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Northern California

“In fifth grade, a teacher shared that he was gay. It was the first time I’d heard about someone being gay or queer.”

“I’ve always known I was different, and thought I liked people of the same gender, too. I assumed I must be a lesbian, since there seemed to be only two options, straight or gay. But the label never really fit.

“When I told my friends I was a lesbian, they took it badly. I thought, I’m disgusting; an awful person.

“I needed support, and as a freshman I signed up for my high school’s GSA chapter, a space for LGBTQ students and their allies.

“Being around people who were not afraid to share their identity, I started to feel proud of who I was. I felt safe and understood. I got more involved and they introduced me to the GSA Youth Council. At the Council, they taught queer and trans history and I learned about the trans community.

“I was 14 and for the first time in my life I thought, that sounds like me, but I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t want to associate myself with being trans because of the labels and stigma.

“At the end of my freshman year, our GSA chapter was asked to lead a social justice assembly. I decided I had to accept myself for who I was, and I was ready to come out, to myself and to everyone in the whole school.

“The day before, I told my friends. They were proud of me, but sharing my trans mascule identity with them overwhelmed me. But my friends kept telling me, we love you, we accept you, why didn’t you tell us before?

“So I did it – I came out the next day at the assembly, in front of 2,000 people.=

“But there was one person who still didn’t know: my Latinx father, who raised me on his own. At first, my dad assumed I was telling him that I was gay, and he told me, I love you, you’re amazing, no matter what.

“I explained that I am not a girl, sharing that I was trans masculine and that I wanted to explore steps to be able to transition. He was angry– confused and anxious about what this meant for my future. I was so hurt and upset, trying to explain myself to him, to prove why I needed the hormones and the support to transition.

“Finally, he understood. I wasn’t doing this because I ‘wanted’ to –I was doing this because I had to.

“My dad taught me: people are learning with you. You may know everything about your identity and what that means to you, but that doesn’t mean everyone around you will know how to react to your truth.

“Even as I am more comfortable now being out as trans masculine, I worry our communities can get too caught up in labels. From the Latinx to the LGBTQ community, I hear people say there’s one way to be a man – whether you’re a cis man or a trans man. You can’t cry, you can’t dress like this, you can’t act like that.

“I am on a lifelong journey to understanding my own identity. But it’s not authentic to me to dress a certain way or behave the way people think I’m supposed to. I am going to live my life, I am going to dress how I want.

“Sharing our stories not only of coming out, but of living our lives, is so important. Otherwise, our histories get lost, since we are not included in schools or in textbooks. Yet, knowing our histories is the only thing that can give us hope.

“And, I am hopeful. Both because of living through what I’ve lived through, and from learning about the stories of other trans youth as well as elders in their own voices.

“Through GSA, I got involved with TRUTH (TRans yoUTH) where we publish trans stories, by trans youth for trans youth. I also attended gatherings where I heard directly from trans elders, including trans women of color. I learned that trans women of color are under constant attack.

“I want to support young people, Latinx men, queer and trans people of color – everyone – to be who they are, whoever that may be. And I want to make sure we’re not further harming already marginalized people in our communities, including trans women of color.

“We’re all in a process of learning and becoming. We have to show each other as well as our loved ones and communities all of who we are. There are so many different ways to be trans –there are so many different ways to be. I hope we can keep walking the road together, learning together, and being with each other.”

Sam Martinez-Tran is a GSA Youth Council leader in Northern California.

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