(I know this is a long one – hang in there, it’s worth it)
It took some convincing to get me to post this blog. Since I’ve been out as a transgender man, I have detached myself from who I was before. I am not proud of that person and no longer associate with “her”. However, it is because of this person’s experiences that I have developed a strong passion for helping our transgender youth.
So, here we go.
Kayden as a Kid
I was 6, building a treehouse with my grandpa. I was in my cargo shorts, topless, feeling the summer heat beat against my bare back. I was young, and I had no idea what it meant that the time, but in that moment I was completely happy. Life made sense. It just felt right.
I didn’t play with barbies. It was Legos, toy cars, army men, and Connect roller coasters. In the summer, I could be found jumping my BMX bike off a ramp in the driveway, or checking my sister into the garage in a game of roller hockey. It wasn’t simply that I thought these things were cooler, but that I identified with them, and they felt natural. The boys shown on the packages and posters resonated with me more than the girls and the barbies.
Until I was 6 or 7, we lived in this small house on 136th Ave. I have only 3 vivid memories from that house. I remember the night my dog was killed, and the night I stayed up to spy on my mom as she put together my birthday present.
The 3rd memory from that house was the morning that I was in the bathroom, standing on my blue stool in front of the sink. I had just taken a bath. I opened the cabinet above the sink and pulled out my dad’s razor. Without water or shaving cream, I began shaving my face. The next thing I remember was the trail of blood that followed me across the house and into my mom’s arms where I was holding a washcloth full of ice.
Again, I didn’t know how to articulate it at the time, and I couldn’t have told you whether it was right or wrong, but something about the idea of shaving my imaginary beard felt completely normal.
I find it fascinating that as a young kid, I had these thoughts and feelings without any negative connotations associated with them whatsoever. I shaved my face and took my shirt off in the summer, and I didn’t give two fucks. I couldn’t articulate it, but that didn’t matter, because I didn’t need to. I was who I was, and those behaviors were just part of me.
Kayden as an Older Kid
As I grew older, that changed. I could no longer run around shirtless, and the boy’s clothes alone were not enough to make me feel comfortable (shout out to my mother for buying me whatever clothes I wanted). I found a picture the other day. I was maybe 13. I was at the beach, and had on my plaid shorts, skater shoes, black t-shirt, and backwards baseball hat. Spitting image of a 13-year-old boy… but it wasn’t a happy boy.
I began feeling angry, and I constantly felt like something was off. I felt out of place, I felt like something was different. I couldn’t put a name to it, but it wasn’t fair that those boys were over there playing football with their shirts off while I was stuck living in a body and pulling off a gender that felt weird, and frankly, gross. I couldn’t help but stare at those boys with a different type of desire than the one the other girls had – it was a feeling that I now know as envy.
If only this boy had the strength of knowledge back then. The strength to pursue his instinct, to ask questions, to find answers. If only someone older and wiser had asked the questions… maybe his life would’ve been different.
But he didn’t.
As a result of trying way too hard to pull off this ‘girl’ thing, I lashed out sexually. I slept with guys left and right because I believed that one of them would fix me. Most of the time, I was drunk and/or high when this happened because it was the only way I could be okay with it.
I thought there was something wrong with me because I didn’t love these guys like the other girls did, and didn’t enjoy being with them. I found myself starting at their bodies in a different way than the girls were and I thought I was literally on the verge of being mentally ill. I didn’t want to be with them, I wanted to be them.
Looking back, it all makes sense. Kayden Michael has always been there.
I knew my entire life. Well, I knew the concept of what it meant to grow up as a transgender kid / teenager, and I was living it. What I did not know at the time, is that it wasn’t just me having these feelings, and that there was nothing wrong with me. The concept of being transgender simply wasn’t something that my mind had learned to identify yet. I didn’t know the term, and I had no personal exposure to it. I didn’t know what questions to ask or what to do about it.
It is our responsibility to provide a better community for these kids.
This is why I invest the countless hours of my free time with the Grand Rapids Pride Center and other initiatives for the LGB and Trans community. We need to educate children and let them know that their feelings are perfectly acceptable. We need to educate parents, teachers, and the community on the same thing. Adults need to know what to watch for, what questions to ask, and when to ask them.
We need to support these kids as they learn to find themselves, whoever that may be. Because the sooner they are able to do that, the sooner they will be able to thrive.
* I realize that playing with Legos and army men does not mean a child is trans, but that a combination of certain behaviors should open up a healthy dialogue, and give children a chance to explore who they are.
* I also in no way blame my parents for not asking these questions. They had just as much knowledge on the topic as I did at the time: ziltch.