“After coming home and slipping off my dress from my seventh grade semi formal, I swore to myself I’d never go to a school dance again. That’s exactly the moment I thought of when I came home and took off my tux and crown from senior prom. Who would’ve thought a school dance would be one of the best moments of my life?
My fingers danced nervously as my class advisor Lyn V. addressed the senior class and their dates sitting expectantly at their tables. It was time to announce the prom king and queen. My heart jumped through my throat each time she called up members of the prom court, followed by the crazy jitters when I realized she hadn’t called my name yet. The final prince and princess of the prom court were called. Joe and Ingrid. My eyes widened, my heart exploded. It was beating as fast as the drum roll before Ms. V officially announced Kalyani and I prom queen and king. I was walking on air when I walked up to get my crown and sash.
Being known as Nicole in my school up until my senior year, I never would’ve expected this. Flipping through the senior photos in my yearbook and seeing all the bright smiles and warm hearts in the pages, I can’t say I’m surprised Barnstable High School welcomed me with open arms. The memories I have of high school are beautiful and I owe it to the community that surrounds me.
It was a rocky path getting to that prom night. My family was not religious, but each night of my childhood I found myself praying to god that I would wake up a normal boy.
I was a tom girl growing up, playing football at recess, winning medals at BMX competitions, and fishing with my dad as much as I could. These were moments when I felt most comfortable with myself. There was more focus on what I was doing than who was doing it.
I first found the term transgender online in eighth grade and immediately felt a huge weight lift off my chest. I realized this was how I was feeling and there were others out there who were just like me. I started to delve deep into research on trans people and found trans individuals online that shared their stories and experiences, including how they went about transitioning. I was extremely happy and extremely scared. What was I going to tell my mom? Would my family still love me? What does this mean for my future? Will I ever fall in love? Am I going to be safe? These were all questions buzzing in the back of my middle schooler mind all day, from math class to social studies. I kept my identity under wraps from everyone else because of these concerns and the lack of acceptance I had for myself deep down.
Then, Caitlyn Jenner came out during my freshman year. I was suddenly thrusted into a world where everyone was talking about transgender people and what their opinion was. I had been going to a more conservative, cookie-cutter school at the time, so the conversations were not pretty a fair amount of the time. I remember talking with classmates in my gym class about Caitlyn and them saying things like, ‘I’m okay with gays, but being transgender is just weird. It doesn’t make any sense.’ The constant pit in my stomach turned into a boulder and I expressed my agreement. I wish every day I had a stronger voice in that moment and stood up for myself and my community, but I wasn’t ready yet.
Moments like these ripped holes in my heart. I hid who I was and planned to never tell a soul. I would go to the school library and check out books on Tupac and Harry Hodini, hoping to learn how to fake my death and live as a boy with nobody knowing my past. It was outlandish and crazy, but young me would have rather died than bring shame to my family or have my friends hate me.
Slowly, I started finding positive trans role models online who were living life out and happy. This gave me such hope. I began to sprinkle hints here and there to my mom about my identity (Look at this guy! Isn’t he cool? He’s transgender!). One night, after making her watch a show about transgender supermodels with me, she tucked me in and whispered, ‘I know you’re a boy’ and kissed my forehead. I felt instantly relieved. Her kiss soothed all my insecurities and reassured me that I could do whatever I needed to in order to be happy. I went to bed a stronger man.
I started my sophomore year at Barnstable after switching from my old school. I was so nervous but ready to turn a new leaf. With around 2,000 kids in the building, I felt it’d be easier to be myself and not be judged.
Junior year, I confided in my field hockey coach about my identity and how the skirt uniform made me uncomfortable. Coach Bish and my school administration personally printed out my rights as a trans individual, and got me shorts I was comfortable with in under 30 minutes. They became some of my best allies.
Eventually, during junior year, I quietly started my visits at GEMs clinic in Boston, and I was prescribed testosterone during the summer. This was a huge moment for me! After countless visits with endocrinologists and therapists, I would be able to start my senior year as someone comfortable with their self.
This led to a scary leap. I had to publicly come out as transgender to my peers. My fingers shook as I wrote my paragraph long Instagram caption, and I cried as soon as I posted it. My friend Seanna had to calm me down. My post got over 100 comments of love and support, and I got hundreds more texts and hugs over the next few weeks. My community celebrated with me and was eager to learn whatever I had to share.
My field hockey team were my biggest supporters. I was treated like the big brother on the team, and I loved each and every one of my sisters. My coach and captains pulled me aside one day and told me they’d like to hold an LGBTQ pride game in support of athletes like me and my community and I was overjoyed. This had never been done before for any team at Barnstable and I knew it’d mean a lot for not just me but other LGBT kids in our school. My teammates went ALL OUT! We made rainbow posters, rainbow snacks, and dressed in all rainbow for school that day. It was amazing to see such a strong show of support from my team and I was wicked proud to be a part of it. I gave an intro speech to the game and going down the line hugging my teammates after made me cry.
I’ve learned so much throughout my transition, but some of biggest lessons I’ve learned is to be vulnerable with others and to lean on the people around me for support. Sometimes growth from yourself and others can take time, but time is needed for people to feel comfortable with new things. People make mistakes. Allow them to redeem themselves instead of writing them off. Nobody is perfect and mess ups are part of the human experience. Life would be nothing without growth. The words that I live by and the words I will die by are this:
‘Pay it no mind.’
‘Love or perish.’
These mantras have kept me solid through high school and the tests of life, and have encouraged my character to develop into something I’m proud of.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Nicholas James Bulman of Barnstable Massachusetts. You can follow his journey on Instagram here. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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