by Aila Alvina Boyd
When I first started facing the reality that I was transgender during the summer following my high school graduation, I found solace in an old friend from high school who I hadn’t interacted with very much since junior year. He had been brave enough to openly proclaim his gender identity in our rural Southwest Virginia high school while I had been content to just be viewed as a run-of-the-mill gay kid.
Despite the fact that 2012 wasn’t all that long ago in the grand scheme of things, the cultural landscape was far less progressive regarding LGBT issues than it is now. Marriage equality, Laverne Cox, and Caitlyn Jenner were not part of the cultural zeitgeist.
Due to the fact that Nolan and I were the only openly LGBT students at our high school, we suffered dearly for it on a near daily basis. We were constantly bullied, harassed, and even threatened. Being gay was hard enough. I still can’t imagine what he went through by being openly trans.
Following our graduation, I regularly viewed his transition photos on Facebook. Prior to graduation, he was prevented from medically starting his transition because of the objections of his parents. This was right around the time that I was finally coming to terms with the fact that I wasn’t actually gay, but rather a trans woman. The photos primarily highlighted the effects that hormone replacement therapy was having on his body— facial hair growth, fat redistribution, and added muscle definition. The pictures genuinely inspired me.
Having known him both before and after his transition, the confidence boost that his medical transition gave him amazed me. He was proud of who he was and it showed. As I grew more and more certain of my own transgender identity, I couldn’t help but question whether or not transitioning would have the same impact on me.
I finally reached out to him in early August before I went off to college and told him that I also identified as transgender. He immediately welcomed me to the family with open arms. During that summer, he essentially helped me jumpstart my transition by telling me all of the ins and outs of both the medical and legal sides of transitioning. He referred me to the licensed clinical social worker who specialized in LGBT youths that he went to for counseling and walked me through the process of legally changing my name. He even referred me to the only doctor within a reasonable driving distance who was willing to prescribe hormone replacement therapy.
Although all of the medical and legal advice that he gave me was very beneficial, the most important thing that he did was provide me with a support system. Having been raised by a conservative mother and step-father, who nearly disowned me the minute that I came out to them as gay, I desperately needed all of the support that I could get.
Unfortunately, our communication grew more and more infrequent over the course of my freshman year of college to the point that we had ceased all contact by the end of it. It wasn’t as though it was intentional. Our lives simply got in the way. I was busy doing college stuff, while he was busy working the healthcare job he landed following graduation.
It wasn’t until after I returned home from college the following summer that I attempted to reach back out to him. To my surprise, all of the text messages that I sent him went unanswered. And his Facebook account had been deleted. It was like he never even existed. I was devastated.
Although he popped back into my thoughts from time to time throughout my final two years of college, I went on to meet plenty of other wonderful LGBT people. I even started an original university organization called TransPlus that solely focused on outreach to the transgender community.
It wasn’t until the summer of 2015, right after marriage equality had been granted by the Supreme Court and Caitlyn Jenner officially came out to the world, that I finally discovered what had happened to Nolan. I was in Miami recovering from my sex reassignment surgery (SRS) when Facebook suggested that I “friend” someone by the name of Brook. To my surprise, Brooke looked eerily like Nolan.
At first, I considered the possibility that the account might have been a remnant of Nolan’s former self but quickly realized that my assumption wasn’t the case when I started scrolling through the feed of the account and noticed how recent all of the activity was. There were tons of pictures of Nolan from before and after his detransition on a page called Ex-LGBT Through Jesus Christ.
I nearly dropped my phone when I looked closer and saw that the pictures of Nolan had the word “sin” placed over top of them. The pictures of Brook had the word “saved” plastered over top of them in an angelic white font. All of the pictures had little blurbs about how she, Brooke, had renounced her sinful ways by bringing God into her life and by embracing the heterosexual woman God had always meant for her to be. As I continued to read the posts, I realized that she had started partaking in ex-LGBT ministries. I even found out that she was being profiled in a documentary about people who had detransitioned and renounced their so-called “homosexual lifestyles.”
I immediately started sobbing to the point in which the nurse at the clinic thought that something gravely wrong had happened. I tried my best to explain to her that I wasn’t suffering from physical pain, but rather the pain that came from realizing that the person who I had thought of as my guardian angel had betrayed her true self. The pain medication that I was on and the utter disappointment that I felt knowing about what had happened to Nolan, or rather Brooke, didn’t go well together.
No matter how much I tried over the seven-day period that I spent in Miami, I simply couldn’t piece together an explanation for Brook’s decision. It was as though she had survived all of those awful high school years only to detransition after she had become an adult and had been given the freedom to truly be whoever she wanted.
Although I considered sending her a friend request and a message asking for an explanation for her decision to detransition, I told myself that it was none of my business. I reasoned that I didn’t like it when people doubted my gender identity, so just because she took a different path than the one that I chose didn’t entitle me to an explanation. Whether transitioning or detransitioning, she deserved respect.
I made the decision to confirm my gender identity, whereas she decided that being saved by God, at the expense of the young man who I had been so proud to call my friend, was the most important thing in her life
The process of accepting the fact that Brooke had denounced her LGBT status in favor of a lifestyle that she thought would assist her in gaining entry into Heaven wasn’t easy for me. But with that being said, I’m sure the struggle that I went through in accepting her decision paled in comparison to the one that she made to detransition. It’s best to be empathetic to the struggles of ex-LGBT individuals and to keep in mind the humanity of her choices. They shouldn’t be chastised for the decisions that they surely didn’t make lightly. On the other hand, I ask that anyone who does identify as ex-LGBT be respectful of those who continue to take pride in their homosexual or transgender identities. Respect goes both ways—people who identify as LGBT and ex-LGBT both deserve it no matter what.
Category: Featured, SNHU Creative Writing