When the Mask Gets Removed

Jaxon McGuire
Jackson High School
Grade 9

Nowadays, not many people stay true to themselves, but I believe it is important to throw away your mask. I believe this because pretending to be someone you are not can take its toll. From personal experience, not staying true or not being open about who you are as a person can cause self-esteem issues. It can also cause a lack of self-confidence. There’s pressure to keep up this false persona that has been created, and it can be frustrating or just flat-out depressing.

Coming to terms with the fact I’m transgender was a struggle. I didn’t understand it at first, and when I did, I was scared of how other people would treat me. I was already being bullied in school, so the fear of not being accepted just pushed me deeper “in the closet,” as some people would say. I was never comfortable with myself, and I had low self-esteem. It was hard for me to accept myself because I was always told I was someone else. From the moment I was born and labeled female, that’s the façade I thought I had to sustain. It felt as though I was living my life through the body of someone else. Except, I wasn’t living my life. It was Kaylee’s I had obtained.

When I got a better understanding of what I was going through and why I had the feeling I did, things only seemed to get harder. It took a while, but I finally realized if I expected others to accept me, I first had to accept myself. Slowly but surely, I allowed myself to stray away from popular stereotypes such as girls painting their nails or doing make-up. Instead, I started skateboarding and having Nerf wars with my cousin. I hung out with mostly guys, and I got into a lot of sports — even football. Therefore, I soon adopted the label “tomboy,” and that seemed to work for a while.

Despite all of this, though, I still didn’t feel like myself. There was still this feeling of you’re-not-who-you-say-you-are nagging at me. I eventually fell into a major depression. It was hard for a while. I didn’t want to come out because I felt like people would only judge me, or my friends wouldn’t want to hang out with me anymore. I was scared of how my parents would react and how the rest of my family would treat me. I felt like I was somehow letting people down because I led them to believe I was someone else. So instead, I just pushed everyone away. It soon got to the point of being more frustrated with being transgender than being depressed about it.

I couldn’t take it anymore. Scared as I was, I decided to come out to my two closest friends. What came of it surprised me. They accepted me and reassured me nothing would change. It gave me the courage to come out to my mom, as well.

The next day, I sat down and wrote her a letter. Talking to people has always been a weak spot for me; however, on paper, everything makes sense to me. So, I wrote. Telling her I’ve felt trapped in the wrong body for some time now. Telling her I wanted to change my wardrobe, pronouns, my name, even. Telling her I was sorry without really knowing what for. Telling her this was me, and I hoped she accepted it.

I was petrified. I sat next to her, palms sweaty, as she read the letter. I wanted her to accept me and who I was. Just the thought she might not sent me into a panic. When she was done reading, the first word to leave her lips was, “No.” Of course, that was coming from a place of just not understanding it, but it still hurt. For a while, I wasn’t allowed to act on being trans. It sucked. I was finally out and yet somehow still trapped.  

It took months for my mom to come to terms this wasn’t a phase. We had another talk about it, and I explained it over again. She still didn’t understand it, but then again, neither did I. Knowing she wouldn’t call me by it, I still decided to tell her my name. Jaxon. I knew it would be hard for her to call me that because she’s known me as Kaylee my whole life. Same with the pronouns, but it seemed fitting to tell her. I still hadn’t come out to people at school, but I was taking baby steps. There was still a lot of anxiety and insecurity I felt due to being trans.

After a few months, my mom finally let me get the haircut I wanted. Almost instantly, everything seemed to change. It was like this weight had been lifted off of me. I had never smiled so much; it was like every ounce of sadness just — vanished. That day, my mom told me she could tell she finally got her child back.

Coming into high school, I am open about being transgender. I still get anxiety when it comes to introducing myself to new people, but with the help of friends, it’s not as bad. My self-esteem is still pretty low, but I do have a newfound self-confidence. I’m happier than I was about a year before. There are still people who judge and people who tend to make fun of me, and I won’t lie, sometimes it gets to me. That’s just a part of life I’m learning to accept. There will always be people like that, and because of them, staying true to who you are can be difficult. With all the stereotypes and discrimination in today’s society, being yourself can be a challenge. I’ll be the first to admit it: it’s still hard for me, too.

After it’s all said and done, though, I still believe — now more than ever — that always being yourself is one of the most important things to live by. Not just for yourself; by being yourself, you’re doing the rest of the world a favor, too.