [Laughs] And um, our ID had to be visible and the names and the pictures and stuff because it, like, had y’know our student ID, a little barcode to like scan it, y’know just—you couldn’t flip it over.
So I was forced to wear it and, y’know people would call me that and it would make me extremely uncomfortable and I had—y’know I tried to verbalize this to the front office, saying, "Hey, y’know, could I get an ID with this name on it?" And I got told a lot that, y’know it wouldn’t happen. And Jasmine—
Jasmine actually plays a part in this. She sent an email to my teachers—
—even the principal! And I got called to the principal’s office, I was walking down, and I was like "Oh God, what did I do, it’s been the first week of school and I’m already, like, dead in trouble." So I get called in the principal’s office, and she’s like, "So, I received an email from your sister," and I was like "Oh dear Jesus what did it say?" [Laughs] And I had gotten a student ID with my preferred name on it! And not only that—that, y’know, made me feel amazing—she gave me a list of gender-neutral, single-use bathrooms, uh, in the school.
Uh, turns out there’s a lot, so thanks, Morgan.
Um, she gave me a list of all of the gender neutral bathrooms, like a map, um… not only that, but she had said that if there were any periods that I would like to change, because of, y’know, being uncomfortable in, that I would be able to, and she said that um—[Laughs] She’d mentioned in the email that had been referred, um… that I had tried to get in some male classes. Like, male dance—or, y’know, liked gendered classed.
And I wasn’t allowed in male ones, because I was female. And she said, "I just want to let you know right now that you can go in the male classes, so if you also wanna change those classes in the second semester, you can..." I was, y’know, given all of these amazing things and it made me feel really nice—and on the way back to my class, wearing my new ID, getting a groove on, I got called "Mr. Smoot!" That was the icing on the cake, like "alright!" Good way to start the day.
[Laughs] That’s, that’s cute!
That’s—that’s the best experience I’ve had, and y’know, it’s little moments like those that just kinda like—they give me hope, so, yeah.
Yeah, that’s awesome! So, like, I know that some of your friends that you had in middle school transferred over to the friends you have now in high school.
Um, was it difficult for them to adjust whenever you came out as transgender to them? Like, did they have a hard time with it?
Um, this is gonna sound surprising to Jasmine, but my best friend who I’ve hung out with for, I think like three or four years now, Kaya, was actually one of my friends who took the most to adjust to.
Yeah! At first, for like the first two weeks of me coming out, my friend Kaya did not call me "Grayson" or he or him, and she told me, she was like, um—that she was still warming up to it, and she was like—she explains her backstory or whatever as to why it’s hard, and y’know—that didn’t make me angry or anything. Like I wasn’t angry at it because, y’know I know how hard it is to adjust, but, it took my friend Kaya at least like a month to really start getting in the hang of it. My other friends—it took them like three hours max to remember everything.
And I was actually extremely surprised! I was met with a lot of love, and now—now that I’m in high school, everyone—like, no one even knows my previous name. So, y’know, it’s pretty nice.
Yeah, that’s awesome!
Yeah, it’s really cool, but if—if like, there are people who are listening and they’re having struggles with people who are, like, y’know, no one’s warming up to it yet—it’s very difficult for them to adjust, what do I do? Just—just time, and patience. And I know how hard it is to just want to punch someone in the face because they’re just like "Yeah but it makes me uncomfortable to call you that!" Like I’ve been there sister, I’m sorry!
Grayson: But, just -- just patience and a smile, and if all else fails, y’know -- and you’re feeling kinda... not manly -- I’m just kinda specifying trans guys here -- just take a bottle of mascara and put a mustache on! It works every time! Just -- wow, so manly, look at that!
[Laughs] Right, um—do you think you’re at a disadvantage because of your age?
Yes. I think that younger people, generally teenagers, who come out as anything—who are like, "Oh, I’m—y’know, I’m gay! Or y’know, oh I’m bisexual!" Or, they’re like "Oh, I’m trans!" I feel like that not a lot of us are taken seriously, and maybe it’s because adults are used to young people going through, y’know, quote-unquote "phases" or they’re used to young people not knowing exactly, because they haven’t been around that long. And, um, I would just like for all young or—youth LGBTQ+ people to be taken seriously!
Like I wouldn’t feel—I wouldn’t feel I had a disadvantage if people would really sit down and be like "okay this is a serious thing," and if—if it was a phase, the very small chance that anything was a phase, and a person comes up to you and says "Oh, I’m this," and they change later on—it should still be taken seriously. I mean, that’s what builds character.
So, um, that’s—yeah, sometimes I do feel as if I were at a disadvantage. Also because it’s really hard—it’s harder to get like, y’know, LGBT resources as a youth because, y’know, you’re not eighteen yet so you don’t really have all of this… openness to be like, "Oh I have a car, I can drive places, like a gender therapist." And you depend on your parents a lot, which some of us don’t have exactly, y’know accepting parents and won’t allow us to have those resources. So, yeah there's definitely disadvantages at being… youthful.
Um, do you think it can have its perks, though?
