So, I just recently turned 15. High school has actually been good to me, so far.
At a young age, I was brainwashed into the whole liking pink and dolls and skirts. When I got into second grade, I met a third grade girl who became my friend. I thought she was so cool (being older than me and such.) One time the subject of favorite colors came up – which wasn’t even a question, right? Because every girl’s favorite color is pink. But then she told me her favorite color was blue. Blue? What? And she asked me what was my favorite color, and I panicked (I didn’t want to seem lame!) and so I said blue too.
And I realized I DID like the color blue. And so I started directing my mom towards the blue clothing in the girls section (which was pretty hard, but I did it, despite most girls clothes being pink). By fourth grade I was the girl who liked blue, A LOT. I wore blue everyday. My mom would bring it up sometime, like, “Are you suuuureee you want this in blue? Why not pink? Or purple?” But I avoided pink like it was the plague.
Then comes middle school. Okay, so up until now, I wasn’t worried about looks. I got my cheesy t-shirts from Old Navy that said “OMG! LOL! BFF!” on them. I wore bootcut jeans. But when I went to seventh grade I could see that that was UNACCEPTABLE. So I bought a hoodie, some skinny jeans, and a few blouses from the girl’s Target section. And I think that’s how I avoided being bullied. I dressed like every other girl, if a bit plain. My hair, that had been to my butt, was now cut a little past my shoulders (I liked short hair in general, but it was sooo blunt and still kinda long and really unflattering for my roundish face. It made me look childish.)
But, just like about every other girl, I became insecure with my appearance. My best friend at the time, who’d I had met in sixth grade, was always really pretty, but it was widely recognized in middle school. She wore pre-ripped Levi’s and white Vans shoes and little crop tops from Hollister. Her popularity shot way up, and we sort of stopped talking to each other.
Sometime in seventh grade, something changed inside of me. I had one of my “friends” comment on how I looked. She said something like, “Wow, you know you look like a little kid in those clothes – like, everyone here looks like high schoolers already and you look like you’re in fifth grade.”
That struck a chord. By seventh grade, I had stopped growing and was insecure about my height (I’m only 4 ft 9!), I was insecure about how fat I was (the P.E. physical test showed that I was in danger of being overweight), I was insecure about the keratosis pilaris on my skin (it was really obvious and kept me from wearing t-shirts/shorts), and now this girl was telling my even my clothes were terrible? I WAS NOT HAVING THIS.
I totally rearranged my wardrobe. I donated four or more bags of clothes to Goodwill, and I only bought the plain clothes from the girl sections, no more bright teals or ugly patterns, just a black hoodie and skinny jeans.
They were just comfortable. And I liked how they looked. But I realized how fat I was. So I started actually working in P.E. I joined track and field with my friends – and I LOVED IT.
Eighth grade rolls around, and I still have my sort-of-tomboy-but-not-enough-for-people-to-notice-i’m-one look. That was the year I realize I was bisexual, and then come out to my friends (a couple of my friends were already out as gay so they all were totally okay with it). Halfway through the year, and I FINALLY CONVINCED MY MOM TO HAVE MY HAIR CUT. SHORT. Since I’d lost a lot of weight (seven pounds I think?) my face was much slimmer, and I felt confident in short hair. And so I went to the hair salon (where my aunt works, haha) and got a sort of long pixie cut (you know, sort of long in the back and long sideburns and a lot of bangs.)
And when I went to school, people LOVED IT. They really did! Maybe because I live in the Bay Area where everyone is accepting but random people in my class actually COMPLIMENTED ME! And I was so happy.
And then I started going to the boys section for clothes. My mom was (sort of) okay with it. I bought boy jeans and boy shirts and button ups and cardigans and hoodies and sneakers. And then I changed up my hair. I got my sideburns cut short like a guys, and the bangs short like a guy. Basically I forced my aunt to give me a guy hairstyle. My mom was obviously terrified about it and told me daily how she wished I would grow out my hair. People did NOT compliment me on it, more like – “Oh uh – you cut your hair? Again?”
Because now I didn’t have the whole girl-with-short-hair going on. I had the girl-with-short-hair-that-made-her-look-like-a-guy. Along with my boyish clothing, lots of people mistook me for a guy. It was especially embarrassing when I was with my mom, and the cash register person or even one of her friends thought I was her son.
In the craziness of my eighth grade, I started wishing I was a boy. If I was a boy, then people wouldn’t look at me weird, or ask why I didn’t wear girl clothes, and I would be “normal”. I think I was kind of depressed during eight grade. I cried a lot at night. I had mood swings. I didn’t like talking much. I didn’t have a best friend to confide in.
So I started telling my friends I was a guy. I was transgender. And I was in the market for a new name. They were completely accepting, the few friends that I had, and they used male pronouns for me.
Then the summer happened. I went to New York with my mother to visit relatives. I brought a lot of dresses to counteract my short hair, even though I was NOT comfortable wearing them. I just didn’t want to make a bad impression on my relatives. I didn’t want them to ask my mom if I was a lesbian (which isn’t really accepted when you’re Vietnamese!) or call me ugly behind my back. I just didn’t need that. I’d finally gotten out of school, and I was tired of it.
So then high school started. I decided I didn’t want to be a boy, and told my friends so, and that I just wanted to be “genderqueer” – like, I felt inbetween male and female. And I told them to call me Quinn, which was an androgynous name. And they were happy for me, and it felt great, y’know? My super short hair was still being grown out, and I wore super skinny jeans and my girly button up almost every day so no one would think I was a boy.
Then I thought, “I don’t want to be called Quinn anymore. But I don’t want to be called by my birth name. Am I really ‘genderqueer’? No – wait – I’m a girl. Right?”
And I was so confused. Eventually I drifted away from the friends I had come out to about my gender, and I became friends with other, admittedly friendlier and happier, people that I’d known vaguely in middle school but now knew better now. I didn’t tell them anything about wanting to be a boy, and they knew me as a girl. And I’m okay with that now, actually. There’s nothing wrong with being transgender, but I realized that that wasn’t me. My hair is still really short, but it isn’t a pixie cut. It’s a really short bob that’s really flattering to my face and makes me feel good. I wear super skinny jeans and sweaters from Forever 21, but mostly I like my button ups and t-shirts and sweatpants and clunky sneakers.
I consider myself “stylish” now. I wear pretty nice clothes and like to put time into my outfits. I wear boy clothes, but also plain girl clothes. I don’t like skirts or dresses or jewelry, and I would never wear ballet flats, but I don’t limit myself to one side of thinking, like I HAVE to be a girly girl or I HAVE to dress like a total boy. Honestly, I dress sort of androgynously, and I just wear what I want to wear because I can. And I have lots of friends that accept that and that I can have fun with. And all the “normal” straight people don’t bother me anymore. Sometimes, they compliment my outfits too.
Basically, accept yourself. And you do you. Some people would call me a tomboy, some would not. Some think I’m lesbian, but who cares. I love my hair and I love the fit body I’m working towards. I don’t like my given name, so I chose a new name for myself – Noel. And I’m not sure exactly was I am gender-wise, but I’m not looking for a label. I’m just me. And you’re just you.
Thanks for reading my story 🙂