‘I had a friend who always dressed like a boy. She told me how scary it was to embrace her true self in a place that would never accept her.’: Former teacher responds to ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill

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“I took this picture on a night when I was feeling like my favorite version of myself. My little sister and I were living our childhood dreams by going to see the musical ‘Anastasia.’ I had just opened a brand new Stitch Fix box to find my new favorite dress. I made time to curl my hair, put on makeup, and even wear fun earrings. For one special night, I felt like ME in the most fun and authentic way.

As I played back the memories of princess movies, dress-up costumes, and bright-colored makeup, I realized how often I had practiced being this version of me when I was quite little. My mom was very hands-off with how I dressed and cut my hair, and I just happened to be a person lucky enough to find an authentic identity aligned with ‘normal’ expectations for a girl.

But I had a friend who always dressed like a boy and was mistaken for being a boy from her earliest years. In high school, she finally told me how confusing it was to feel different on the outside than the person she was on the inside, and how scary it was to embrace her true self in a place that would never accept what she had always known about who she really was. (I just checked her profile before telling this story to make sure, but she currently uses all pronouns. Back then, I only thought to consider she/her.)

Because she had the courage to be honest with me, when I spent a decade working in early childhood education, I noticed the children who reminded me of her. Preschoolers often declared their preferences with little awareness of what anyone expected as ‘normal.’ But as early as Kindergarten, I noticed the tension and confusion for those who could already tell their little lives might not match what everyone else seemed to believe about who they were ‘supposed to be.’

These children need a safe space. They need stories, role models, and opportunities to explore and practice who they are growing up to be. And everyone deserves to grow up into themselves in the truest way we can provide. Please. Please. Please. Protect the rights of these precious children. They are learning to read not only books, but also their place in the world. Let’s all help them find it.”

Selfie of woman in a car smiling wearing a navy blue shirt with floral print
Courtesy of Sally Hockinson

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sally Hockinson of Waconia, MN. You can follow her journey on Facebook and Instagram. Submit your own story hereand be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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