It does, definitely have its perks! It’s—as a youth, being LGBT, you have a very wide look on the world around you. And not only that, but like I said, you don’t really have a lot of grown-up outlets, so you don’t really have a car, and you don’t really have, y’know, responsibilities which can be a disadvantage, but you can also use it as an advantage. Not having adult responsibilities, but y’know being in high school you can typically have more fun, and I just feel like you don’t stress as much. I mean you do stress because, y’know, there’s -- being trans isn’t fun. But there are moments as a youthful person where you can have an open mind, a better mind, and you’re just generally a kid. And being a kid is cool!
[Laughs] Yeah! Um, do you think you would have a different experience with being transgender in college, than instead of high school?
Um, you would definitely have a different experience. And I think that’s ‘cause college is like, y’know, "Okay, you’re 18 now, get it together."
There’s not really—I mean there is room for some, like, messing around and fun because—
Well, yeah, there’s all kinds of college parties and stuff. [Laughs]
Yeah! But I’ve heard more—since I’m not in college, I’m 14 [laughs]—I’ve heard more bad experiences in college with being transgender than good ones. And I’m not exactly sure why, but you—you definitely have different experiences with being in college than in high school because you’re way older—four years older—
Got more freedom, I guess.
Yeah! You have, y’know you have a car sooner, um… classes are different, I know classes are different. And you—depending on what kind of college or university you go to, you’d stay with someone in a room, which could be an advantage or a disadvantage with trans people because some trans people would be like, "I don’t want anyone to know, so it’s gonna be pretty hard to, y’know, kind of be myself in front of another person when I don’t want them to know these things." At the same time, it can have it’s advantages because that person could also coincidentally be the same thing, and just—yeah.
Right. Um, do you think that being transgender has forced you to grow up in a way?
Definitely, and I think it’s because—this doesn’t apply to every single trans person because there’s so many different pathways you could walk with being transgender, but—with me typically, it’s like, I want to grow up, and I want to have these things, y’know, that happened to guys whenever they grow up. So, being transgender, my mind just kinda physically forces myself to try to get there because it doesn’t know how to get there naturally because I’m not naturally born that way. So it’s like, "Okay we need to find ways to grow up and catch up with all these other people because they’re growing up without you." So, I’m just like, running, trying to catch up to all these people, and—it’s a lot. [Laughs] That’s basically—I don’t know if that makes sense or not.
And like—feeling this way about yourself has—makes you realize a lot. Which makes me realize, y’know, I gotta get my big-boy pants on and be a man and do all these things. And anyway that you take it; it could mean growing up metaphorically or physically or mentally, or… educationally; I don’t know, you wanna be a—you wanna be a professor, go for it, y’know?
Yeah. [Clears throat] Uh, do you think that being young and transgender has kind of affected the way that you, like, express yourself? Like through clothing, and makeup and stuff like that?
Yeah, yeah, totally. That—that’s kind of like, another I guess, perk of being young: is that—you don’t really—you’re just more… open. And traditionally boy things, yes—I wear traditionally boy things all the time. But don’t we all? Y’know?
There’s girls at my school who wear flannel shirts all the time; they wear, y’know, sometimes they wear suits on Fridays if they feel classy! I um, I know a guy who—he—I never spoken to him, I only noticed him because his backpack is this, like, this very aesthetic pastel flower backpack. Everything about him is masculine, except his backpack. And I’m just like...
"What led you to, like, choose that backpack? The amount of not-caring that you possess while wearing this backpack makes me have a sense of comfort." That’s—y’know, being young, you can experiment with things! And, y’know, I’ll roll up to school one day wearing a Jojo Siwa belt. Like, it’s open! And people don’t really question you, either. I noticed that more adults question my actions than students! I’ll roll up in—I have a bow in, today! It’s a very tiny, like tie-dye rainbow bow and I wore it, and I got tons of compliments! They’re like, "I like your bow!" And I’m like, "Thanks!" But... it can definitely have an effect on the way you express yourself because I feel like you don’t feel limited, because you have so many options! You wanna wear some eyeliner? Go for it! Wear a tux? Go for it! Nothing’s off limits.
[Laughs] How does being trans affect your friendships? Like has anybody ever just kinda, left because you came out as trans?
There is—there are people who, once they figured out I was trans, yeah. Um, it’s either that, or they just… they wouldn’t care about the—y’know, they wouldn’t care about the friendship, they would just care about asking me extremely personal questions.
Which, y’know, it’s kind of—y’know, it’s unsettling! ‘Cause—
It’s like, why do they care so much, y'know?
Yeah! What—what’s in my pants and what I was biologically born as; you wouldn't ask a person who didn’t say they were transgender that. I wouldn’t ask you that, ‘cause I don’t care! What I do with my—y’know it’s my body! What I do with it doesn’t really have to affect you, so—
There are a couple of people who, y’know—friendships, they definitely get affected. And I know some people who treat me differently now that I—y’know, once I say that I’m a boy, um… and that could be a good thing because they’re like "Oh, then I’ll treat you as one of the boys," y’know? And then it could also be a bad thing because they could also just not care about what my personality is, except for the fact that I say I’m a boy.
