Why It Took Me So Long To Figure Out (And Accept) Who I Am

TW/CN: ableism; abuse; biphobia, transphobia; suicidal ideation/attempts; self-harm, religion

I always knew that I was different. Not just because my neurodivergence, but because of my queerness too.

Age 4: Noises that others didn’t care about really used to bother me, like toilets flushing and airplanes flying in the sky at night.

I also had trouble waiting my turn to participate in Circle Time, and sharing toys in pre-K. As a result, I would have meltdowns because I was worried that I wouldn’t get my turn.

Age 5: I didn’t like being called a girl or people calling me she/her. I realized this because my mom had a notebook that both she and my kindergarten teacher would write in to talk about how I was doing in school, and I took a peek inside the book and saw that my mom and my teacher were both using feminine pronouns for me, and I didn’t like that, but I never told anyone because I was told that I was a girl when I was very young, so I tried to convince myself that I was a girl.

My grandma told me that boys have penises and girls have vaginas. I don’t remember why we were having that conversation, but soon after that, I started to wish that I had a penis.

Age 6: This is when I started to develop anxiety. I had a really mean teacher. She was so strict that if we got any answers wrong, she would withhold our privileges, such as recess.

Like all schools, mine had fire drills. I always hated them because they were so loud and sudden and the fire alarm was a buzzer, and I hate buzzer noises. The really fucked-up thing was that once the principal and my teacher found out that I can’t stand buzzers, the principal had the fire alarm go off almost every day to desensitize us kids from the noise, even if there wasn’t a fire drill. Once, the fire alarm went off, and we had to leave the building (who knows whether or not it was an actual drill), and as we were leaving I had my hands over my ears, and my teacher yanked my hands from my ears and yelled “Hands down!”

I had a lot more meltdowns due to my anxiety induced by the principal and the teacher. I asked my mom why I was having so many meltdowns because no one else seemed to be having them, and she said that it was because I was autistic (only she used person-first language, like most people in the 1990s). I immediately thought that I was a bad kid because the way she talked about me being autistic wasn’t very pleasant.

Age 7: I begged my mom to send me to another school because I didn’t want to have to spend another year at my current school, but she said that there were no other options for me. I was absolutely devastated. I felt trapped because I knew that sadistic principal was going to torture me with “fire drills” constantly.

And I was right—that she-devil of a principal set off the fire alarm so many times that year, I could predict when it was going to go off. My second grade teacher wasn’t much help—she gave me cotton balls to put in my ears to try and block out the noise. Fucking. Cotton. Balls. They didn’t do a damn thing.

Age 8: I graduated from that hellish school (it only went up to second grade at the time), but now my anxiety was so severe that I became paranoid that the fire alarm was going to go off every day at my new school too. I had serious meltdowns in third grade at my new school, and was bullied mercilessly by other students and missed a lot of school days as a result.

Age 9: My mom took me out of that school and had me placed in another school 45 minutes from where I live. I felt some relief at last. However, I had to repeat third grade because I missed so many days the previous year.

Age 10: Just as I was starting to feel comfortable in school, a new girl came along and said that I wasn’t “cool” because I didn’t dress in trendy clothes and because I didn’t watch Olsen twins movies (believe me, many young girls were really into the Olsen twins in from the mid-1990s to the early-2000s. To be perfectly honest, I never found the movies or their merchandise all that appealing.) and she said that other girls were going to laugh at me. I didn’t want to be an outcast, so from then on, I tried to follow the “cool” kids so I would fit in with them.

I started “female puberty”, which meant developing breasts. I wasn’t happy about it. At the time, I thought that it was because I was the first one in elementary school to get breasts. I didn’t realize that it was because of dysphoria.

Age 11: I was shopping for new clothes with my mom at JCPenney, and my mom and I got into a major argument because we couldn’t agree on what kind of clothes she should buy for me. I wasn’t trying to be rude or disrespectful—I was just under a helluva lot of pressure to fit in with the cool kids.

Age 12: This is when my depression began—I had just started middle school, and I was having difficulty adjusting to the changes and teachers’ expectations. I even had thoughts of suicide from time to time.

I realized that I was bisexual, so I came out to my mom because I felt like I could tell her almost anything, but she said that it was “just a phase” so I shoved myself back into the closet.

