For the Better

by | Mar 1, 2023 | 1 comment

Nobody ever tells you when you first come out of the closet that you’re never done. Whether you discover you’re not what you first thought or you meet new people, coming out can feel never-ending. I’ve had four big coming out moments, but in retrospect, I’ve come out several times a week since seventh grade when I first realized I wasn’t straight.

Venturing Outside the Heteronormative  

I first learned what gay was toward the end of elementary school when I went to my cousin’s wedding. My parents tried to explain it to me, but I didn’t understand. They recall me asking where the bride was during the ceremony. I didn’t see any LGBTQ+ representation until middle school.

In seventh grade, a friend of mine came out to me as gay and wanted to join our grade’s GSA but didn’t want to go alone. We both went the following week. While our group only had a handful of members, I found a community of kids who didn’t fit into our heteronormative society and didn’t care. I found a home where I could be myself every Tuesday at lunch, a safe space to learn about the LGBTQ+ community without judgment or ridicule. Later that year, I realized that I was no longer a cishet ally but a member myself, which was both a freeing and terrifying discovery. 

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Change Is the Truth  

My identity bounced around the LGBTQ+ spectrum in eighth and ninth grade. I have identified as L, G, B, T, Q, and a couple more. It’s something I wish was more normalized. Not everyone knows what they identify as from the beginning, some of us spend years or even decades trying to figure out who we are. I struggled to figure out my sexuality for years until I realized I was transgender.

Looking back on who I was as a freshman in 2019, I hardly recognize myself. I’m finally at a place where I feel comfortable in my own skin and feel safe speaking up and advocating for myself and others. Coming out as non-binary as a sophomore lifted a massive weight off my chest, but my most significant shift in life occurred in my junior year when I applied to be a member of GSAFE’s Youth Activist Council (YAC). My GSA advisor heard about this new activist group forming and encouraged me to apply.

I never thought I would get in, especially because I haven’t had the same opportunities students from the Madison area have had. I grew up in Baraboo and go to school at Sauk Prairie, a politically divided school in a rural community, where you can find a cornfield three blocks from the high school. How would I compare to kids at MMSD, a more progressive and urban environment? The thing is though, I was accepted. My membership in YAC changed my life and allowed me to meet so many amazing people. Together, we formed a community even more close knit than the one I found in seventh grade. YAC became my family.

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Leading Toward the Future  

This past July, I was a peer mentor at GSAFE’s Leadership Training Institute (LTI), and let me just say this: If you are an underclassman in high school who wants to become a better activist and change the world, attend LTI. It will change your perspective on life, you will meet people from all over, and you’ll never want to leave.

My group was the best, and I’m not saying that because I was in it. We were able to have such open and deep conversations about sexuality, race, and gender where everyone spoke their truth and learned from others’ experiences. It’s rare these days to have hard conversations without someone shutting down and tuning out.

These days though, I’m working on finishing up my senior year, spending most of my time focused on my college plans for next year, and applying for scholarships. I also want to leave this school knowing it has changed for the better because of me—and will continue to change after I’m gone. I’d like to think I’ve left my mark, not because I was president of GSA, not because I was the loud kid who called teachers out on the common microaggressions occurring in their classes, but because I made a real change. I hope I’ve inspired students to come out, and I sincerely hope our school is now a safer place for everyone to be authentically themselves. My life goal is to leave a legacy that inspires people to change the world, but first, I have to go and change it myself.  

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1 Comment

  1. Love it – very inspiring! <3

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