Switching Sides


Alec Conley

It got worse before it got better: me over the years.

Alec Conley, Editor-in-chief

My whole life I was always halfway-hidden. One foot in the closet, one foot out. But now, I don’t have to hide anymore. I can be proud, and express myself freely without being scared or anxious. So I’ve decided that I’m gonna utilize that privilege and offer you a slight inclination of what it’s like, or –if you are like me– to let you know that you’re not alone. Because a beauty like self-expression is one that deserves to be shared, and no one deserves to feel ashamed of it.

If you want to learn what the terms I mention in this article mean, please use PFLAG’s National Glossary of Terms as a reference as you read the rest of this article. 

Coming Out: Sexuality Edition

In the first grade, I met a girl named Isabella. We quickly became best friends, and not long after that I found myself in my parent’s bedroom, telling my mom the new and confusing feelings I was experiencing. I was taught that girls were supposed to like boys, not each other. But I couldn’t pretend like everything was normal, and so my Mom got the brunt of my long rant about how pretty Isabella was. I didn’t know to be afraid, and in a lot of ways, I’m grateful I was so naive as to come out to her like that. Because if I hadn’t, I would’ve had to cope with the same self-suppression that millions of LGBTQ+ teens have. I’d have bottled myself up and just dealt with the pain that arrives in succession.

Gender Confusion

Coming out as bisexual was the easy part. Then came the subject of gender, and I won’t lie to you, I didn’t have it figured out all that fast. In fact, I only realized I was transgender in 2021. Up until that point, my identity was one big fat question mark. One I feared ever confronting, so I didn’t. I lived my life dressing in cardigans and other things my mother wore because that was what the picture of femininity was in my mind. I conditioned myself into this hollower version of myself in order to feel like I belonged. But in all reality, I felt like I was playing pretend. My form of expression was just my way of getting by without having to acknowledge the gargantuan elephant in the room: my dysphoria. The years went by and I grew taller, bigger. I was like an anxious giraffe, trying to hide behind a toy car. But in this case, the toy car was the girlish facade I had created. 

I would’ve kept going like this until the day I kicked the dirt, but at some point, I began to realize that I… couldn’t. So I researched different gender identities, scanning for which one suited me most – as a lot of us trans kids do – I scrolled right past the ‘transgender’ tab, and found myself roaming onto the genderfluid one. 



This one seemed to fit me perfectly. “One who doesn’t identify with a fixed gender”. It was an exact match. Feminine enough to appease my anxiety around my family, but manly enough to feel like I finally fit in somewhere. Like I wasn’t an anomaly of identity, waiting to be poked and prodded at by some doctor at a mental hospital. I wasn’t crazy, I was sure of this now. So for 4 years, this is what I called myself (to my close friends at least). To the adults in my family, I was still their shining and pink-painted little girl. I was okay with that. I could cope with it, and it would never become an issue – until it did. In fact, it was a huge problem. Not purely because I was uncomfortable, although that didn’t help. No, it wasn’t just that. I was beginning to… change. My voice began to pitch down, and I was developing a lot of the mannerisms of my brother. Ridiculous manspreading, his humor, his style even (yes I did steal some of his clothes). As a result, it gave me these foreign feelings. Ones I’d only felt in the rarest of moments in my life: Gender envy, and gender euphoria.

Figuring It Out… Mostly

The euphoria came from the changes to me I made subconsciously, but the envy stemmed almost completely from my older brother. He was everything I wanted to be. His clothes, his personality, his strength. It was as if we were all created in a factory, and somehow my brain was accidentally placed in the wrong body. But once the mind is in, it’s in. And it’s not going anywhere. This is what I struggled with. 

“I can’t go back.”

“No matter what I do, I’ll always have been born a girl.” 

I think it was when I started to have these thoughts that I realized that, no, I wasn’t genderfluid. In fact, I hated the things that made me appear anything but the guy I knew I was. So I started buying different clothes, a shocking shift in my parents’ eyes. I stopped wearing makeup, and I tried to cover up my hair any chance I got. Because if I made it obvious that my factory settings were shuffled up, the pain would shoot through me like none other before. That pain being my dysphoria. 

I was discouraged for a while. But after a while – and a little help from my best friend – I finally gained the courage to start to become at peace with who I was. I told my teachers and classmates to call me by a different name, I relieved the pressure of conforming that had felt like this giant weight pressing on my chest my entire life. I could finally breathe. At school at least. Home was a different story

Coming Out: Gender Edition

I was raised in a very progressive family. I almost always felt their support for my identity. But for some reason my being transgender was different. I was afraid, I really was. Terrified even. We’d had discussions as a family about the topic before and I guess those talks were more discouraging than anything else. It’s not like they were transphobic, not even close to it! They were just born at a different time, and I think that caused them to have a bit more of a conserved view of how the gender spectrum operates these days, and they have every right to their own opinion. It just didn’t help in coaxing me out of the closet I was so desperately clinging to. It took almost a year after I came to know myself as I am for me to gain the courage to tell my parents. And once I finally did, it was definitely not planned out as I had intended.

I was sitting at the dining table, doing my homework when I felt this sudden rush of guilt hit me. I had just had a nice conversation with my mom, we had been joking around about something I can’t remember, and I don’t know what it was, but it left me feeling rather culpable. I had been hiding such a huge part of myself from my mom, my best friend. And so I just did it. I walked up to my mom’s place on her chair in the living room, and I gathered up all of the courage I could muster.

The Reenactment: A Nearly Exact Dialogue Of My Coming Out

“Hey, Mom?” I walked up to her, standing above with my arms awkwardly trying to find their place on my body. 

“What?” She could already tell that something was up. She has always been the best at reading me. In most things, anyways.

“I have something to tell you, but I’m kind of scared. But I also feel really guilty for not telling you.” I said all of this with a stinging grin on my face, always one to smile and laugh at the snarling face of terror, even just to hide my unfurling internal struggle.

She paused for a moment, giving me this look that told me she already knew how this conversation was going to end. Sometimes I swear she has these psychic abilities and she can either use them against me or to help me. In this case, it was the latter. She began to speak.

“Does it have something to do with your gender?” I was taken aback, but I kept on with the conversation.

“Yeah, actually.” I kept it simple.

“Non-binary?” She asked me. It was a smart guess, but it was wrong.

“Trans. Trans-masc.” I answered.

“Really? So, you feel like a boy?” It felt like any other talk we’d had in the past, but the connotations of it were not lost on us as we discussed. 


The Aftermath

A couple of weeks later my mom took me to get a haircut, and a few weeks after that we went clothes shopping. Slowly but surely I have been becoming more and more myself. And it has been wonderful. My parents support me wholeheartedly and ask me as many questions as they can so as to understand me more and better support me. They’re trying their absolute best to make me feel loved and accepted and I couldn’t appreciate it more. The rest of my family have also been trying their hardest to remember to use my correct name and pronouns but I know that it’s gonna be a slow process until they all have it nailed down. I’m just happy they’re trying. Not everyone like me gets that privilege.