In second grade, there was a boy in my class, we would go to his house and play games together. At school, we played frequently during our recesses. I seemed to be drawn to him. He always stood up for me against the big bad bullies. He would hug me and tell me,
“Don’t cry, I won’t let’em hurt ya.”
At that age, I did not think that I was different or see that there was anything wrong. I had no idea what being gay meant. I was being me and he was my best friend, which is all I saw at the time.
Later, my family moved to Wahoo, NE, and I never spoke to him again. I was in the third grade when I first heard the word ‘gay.’ I did not understand what it meant, I was too busy playing and being a kid to worry about it. However, kids started calling me gay and a sissy because I was weak and I did not like what most of the other boys liked. I guess I seemed girly. In addition, I had feelings that I did not quite understand. I thought they were normal, so I did not pay much attention to them.
Around the end of the school year, someone called me a, ‘fagot.’ I cried and cried that day. I could not understand what it meant, but it hurt that people would call me these names. I started to feels as thought I was different. I did not know what they saw was bad or wrong with me.
In the fourth grade, I began thinking that I might be gay. I started having sexual feelings about boys. I tried to push them away and tell myself, “No, it’s wrong to think like that.” I started believing that I was sick, and depression set in. I had no idea what to do. I wanted to go back to second grade and be with my friend; he would make all the bad things stop. I tried to pretend I was sick all the time so I would not have to go to school or to leave early to get away from the bullying.
Fifth grade, my last year of elementary school, and first year at the new building in Wahoo, I was so happy. Everything was new, I was excited to have a chance to start over. I thought I could lose those feelings I’d been having. I was so hopeful.
As much as I tried not to be myself, I could no longer hide it. Somehow, my fellow classmates knew. I looked to the teachers to help, but they were very reluctant. I must be sick, I constantly told myself.
Sophomore year at Wahoo High School, was sort of the best and worst year I had ever in Wahoo. I decided I could be ‘normal.’ I worked hard to open up to people and put myself out there. I very much wanted to be normal, to be like everyone else. I decided to try to find a girlfriend.
Thus, I knew my cousin had a friend who I also knew, and we had several things in common. I asked my cousin’s friend to go to the homecoming dance with me at my high school, along with my cousin herself and one other of my friends. It felt like a safe way to attempt to belong.
On New Year’s Eve, I was with my older sister and cousin, while we drank that evening, celebrating the promise of the New Year, I told them that I was indeed bisexual and that there was a guy I liked. My cousin and sister said,
“Yeah, we know.”
They poked fun for a bit, in a loving way, and we continued chatting as we always had. I finally felt like I could be myself.
The following day was a new year and I decided to live openly. I began to experience what living openly means. Including the pain of being gay in a small town high school in the United States and especially in Nebraska, where it was legal to bully and harass a fellow student based on their sexual orientation. To this day, there are no state or federal laws banning bullying or harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
As an openly ‘gay’ student, I began to experience bullying and harassment in a different way, but I decided I would have to live with what was thrown at me. At the same time, I was beginning to feel the hurt manifesting from the fact that I really liked the boy I told my sister and cousin about. I knew the feelings I had for him would not be returned. I thought at the time that he was too perfect. During this time, I was learning for the information I had at hand, that gay and bisexual people do not get ‘perfect,’ and knew they never would.
Soon the bullying and harassment escalated to the point where I needed to leave Wahoo. I became very depressed and angry. I did not completely understand why. I just came out and learned from my research that I should be feeling better. Coming out always makes things better. Nevertheless, I did not feel much better. I was not happy many days. I still felt wrong in my own body.
One day after watching my older sister get her nails done, something happened. I felt that I would like to see how my nails would look painted. Thus, a couple of my friends and I painted my nails. I learned that I did love it.
Soon, I felt more comfortable and I started looking at the tighter jeans from Hot Topic. I knew guys were not ‘supposed’ to pain their nails or wear girly cloths. However, I wanted to wear them. I wanted to wear those things, and they made me feel more comfortable when I did. They also really scared me. I began having problems sleeping and could not stop thinking at night. I also became interested in other things to express myself such as choir, drama, and activism.
