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Transgender senior shares transitional journey

Kaitlin Hermanson, Profiles Editor

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Elliot Johnson’s journey to accepting his identity was a long and difficult road.

“It was a very winding path,” said Johnson, a senior, when explaining his transition from female to male during his high school years.

“I was in eighth grade when I realized that I couldn’t really see myself being the wife of a man, so I thought to myself, ‘Obviously, that must mean that I’m lesbian,’” said Johnson, who was born Mia. “That’s what caused me to start exploring my gender identity.”

That initial step led Johnson to reach out and hear the stories of others who were in his same position.

“I started reading on-line forums about non-binary people and thought, ‘Oh, so maybe this is what I am,’” Johnson said. “Then, I started learning about FTM (female to male) transgender people, and finally, I realized that this is it. It’s who I am.”

However, this, of course, didn’t happen overnight.

“It was months and months of reading and learning and figuring things out,” Johnson said. “It was probably January of ninth grade when I finally said, ‘Okay, I’ve spent all this time figuring myself out, and I can finally come to terms with my identity.’”

Just because he had accepted himself did not mean that the difficult parts of his journey were over. Coming out to family and friends was still one huge hurdle Johnson had to face.

“I was really, really afraid,” Johnson said. “My freshman year, there weren’t nearly as many visible trans role models, so it felt like I had to do this alone. I had a few trans friends, but they were all in the same place as me, where they hadn’t really told anybody yet.”

The first person Johnson came out to was his friend and current junior Chasey Lake, who was supportive and accepting.

“It was really nice to have someone who was as accepting as she was,” Johnson said. “I had also come out to her about my gender questioning phase before I had completely realized I was trans. Her family was really great with me, and they used the pronouns that I wanted them to use, so that was a big stepping stone.”

After Lake, Johnson came out to some of his other close friends. Sharing the news with his family, however, was a different story.

“I procrastinated for months and months, and it ended up being over the summer going into freshman year,” Johnson said. “They, of course, said that they still loved me but also said that they didn’t know what to do, so we had that whole emotional family conversation.”

Coming out to the rest of his family also had its complications.

“My aunt and uncle were getting married in a couple of months, so they wanted to wait to tell the family until after that,” Johnson said. “Waiting was really hard.”

When the time came, the conversations came about in an unexpected way.

“I came out on Facebook, forgetting that my family was on Facebook,” Johnson said. “I was just really anxious to finally be able to get it off my chest, and so my family members started calling once they saw the post.”

Outside of his family, Johnson faced anxiety again when faced with returning to school.

“Most everybody has been accepting, but for some, it just took more time,” Johnson said. “It was absolutely nerve wracking. I knew I was going to have to be understanding, because it was a new thing people had to get used to. A lot of the times when people messed up my name, I didn’t correct them because I was scared.”

However, as time has passed, Johnson’s journey has become easier.

“It’s gotten a lot better, and it’s been a long time since anyone messed up my name,” Johnson said.

He also explained that his path to self acceptance has been different than that of many other trans males.

“I wish I had been able to come out earlier if I had known, but I didn’t,” Johnson said. “I didn’t have the typical ‘Oh, I’ve always known that I was a boy’ trans experience that people think of when they talk about trans people.”

Not only was his transition a matter of gender identity, but also of presentation.

“When I first came out, I wore the most masculine things I could because I was overcompensating, and trying to project the image that I thought people wanted to see,” Johnson said. “I gradually grew less masculine in my presentation because I realized that I could do whatever I wanted. Now, I know that I don’t have to dress a certain way, but I also enjoy passing [as a male].”

Hormone therapy was something Johnson knew he wanted to do as soon as he researched it, and after some trouble, his family found a therapist who was able to begin the process.

“I had to go a six-month waiting period to make sure that I was ‘trans enough,’” Johnson said. “After our first appointment she pretty much said, ’I’m just seeing you out of technicality.’ There’s this thing called W path which is basically a guideline for beginning testosterone therapy. I had to wait nine months for a letter of referral to an endocrinologist, but I got it.”

This process also did not come without its concerns from his family but is now something Johnson is very pleased with.

“My parents were really iffy about me doing this because they were like, ‘You can’t go back,’ but I was absolutely positive,” Johnson said. “It’s been my best decision ever. I feel a lot more confident and sure of myself since I’ve started.”

He is aware that his journey of self acceptance and gender identity is not one that everyone understands, but he encourages people to look at transition with an open mind and accepting heart.

“I think some people still believe others transition for attention, but I’d much rather people not focus on this,” Johnson said. “This is a facet of me, but it’s not my entire being. Trans people don’t transition to confuse people. It’s something that we need to do to be happy with ourselves, and to exist.”

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