Right—um, do you think it has affected your romantic relationships?
Um—[Laughs] You have no idea. I think that—romantic relationships; it’s difficult to be in a romantic relationship whenever you are transgender. Not only because you’re a youth, but because you don’t like yourself. [Laughs] I’ve always had a fear that anybody that I say, "Hey, I like you, would you like to date me?" And that person says "yes," and let’s say that by the very shortest shot, we stick it out, y’know? For a while. And once I start taking hormones, and my body starts changing, and y’know, I start being more masculine, that person is suddenly not attracted to me anymore.
Tat is the most biggest fear of mine; that the second that I change and the second my physical appearance has been modified, and I have all the things I want, that person is like "Oh, I liked you before as this thing, why are you this thing now?" Especially with roles in a relationship, it’s like typically guys are the leaders. They’re like, "Oh, I will take this girl out," um, and there are some situations where people have treated me as the "woman" role, or the "submissive" role, and I’m just—I don’t like this because I’m supposed to be taking you out, sir!
It’s—it’s definitely has affected, like, romantic things because I’ll be like, "Oh, this person is really nice and stuff, but I wonder how they’ll react whenever they figure out that I have to go through all of this hormone treatment that I want, or go through top surgery and all this." It’s kind of discouraging because—‘cause I’m different.
Yeah… so how do you deal with people who are transphobic? Like, do you tell them off, or do you just kinda ignore them?
Um, well, I try to understand. Because I don’t wanna be like them, and just because I don’t understand something, I bash it—so I try to understand. I think that’s the biggest thing. If a person is—there’s a big difference. If a person is transphobic just because they don’t like it, and they don’t want to understand it, then I might be violent. [Laughs] Not violent, but I might snap back. And it’s—it’s just like an impulse thing. I mean if someone were telling you off and saying all these things about you that hurt you, y’know—it’s one of those things where you just do it. But if somebody was unintentionally hurting other people with their words because they didn’t understand something, I would try to understand so I could let them understand so there’s nothing mixed in translation, I suppose. Because the last thing I wanna do is yell at someone, or be angry with somebody. That may not apply to all people; some people may wanna just get straight to the point and start yelling, but with me, I feel like the last thing I wanna do is add more gas to the fire. So I’ll sit down with someone and be like, "Hey! Just… do you wanna talk about it?" [Laughs]
[Laughs] So, we kinda talked about this in the beginning: do you think that the younger generations have an easier time accepting the LGBTQA+ community than, like, older generations, such as the baby boomer generation?
It honestly, from being around different kinds of teenagers and different kind of adults, it’s very—like it’s very, y’know… you never know what you’re gonna get. I’ve found that a lot of the teachers at my school are accepting, and a lot of them have even helped me in trying to be like "hey, y’know, are you having struggles with this? ‘Cause I can help you with that." But then there’s also kids at my school who don’t accept it, and who are weirded out by it or don’t understand so they snap at it, kind-of-thing. I find that it’s—it’s very, um, mixed. In my area, there’s a lot of people who accept. And it could be younger generations, older generations—it really depends on what people are told whenever they’re growing up. And it’s—it’s very confusing, but I will say, I've met some very openly LGBT students at my school. There’s—actually, fun fact—there’s a GSA club, which is ‘Gay-Straight-Alliance’ club.
Yeah, they had that club when I went to that school.
Yeah, there’s like a whole community, I guess! So, that’s basically the scoop.
Yeah, I think that the area that we’re both from is pretty open and accepting of it, thankfully. So now I’m just gonna kinda ask you some questions that I think will be good for you to reflect on in the future, when you’re a little bit older—what kind of advice would you give your younger self?
Um, just—I know it’s confusing now, and I know you’re still trying to figure yourself out, ‘cause dang I was a weird kid, but—just do what you need to to be happy, and don’t care so much about what other people say. Because you’re a kid, and whenever it’s time, you’ll learn that people will say things and they’ll try to hurt you with them, and you need to learn now that you don’t care! Do not care! Just—don’t care what other people say, try to figure yourself out, you’re still young. High school is hard, but it’s okay ‘cause we’re getting better!
Okay! And what’s something that you don’t want your older self to forget?
I don’t want my older self to forget the hard things that I went through with transitioning. And I think that the first thing I would want to when I’m older and I finally have all the surgeries that I want and I have all the hormones that I want—I think the first thing I’d want to forget is how difficult it was to get through high school and see, y’know, guys going through puberty and me being stuck. But I think it’s very important to remember the fact that you struggled because you can appreciate the things that you’ve earned whenever you grow up and you finally get these things. You learn to say, "I went so long without having this and I finally have it" and reflecting back and being like, "wow, that was so tough, and now I finally have it, I’m so grateful that I do."
Well, I think that’s all the questions I have! I think that wraps it up on the first official podcast, uh, Life With Leyva! I totally forgot to introduce myself at the beginning but my name is Jasmine and I am the main host, and for the rest of the episodes and probably all of the episodes from here on, I’m gonna have somebody on with me, talking about various things; mental health, sexuality, gender, and all that fun stuff. So that’s about it, we’ll see you next time!
See you later!