Age 15: My mom bought me a Zondervan “Teen Study Bible”. In the Bible, it said that being LGBTQ was sinful, that it was a perversion. And I started to panic and feel worse about myself.

I started high school, and I developed a crush on two female teachers whom I found very attractive. And I felt even worse about myself because I thought that I was going to hell for liking women.

Age 16: My depression got even worse, I became even more irritable, angry, stressed, and sad. My suicidal ideation became much more frequent. I started purposely cutting myself, and I even had to be hospitalized—which would be the first of many psychiatric hospitalizations to come. And my dysphoria got even worse—I really started to hate my breasts. I talked to my mom about my dysphoria. Again, she tried to downplay it by telling me “Your boobs aren’t that big.”

Age 17: My school started going through a renovation project (the school was still open during the renovation), and both of the teachers that I was crushing on quit the school. Also, I had to repeat my sophomore year because didn’t complete Performing Arts, which was a graduation requirement. All the changes that were going on at the time were simply too much for me to handle, and I went from irritable to enraged. I had even more meltdowns, and one was actually so severe that I got expelled from the school.

I went to another school, and it was way worse than the previous school. There was no stimming allowed, and stimming is a way for me to regulate my emotions—I like to stim by hand-flapping. Also, the school used restraints and seclusion as discipline. And, you had to be on a certain behavioral level to get privileges like school trips and activities. Level 1 meant you almost had no privileges and Level 5 meant that you had the most privileges. The highest level I ever got to while I was in that school was Level 4.

Age 19: This was probably the hardest year ever. I was still trying to fit in with everyone. Only it was a new group of cool kids since I was at a different school now. I tried so hard to be like them that I completely neglected my school work—I went from an honor student, to a C student by the end of my senior year.

This next thing is really hard to talk about, but I’ll do my best. One day at school, I was really angry and I vented my feelings by writing some very inflammatory things on a piece of paper. I threw it in the trash, but a teacher fished it out of the trash can and sent me to Resource, where I had to calm down and talk about what happened. My school counselor came to Resource too and wanted to talk to me about what I wrote on the paper, which she had in her hand. I tried to grab the paper from her, but the next thing I knew, 2 or 3 Resource staff came and pinned me to a mat on the floor. They told the dean that I was trying to assault my counselor. I tried to tell them that I wasn’t trying to assault her—I was just trying to get the paper from her, but they wouldn’t listen to me.

After that incident, I came home and was about to slit my wrists with a knife. I wanted to die, but then I thought about what would happen if my mom or my grandma saw my lying on my bed in a gruesome mess. So I decided not to do it.

Also, a guy from my other school really liked me at the time, and he asked me to be his girlfriend. I wanted to “prove” to everyone that I was a straight, cis girl, so I said yes, even though I only liked him as a friend. We broke up after only 6 months, but we’re still really good friends.

When I from graduated high school I just bust into tears. I cried because I was finally free from all the rigid expectations of staff and my peers after all those years of conformity.

What Happened Next: I was still struggling even after graduating from high school because I lost so many friends because of my depression, and I couldn’t start college or get a job because of the trauma that I experienced in special education. I felt so lost I didn’t know what to do.

I started going through rages every night, and suicidal ideation every day. I even attempted suicide twice. After my last attempt, which was two years ago, I decided to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

Nobody told me that being a Christian would be hard though. I only experienced about 2 months of what’s called a “honeymoon phase”—an unexplainable joy that many Christians experience after being Saved—before things started to fall apart again. I lost another friend, and my grandma suddenly became very ill and died shortly after, and I started to feel very depressed again. I slept most of the day to cope with my depression.

However, around this time, my mom became much more accepting of me being queer and autistic. I also later came out as a trans man after many years of struggling to figure out my identity.

Today, after trial and error finding the right therapists, I finally found one whom I feel comfortable with. I told her that I want to start testosterone, and she said that she’ll help me with the process.

I have dreams of having a career as a writer and illustrator and activist—and skateboarding for fun.

I thank God for delivering me from my trials and tribulations and bringing me into a new chapter of my life. I’m now proud to say that I’m a queer, trans autistic Black man, who’s also a person of faith.

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