By HS — The Charter Features
“How about… Sebastian?” his mom suggested, taking a quick look at the boy in the back seat. It was around four o’clock in the evening, but traffic on the freeway was light.
The boy grimaced. “I prefer Luke,” he said, eyes scanning a list of names on his phone.
“I could finally use that ‘Luke, I am your father,’ line.” his dad said.
“Maybe not Luke.” The boy muttered. He continued to scroll, a look of supreme concentration on his face. They took the exit to Sherwood. “Ian. What do you guys think?” he said after a moment.
There was a beat of silence as the passengers considered the name.
“It sounds right.” his mom said.
“Fits you, too.” his father said.
From the seat behind them, Ian grinned. “Cool.” he said.
Ian has a lot of passions. Art, math, and birds. He can usually be found with his bird, Jacques, on his shoulder while working on some project. His room is small and carries a lot of his personality. There’s a tidy white shelf stacked with books and model cars, a desk covered in drawings, and several posters on the walls. Ian himself is a little like his room, with messy blond hair and typically seen wearing a band t-shirt.
It wasn’t always like that. Ian’s transition began in March of 2016, one short year ago. In that month, in that year, people called him Emily. He was presenting as a long-haired 12 year old girl. Ian is one of many people whose gender identity doesn’t match their sex at birth.
“I actually thought I was genderfluid… then it occurred to me that it wasn’t like I switched between feeling like a girl. Sometimes my dysphoria about looking like a girl and presenting as female was stronger than other times. Everything just clicked, and I knew,” he said.
Ian was happy- happier than he had been in some time. He says that he’d felt something was wrong for a while. It was a step in the right direction.
“It’s like finishing a puzzle,” Ian said. “It’s that feeling of satisfaction and excitement because now you’re seeing the whole picture instead of just pieces of it.“
There was also some fear. “My biggest fear was that people would doubt me,” Ian said. “I have a lot of self-doubt… which sucks when you’re trans because that outside validation isn’t always there. My other fear was that I was fooling myself- that I really was just trying to be a special snowflake. ”
The transition was not an easy process. Ian did a good deal of research on being transgender, watching YouTube vlogs of other students who had started transitioning and reading the blogs of people who had already gone through it. He says that getting testosterone injections was one of his biggest goals when he was learning about transitioning.
“It was exciting. That’s really the thing I’ve noticed about coming out… it’s exciting,” Ian said.
His parents were very supportive- if a little confused as well. “When I stopped and thought about it, it made complete and utter sense. It was a moment where everything fit, and it made sense,” said Clint, Ian’s father.
“At first I felt he should just be himself and not worry about labels. I didn’t realize I was making it worse for him. After, visiting a therapist at Bravespace it was very clear Ian needed the label, he needed to feel validated by the outside world. His heart needed to hear we believed he is a boy and he needed to see a boy when he looked in the mirror,” Jaime said. She is Ian’s mother, and has worked tirelessly with her husband to ensure their son could transition.
Ian started his journey over the summer of 2016. He got his hair cut, started seeing a specialist in transgender youth, and went shopping for a new wardrobe. When dysphoria and depression struck, he coped with clothing.
“I never really learned to cope with dysphoria the ‘traditional’ way,” Ian said. “I’ve found that distraction is the best thing for me… when you have a new pair of jeans, you usually focus on the jeans and not your legs. Wear that lipstick. Buy that new shirt. Do what will make you happy and help you move forward.”
The support from his family and distant relatives was overwhelming. His therapist noted that it was “one of the fastest transitions” he’d ever seen. He chose his name during one of the long commutes home from school.
Ian wasn’t the only one coping with changes. While he sat through an hour of support group at the Q Center, his parents attended a group for families of transgender youth.
“When Ian first told us he was transgender we weren’t familiar with the term. There was a sharp learning curve and we started out behind. Luckily, we live in an area with an amazing LGBTQ+ community and had access to knowledgeable professionals,” wrote Jaime.
While his parents were working through their own doubts, Ian was confronting his as well. He remembers the moment he realized that his self-doubt was unfounded.
“Game day at Brave Space. I went in and I was meeting all these people with similar experiences. Maybe their parents weren’t supportive, or maybe they were… they didn’t have that self-doubt. They were there, and they were who they were…,” Ian said. He sat up a little straighter while he spoke, eyes lighting up.
“You don’t have to be doubtful about something that’s just part of your identity. If you’re a person with a great sense of humor and you discover that you have a great sense of humor, you don’t suddenly start doubting yourself and thinking, ‘maybe I don’t have a great sense of humor- maybe I’m just faking it.’”
In September 2016, Ian stepped into ACA for the first time. His friends didn’t recognize him, and those that did were confused about the change. He recalls a few that simply “went with it,” not questioning the change and quickly switching to his prefered pronouns and name.
Behind the scenes, his mother worked to ensure that the administration was aware of his transition. She emailed his ES and asked her to notify his teachers of his new name and pronouns. Administration made changes to Synergy and was able to update his records to match his identity. The support was overwhelming.
Ian settled into ACA a lot faster than Emily had. He made more friends, finding other students who had similar struggles and forming a support structure. This eventually became the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), a club he now leads. “I find that I’m a lot more confident at school,” he says.
As the year passed by, Ian worked on other elements of his transition. He began the process of getting testosterone injections (Usually referred to as “T”).
It was an uphill battle. The doctors told him he was too young to take hormones, that he was too young to make this choice. Every visit ended with him being turned down.
Ian hadn’t chosen this path without plenty of thought. “It was definitely a hard decision to make, but I think it was the right one. I didn’t really have another choice. The amount of distress that not transitioning caused me- I think that letting your kid make that choice is better than having them stay in a mental hospital until they’re 18,” he said.
Finally, a light shone at the end of the tunnel. A strongly-worded letter from his therapist and a new endocrinologist secured him the injections. He remembers going to school the day after his first injection and being asked plenty of questions about it by his friends.
“It didn’t quite feel real until I started seeing the changes. It was weird stuff to get excited about. Most people don’t get excited about their voice cracking,” Ian says.
He still has goals for his transition, but for now, he’s happy. Happier than he’s been in a while. He plans on attending an Ivy League school and becoming a counselor or an endocrinologist.
Interview – Ian
Interview – Jaime
Interview – Clint
-Disclaimer: The author of this article is Ian’s sister-