Finding His Inner Self

Senior Alexander Schmitz overcomes struggles of being transgender

Priya Kukreja, Co-Editor-In-Chief

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As senior Alexander Schmitz thinks back to his sophomore year, there is one conversation that stands out in his mind. He was at a cast party sitting outside with a group of people. When the topic of transpeople came up, Schmitz shared what he knew about gender realignment surgeries. His friend asked him a foreshadowing question, “Is that something you would ever want to do?”
Schmitz hesitated. He said “no.”

At the time, Schmitz was unclear about what the process of transition meant for him. It had not clicked that being trans was going to be a defining aspect of Schmitz’s identity.

“Sometimes if I look back on my life, there’s a lot of signs that I should have seen, or that my parents should have seen. And now it seems pretty obvious,” Schmitz said.

Schmitz started to think he was trans during the summer after his sophomore year. He feels as if a part of him has always known, though he could not put a name to it. Growing up with two older brothers, people often threw around the word “tom-boy” to describe Schmitz.

“Before I figured it out, I was very insecure about a lot of things. I always hated my name and I didn’t know why. I just didn’t like when people called me that,” Schmitz said.

Upon telling his mother and going to see a therapist soon after, Schmitz began to come to terms with the reality of his situation. He cut his hair, bought new clothes, wore a binder to flatten his chest, and began to go by the name Alexander. Alec for short.

Looking back, Schmitz’s mother, Micki Hoffee, took some time to ease into the idea of Schmitz being trans.

“It was introduced to me slowly, maybe intentionally, with things like ‘I don’t really like my name,’ or in choosing clothes and shoes that were more boyish or androgynous. The pivotal news that my daughter is a boy hit me pretty hard. I honestly didn’t see it coming,” Hoffee said.

During his freshman and sophomore years, Schmitz struggled with anxiety, depression, and fairly bad grades. But as his confidence increased after he began to transition, Schmitz maintained a 4.0 GPA through his last two years of high school.

“There was a lot of anger and confusion and insecurity. Then after I had chosen a name and after people started using the right pronouns, it was like this weight completely lifted off of me. I could breathe and I could focus on things that mattered,” Schmitz said.

While transitioning entails different steps for different people, so far, Schmitz’s transition has included changing his physical appearance and coming out socially. He has considered taking hormone treatments in the future as well.

Coming out on Facebook was one of the first steps that Schmitz took to socially transition. He told a few of his friends first. His mom, dad, and brothers followed.

“I never struggled with a preference of who my kid wants to date. But this was different. Deeper. I was terrified—sometimes still am—that this amazing mother/daughter bond and the almost creepy way that we just ‘get’ each other is going to dissolve into a testosterone-infused disconnected version of its former self,” Hoffee said.

Schmitz had a short conversation with his mom when coming out as trans. He was sitting in class when he sent his dad the email explaining his situation. While both were a bit hesitant at first, they began to come to term with Schmitz’s reality once they saw a positive shift in his confidence and happiness.

“My general mindset is to let it ride. I understand a need to make changes so that the life around you fits the life within you. If this is the right path then it will always be the right path,” Hoffee said.

Schmitz’s friends played a large role in creating a supportive and understanding community. MN 2015 graduate Alexandria Yakes was especially supportive of Schmitz as a friend through his entire process.

“Alec told me he was trans a few weeks before I left for college. I could tell he was very nervous to have that conversation with me. Who wouldn’t be? But as soon as he told me I could actually see him physically relax. We spent the next few hours talking about new names and what his future would look like. Rarely do I see Alec as happy as he was that night,” Yakes said.

Schmitz was actually so fond of his relationship with his best friend Yakes, he chose his name, Alexander, based on her name, Alexandria.

“She’s been the rock for me, fighting against bigoted people and fighting against people that say horrible things to me,” Schmitz said.

When Schmitz came out as trans, he understood that everyone would not be accepting. Over time, he has learned how to deal with people who have malicious intent.

“When people deliberately call me by my birth name or call me she/her, it just hurts. It feels like I’m being disrespected and ignored and invalidated. It’s a very infuriating feeling. But also, people come to my defense and it makes me feel a little bit better to be reminded who stands behind me,” Schmitz said.

Schmitz’s journey of coming out to his true gender identity has seen hardships, support, and struggle. In the end, he’s found a way to become secure in himself and his future.

“Alec gained a clearer picture of how he will create the future he wants for himself. At the same time, I’ve seen him really struggle with navigating this brand new world. I admire him for his strength,” Yakes said.

Doubt is an inevitable of any major life change, but Schmitz has been able to overcome those uncertainties by being secure in himself.

“I still have moments of doubt that are like ‘Am I making this up?’ because the voice in my head wants me to be making it up. I know it would be a lot easier to not be trans. So I have doubt in myself, but usually that’s overcome by me realizing ‘No, this is what I’m meant to be,’” Schmitz said.

Although getting to where he is at hasn’t been easy, Schmitz has finally reached a place where he is firm in his identity. As he explains, “This is who I am.”

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