Editor's Note: Guest blogger Owen Le Brun is a sophomore at West De Pere High School in De Pere, Wisconsin. He's a trans man involved in GSA, band, and theater.
If you assumed that I, as an FTM transgender adolescent, have encountered many setbacks and accomplishments, you'd be correct.
It began in late July 2013 when I told my family what I had been feeling. From that moment forward I've received tremendous support from my immediate and extended family. However, with this support came some hesitation and skepticism.
As a teenager in the transgender community, many adults give you the "You're Too Young To Know Your Gender" speech. Some of them seem to think that on the morning of my 18th birthday I'll spring awake and suddenly realize that "Whoa! I really am a boy!" In some areas of my family life, I am still waiting for this to disappear.
But my gender identity isn't the big elephant in the room only at family gatherings.
On January 16th, 2014, I received the approval of my principal and guidance counselor to ask that my teachers and classmates address me as Owen and use male pronouns. I had never been so excited to start a day of school, because I was finally being recognized for who I am.
There were five teachers to tell and over one hundred students who needed to know about this change. I had several different options that I could take to accomplish this mass day of coming out. I could've had my guidance counselor email all my teachers about the situation, and then have my teachers tell my classes for me -- or I could handle it all by myself.
My initial thought was to send the email to avoid stress. But after thinking more, I realized that I should tell my teachers and classes personally. Although we have a wonderful Gay-Straight Alliance directed by one of our English teachers, Ms. Buhl, I know that as a general student body my classmates didn't know much about anything past the gay and lesbian part of the LGBT+ spectrum.
So I finally decided that I was going to tell all of my classes personally. I was definitely a nervous wreck as I tried to organize my thoughts.
The first class I told was my global history class. When my teacher gave me the nod to deliver my announcement, I stood. I turned around to face the class, and I felt like I was staring every single one of my peers directly in the eye.
My spiel went something like this: "Some of you may be more aware of this than others, but I wanted to tell you that I recently got the okay from my guidance counselor to ask you all to call me Owen and use male pronouns -- because I am transgender."
After an awkward pause which seemed to last forever I was surprised to see that they were clapping for me. After that, the rest of my peers in different classes applauded me as well. It probably seemed like an automatic gesture for them, but for me it was comforting. I can easily say that that was my proudest moment in my journey thus far.
I've always said that I don't judge masculinity based on courage or toughness -- I judge it on identity. But I never felt more masculine than I did when that day ended, even as a pre-hormone trans guy.
Since that day, my school has responded incredibly well to the change. There are still many mistakes with my pronouns, but I know those kinks will work themselves out with time and reminders. I have been very comfortable in my environment at West De Pere High School, but there are still difficult challenges I face every day.
As of right now I still have to use the woman's bathroom. But my counselor is working on getting me a private bathroom and locker room, and I couldn't be more lucky! Another issue I often find myself facing is dysphoria. Whether that be from my voice, chest, muscle mass, body structure -- anything can trigger it and sometimes it's worse than other days.
With this comes doubts from some of my family. It's a struggle to feel so uncomfortable with your gender and go through difficulties every day because of it and have someone try to tell you "this is just a phase" or "I've seen other people transition, and yours is much different so I don't think you're really trans."
Then there are the people who think you owe them some kind of justification for being transgender. I hope these people learn that I do not owe them anything and that they do not have a right to tell me what's real and not real because they have not experienced what I have. I also hope they know, regardless their beliefs on my identity, that respecting a person's pronouns and name is respect at its most basic -- and this respect needs to be practiced around all trans or gender-fluid individuals.
I am lucky to live in an accepting home and school environment, as I know for other trans adolescents it's often much different. I look forward to my next two years at West De Pere (pictured at right) and I am eager to see my peers transition with me. It's so powerful to see them come together and collectively respect my identity.
I'd like to thank my peers, my parents, my girlfriend Kori, and Oliver and Rachel for guiding me in this journey thus far. I think West De Pere has come a long way in showing respect for LGBT+ individuals, in large part due to the example set by our GSA and the students themselves. I am eager to see them grow and educate themselves more an LGBT+ issues.
Until then, together we will collectively grow in my transition together. As I said, I have encountered achievements and also setbacks. But as I progress with my peers and family in this transition I foresee many more achievements and positive outcomes, thanks to my supporting environment.