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Everyone wants to be accepted, right? It's one stereotype about teenagers that just may prove to be accurate. All of the hokey superstitions about peer pressure, as well as the oh-so-familiar rant about how “the media is poisoning the minds of our children by brain-washing them with the idea that girls should look like walking twigs and boys should look like they're on steroids,” are all true. That's right. It's a legit problem, people. I see 12 year old girls that look like Snooki walkin' around the hallways it's so bad. It's January, people, the sun doesn't shine enough for you to have a tan like that yet! And, of course, the ultimate challenge is to be accepted for who you really are, because, as the Snooki lookalikes demonstrate, anyone can create a false image to hide behind (with enough spray-tan and bumpits). To take it to the next level, it's an even more daunting challenge to accept yourself for who you really are. Because, sometimes, deep, deep inside the walls of our disheartened souls, we feel the urge to search for something greater than what the eye can see. We feel there is something to ourselves that is bigger and better than we give ourselves credit for, we just can't quite put our finger on it yet. But it's definitely there, waiting to be found and embraced. And it scares the living daylights out of us, not because it's dangerous or bad, per se, just because we know that making this new discovery about ourselves will signal a change in our self perception. I can tell you from experience that revelations can be painful and sickening and life altering all at once. The only thing that keeps me going is the understanding that I'll love myself after enduring all of the trials and tribulations of coming out as my true self.


I've lived the past 5 years of my life as a Lesbian. That's right, I said it. L-E-S-B-I-A-N. Lesbian. I figured that to be a “true Lesbian” I had to follow the stereotype to a tee. I was a man-hating feminist rebel against everything that had to do with testosterone- a “true” short hair, bra-bashing, makeup-boycotting dyke. I even went to an Ani Difranco concert, who, for those of you that don't know, is the biggest name in feminist folk rock (and a total lesbo magnet). Anyone with a half-way rational gaydar could pick me out of a crowd in no time flat. Along the way I picked up a beautiful girlfriend, an affinity for plaid, and a head full of sexism, bias and bullcrap:

You are a male and you are talking to a female? You must want in her pants!
You are a Republican? You must be a stuck-in-your-ways conservative bigot!
You are a flamboyant guy? You are flaming GAY!
You are a girl with short hair? You are such a LESBIAN!


Looking back on how I used to think I am ashamed of myself. How did I justify fighting sexism against women with sexism against men? How do I have room to talk about politics, economy, and social issues when I don't know more about them than the man on the moon? And, above all, how can I as a member of the LGBT community myself, make degrading assumptions about other people's identity based on physical appearance? As I rounded the corner of 17 and left the horrors of sweet 16 behind, I started to realize how terribly, hypocritically, judgmentally wrong I was and how twisted my ideas about my society and humanity were. This was my first revelation.


After a long bout of soul-searching and heart-to-heart talks with my girlfriend (which usually ended in tears), I realized I wasn't a Lesbian, but instead a Pansexual. This was my second life-altering revelation. I discovered a part of myself that was attracted to men, women and anything in between. Yes, I said in between. Because gender isn't a binary, there is more than black and white, male and female. There is the obvious physical “in between” of the intersex (a person with gender ambiguous “parts”) but then there are those of us who were born in a gender specific body that just don't feel like their gender identity in their head matches their physical sex. This is called being Transgendered. And here comes the third earth-shattering realization: I am Transgendered. I am a man living in the body of a woman. There are more of us out there then you could ever imagine. We put the “T” in “LGBT,” and we are the unspoken minority. While there is the “L” for “Lesbian,” the “G” for “Gay,” and the “B” for “Bisexual,” “T” for “Transgender” doesn't quite fit in with the rest of the group. You see, all of the other words describe sexuality while Trans describes gender identity. We are like the kids in the back of the class that no one talks to but are always forced to do group work with the popular kids when it's time for a project. Though the idea of being an outcast worried me, it wasn't this change in social class (“popular” Lesbian to misunderstood, “unpopular” Trans guy) that scared me. It was the fact that I am the thing that I have dreaded for so long. I am my own sworn enemy. I am a man at heart. And no matter how hard I try to fit my male role, I will never physically be male. No matter how much testosterone I shoot up, no matter how far I go with surgery, or how tightly I bind down my chest, or how much body hair I acquire, or the muscle mass I gain, I will never be born with a male body. Because you are only born once. And I was born wrong. This was my latest, most heartbreaking revelation, and I can feel in the pit of my stomach that it won't be my last.


Life is a maze that we must fight to navigate sometimes. We find ourselves at dead ends and obstacles more often than we'd like and it's discouraging to say the least. But, through the heartbreak and the turmoil we all end up fighting our way out eventually, only coming to a complete understanding of this labyrinth after we've untangled ourselves from it's thorns and hedges. So take time to enjoy the journey and remember that it'll all make sense in the end, even if you're enduring roller-coasters and closed doors. The pain of the revelations are what prove them to be true. The tears are what make the little facets of our personalities glisten and shine. But, most of all, the promise of self acceptance and understanding is what makes all of the torture bearable.





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