Narrative Interviews

Students share stories about discovering their gender identity

Chase Stokes

When did you first realize you were trans? Had you ever considered it before?
It was the summer after my sophomore year band camp. We had done a gender swap for our Wednesday theme. That was when I was like “this doesn’t feel wrong,” and I first started questioning it. Now it has just expanded.

I always felt more like I just wasn’t a feminine person, a quote unquote “girly girl.” My mom grew up tom-boyish, so I never felt like it was out of the ordinary for me to be that way. But I never had the words for it. I think that in order for you to know when you’re young, you have to have the vocabulary for it. You have to have the knowledge that it’s acceptable. I didn’t have the knowledge to correctly identify what I was feeling.

What word do you identify with now?
I identify as a transgender male. I started out as a demigirl and then moved through the binary, in a way. For a while, I identified as agender. I asked a couple of my friends to use they/them pronouns for me. I was originally very uncomfortable about being a transgender guy. That just didn’t sit right with me. There is just a lot of things about hyper-masculinity and toxic-masculinity that didn’t feel right. Then, I identified as a demiboy. I just kept moving closer to this male identity. I started going by a different name. There was a time when being transmale felt more right to me, even with all the pressure that comes with it.

How did you feel about your transition in terms of security or confidence?

I’m sure there are times in my past when I’ve doubted it, but they aren’t prevalent enough to me to cause doubt now. It’s the same way that you doubt what major you’re going to choose in college. It’s a big thing. And when I first came out to my parents, my mom was like “this is a big thing.” At the time, I was like “yeah mom, but this is who I am. Understand me. God.” But I know it was a big thing. And for a lot of parents, it can be scary. So I understand where it was coming from. As I’ve been referred to as “Chase” or as “he” more often, it makes me more confident in both myself and my transition.

What it is like being trans in high school?
I’m in IB, which is a fairly liberal program and a lot of our teachers are very accepting. Especially Mr. Geerts, he has been my homie since day one and I’ve never doubted that he’s had my back. The other day, Magistra Kolander corrected someone about my pronouns. I’ve never felt out of place. There are always people who you can be with.

Kai Meacham

What do you identify as? What does it mean to you?
I am agender. To me, that means that I don’t have a gender. I am genderless. Gender has never been a thing in my life. It has never existed to me. I feel like a lot of times people just see pink and blue. They see the binary. I have never seen anything like that. When people say things like “you can’t do things that boys can’t do” when you’re little, I would wonder why it matters. Gender never clicked in my head as a thing until someone asked me if I had ever questioned my gender.

Being agender I don’t have any stereotypes. It’s a blessing and curse. I can build my own road and everything about it is valid. That’s what I want to do, but then other people have no concepts of stereotypes surrounding this.

When did you first question your gender?
I feel like it’s just been a life thing. When I was a kid, I was a “tom-boy” and that’s just what my mom thought. As time went by, just hearing my name made me uncomfortable. I felt dysphoric, which is the feeling you get when you look in the mirror and don’t recognize yourself. I found “Kai” online and it was close to my birth name. If I needed to, I could say it was a nickname. Every time I had to write my birth name, it felt like a job. It was physically taxing. I had no attachment to that name. It’s just weird to write down a name that you know isn’t yours.

When and how did you start telling people that you were nonbinary?

I told my mom in the car that I was agender and I had to explain so many terms to her. There is a lot of vocabulary. She was just like “okay.” The thing that she was thinking was just that this doesn’t exist. This is not a real thing. What you’re telling me is all just these fake words that you found online that you want to use. A lot of it was just not believing me at first.

What would you say to someone who is not accepting of gender deviant identities?
Just have a conversation with one of us. See that we’re not just seeking attention. We don’t put ourselves through the pain that we go through, physical and mental pain because we want attention. We actually do not feel connected to the gender that we were assigned to. I put myself through what I do to make myself feel comfortable.

Aubrey Max Gilson
MN 2016 Graduate

When did you first know you were trans? Have you always known or was it a slow realization?
I’m a transwoman, but I personally feel like that separates me from cis girls. So I identify as a simple girl. Growing up, I always knew I was feminine. I loved Barbie, pink, long hair, etc. I would play dress up with my cousins, but wondered why my dad would try to stop me or why people never let me have stereotypical girly things. It literally hit me like a truck that I was a girl. And I had to work to get everyone else to see that.

How did you come out to family and friends?
I came out as a gay male when I was 13. No one was shocked since I’m so into makeup. But I still never really felt comfortable. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school when I realized that I was recreating myself. I came out to friends, who were all more than supportive. I came out to my family two months later. They thought it was another teenage phase and still would not let me express my feminine side until I snuck behind their backs and did it anyways. Then they saw that I wasn’t joking.

Can you describe the steps of your transition? Is there anything you would like to do in the future as part of transitioning?
I’m now in the process of changing my name. I had to pay 80 dollars to file it, publish the request to change from Blake Emmor Gilson-Nelson to Aubrey Max Nelson in a local newspaper for four weeks and then appear in front of a judge to ask it to be legally changed. I’m also trying to gather enough money to start therapy again so I can get a letter from the therapist saying I’m fit for hormone replacement therapy. Then, after being on hormones and living as a woman for a full year, I can apply for surgery.

What was it like being trans in high school?

High school was odd. I went into winter break as Blake Gilson, and came back in 2016 as Aubrey and my transition was very public. I had to walk down to the nurses office everyday to use the bathroom. Once I used the women’s, and other people came in and out for over 15 minutes and I sat and waited until it was completely empty again. I was late for class because I was so scared if the other girls saw me they’d feel uncomfortable. I was bullied too. I was called Bruce Jenner, Tranny and Lady Boy. Being bullied hurt, but a lot of people that I didn’t know stood up for me and that was amazing and I’ll never forget that. It’s all about who you are inside and what you do.