Callum from Mexico

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When people tell you that children are not born hating others, are born without a prejudice, and grow up to be the people they are taught is best, I believe that I am one of the prime examples.

I knew from a very, very early age that I liked boys and girls equally. I never thought to tell anyone about my crushes on either side of the spectrum, mostly because I was always quiet and never felt like I wanted to. I was born to a Mexican Catholic mother and a white ex-Jehovah's Witness father who was in the military until I was around 2 years old. I would later grow up with my mother's parents, who were also Catholic, but actually practiced their faith. My mother believed in God and the teachings of the church, sure, but she never went to church after she graduated high school.

This might also be an appropriate time to point out that I knew that I was different in other ways, as well. I always wore the girly clothing that my mother and father dressed me up in, but I remember just wanting to wear t-shirt with superheroes rather than the frilly dresses and skorts (ah, yes, the dreaded half-skirt, half-short monstrosities that were weirdly uncomfortable) as I got older. I wanted my hair to be short, it always bothered me to have longer hair. And my birth name, while technically gender neutral in nature, was annoying at times due to having to always correct the people that were pronouncing it because they added an extra letter, making it a name that at least one other boy already had.

I wonder now if it was for these reasons that I never had real friends throughout most of elementary and middle school, but that's a different story.

Back to one of my original points, I didn't know that people thought it was weird to have crushes on both boys and girls. It wasn't until some of my "friends" in third grade forced me to tell them who I had a crush on that two of the three told me that having a crush on another girl was weird. To say I was confused was an understatement; I had thought for the last 8 years of my life that it was completely normal for people to find every gender equally attractive, but apparently not. It was also around this time that I stopped believing in a god as well; I mean, that was the two girls' excuses about why it was not normal. "My mom says God doesn't like girls liking other girls," they had said, "and God doesn't like boys liking other boys, either!" I had never been raised to believe in a god one way or the other due to my parents, but now, if it was a thing that people said would hate me because of something that I really didn't want to change, what was the point?

Word got around, but no one really paid attention to it. It wasn't until I came out publicly in 8th grade that people finally got that I wasn't joking. It definitely wasn't the best time to do it since I was still figuring out my sexuality and had labeled myself a lesbian, which slowly but surely morphed into generally not caring about my potential partner(s)'s gender expression or genitalia whatsoever, but I had done it. I had finally conquered a hurdle that had prevented me from being happy.

...Not really.

I still had my mother and family to come out to, after all, and the emotional abuse I had suffered from my father after his divorce from my mother did not help in my speaking out about anything. It had been, and still is, a result of that abuse that I had learned to not show outward emotion if I could help it, and feeling love/desire for someone fell into that category. Stoicism and struggling with your sexuality is definitely not the best mix. Thankfully, my sister had known for years before I actually said anything publicly, and my father had started another family that I left, so there were three people I generally did not need to worry about. But my mother still believed in her God, as did the rest of my family (save for my sister), which scared me so much so that I started bawling when I finally came out to my mother on January 1, 2015. However, because of her inability to really understand what I was admitting and my outright sobbing out of fear, something that I did not do often, she thought I was guilty about it and tried to make me, and herself, feel better by saying "Don't worry, it's only a phase."

Yeah, having that mindset while I conquered my next hurdle, my gender identity, was very, very overwhelming. I can't help but doubt my feelings about myself even now simply because of that statement and the possibility behind it. My gender identity had been a virtual mess to me from around the age of 12; I wore nothing but skirts and dresses and tights to school for almost an entire year because I had no idea how else to convince myself that I was, indeed, a girl, and a very girly one. I was wrong, of course, and it was me trying to make myself seem normal to the general populace; if I dressed over-the-top with how the outside world perceived my gender to be (in this case female), then I would start to feel feminine. But I was dying on the inside; I was suppressing my sexuality because I wanted to seem normal, and I couldn't bring myself to wear the male clothing that I wanted to wear because I wanted to seem normal. No one at my school was going outside of their gender norm in terms of clothing, save for the skater girls that everyone just called "butch lesbians," and those people that did tended to be isolated. I just wanted long-lasting friends, and maybe by being fake, I would get some; despite what all of the people in my friend group told me, who were and are all LGBT+, I just wanted to be what my mother and the rest of society would see as normal.

It didn't work, to say the least, and thankfully my sister, once again, fully accepted me as being a male. And, almost two years after I came out as gay, I came out as trans* to my mother by writing her a letter on Christmas Day, 2016.

And if sobbing while telling your mother about your sexuality didn't work, then writing a letter out of terror did not help when coming out about my gender identity. For the next month and a half, I legitimately contemplated just ending it. I had already been depressed for years, I still had no real friends, I was failing classes, I had reoccurring nightmares of jumping off a bridge, so often in fact that the panic I used to feel when I woke up from those dreams was replaced with numb acceptance, and my mother had not said one thing about that stupid letter, so why not? I had not touched a pain pill outside of necessity in four years, but the thought was beginning to look promising. It wasn't until I broached the subject about it to her one night in the middle of February, nearly two months after my attempt at telling her, that she finally said that she did not know how to handle it and that she would not use my desired name and pronouns, mostly because my grandparents would probably keel over.

Wonderfully, my band nerd friends, my band director, and all of the teachers I told use my preferred name, even if some don't use the pronouns. The others never address me most of the time anyways, and even if they didn't know, I still write my name on any papers I have, letting them know about it without telling them. I'm not scared anymore, not really. I've been bullied for things far lesser than my sexuality and gender identity, so I take it all in stride and just shoot back sarcastic commentary where I can. My sister embraced my identity and bought me my first binder, something that I love with all of my heart and soul; my friends now all refer to me as my name with he/him pronouns; and I am going to gender therapy so I will be approved (hopefully) to start Testosterone when I enroll in university. I'm starting my senior year in high school, and I'm alive. I'm alive. Somehow, I'm alive.

And I plan on keeping it that way.

-Callum

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