In drama class, while still living in Wahoo, I learned that I really like to do make-up, read plays, and act. My drama teacher was the most supportive. She taught me that it was okay to be myself and that included my sexual orientation and gender expression. Because I could not sleep at night, that is when I would end up staying up all night practicing for speech competitions, reading the poems aloud, and allowing the words to connect with my own emotions. Perhaps not the best for my academics, but it may have helped me psychologically.
In 2007, my family and I left Wahoo. Most of that summer we lived in a subdivision of Omaha. When school started, I moved in with my cousin and her family so I was able to attend school with her at Millard South High School. I met so many new people there. People there were finally accepting of me for who I was regardless of my sexual orientation or gender expression. I even met many other openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and asexual (LGBTQA) students. Millard South was a safer environment for me. I was able to open up and become the person who I truly was all along.
Millard South even offered many more academic opportunities than the small town school did. I was able to take part in the German program. I was able to thrive there, and I soon gained confidence in myself. I was even somewhat popular, although I attribute that to the fact that I was openly queer and ‘different.’ In many aspects different was good. I might not have been ‘normal,’ but I was accepted for who I was.
Students and teachers at Millard South actually thought something of me. They believed that I could do some awesome things in my future. I had a couple of teachers who believed in me especially when I did not believe in myself. They gave me encouragement. They told me to keep fighting for what was right. They believed in me when I really needed someone, when even my own family was not there for me. I will never forget all that they did for me and I hope I can repay them.
Junior year at Millard South flew bye and the next thing I knew, I was a senior. I was terrified of what would be in my future. However, I could not wait for the end of the year because I wanted to move on to college.
My new pride and confidence did not help me at home. My mother and her boyfriend acted as if they hated me. They probably did. She not only did not understand who I was, she seemed not interested in trying to learn. Her boyfriend, who had been living with us since we lived in Wahoo, had said he wanted me dead. He truly hated me then and will always. He has never told me why and I do not care. They both thought I needed to see a psychologist.
On that particular issue, they were right. I needed to see someone who could help me understand myself. I had known for years that I was different and my time at Millard South allowed me to develop and embrace certain parts of my identity. I knew there was more, but I could not figure out what. I could not piece together why I felt that a part of me was incomplete.
Finally, I did see a psychologist, one that was at Boys Town. She was very nice and LGBTQIA+ friendly. I spoke with her about my research on LGBTQIA+ matters and laws that affect them. I spoke with her about my classes and the many issues. She understood that the problems at home were multi-facet and did have a lot to d with my mother and her boyfriend. She understood that some of the problems I was facing were related to being queer and dealing with the bullying and harassment. The sessions with her helped me to begin to accept a fact about myself that I had previously been unable to come to terms with. I was able to finally come out as transgender. I was able to identify the roots of some of the many problems and discovered more about my identity. I also realized that the only way to overcome the feelings of injustice I had was to continue to fight for my rights, as I had done in high school the year before.
At one of the sessions where my mother and I were at, I came out to her. I remember yelling,
“Well, I am fucking sick of listening to you cry about you cry about your problems! We are here about me! I am fucking transgender!”
That day forward, I began coming out to people. On October 11, 2009, I told the store manager at J.C. Penney that I was transgender and from that moment on, I would be identifying as female, using female pronouns, and prefer being addressed as Mika. I also began the process of coming out at school and requesting my teachers to address me the same.
Coming out as transgender was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It was so difficult because I was so scared. I knew my family did not like me being queer. I was worried about how my friends at school and work would treat me. I fully expected to be fired from my job.
Now, I wonder why I did not notice this sooner. Coming out actually opened my own mind to new possibilities. It helped me accept myself and I was able to improve my academics and work beyond what I thought I could.
It has been a long journey. Now, after nearly six years I am starting medical transition to assist me in confirming my gender. I recently started transgender hormone therapy. The medications I take are to assist in secondary gender characteristics. I take spironolactone (aldactone) to suppress the male sex hormone (testosterone) that my body does produce. Having hypogonadism my body’s sex organs do not produce much testosterone. I also use estradiol (climara), which adds the female sex hormone (estrogen) to my body. Because of the hypogonadism, my body was never exposed to large amounts of the testosterone. Therefore, I was able to socially transition into my true gender much easier.