When I was growing up, I avoided dresses and had short hair. I was basically a happy-go-lucky kid, but I was also different. In seventh grade, I wrote a letter to my mom: “I don’t like my body. I don’t like what I have,” but I held off on giving it to her. Then while I was away at Bible camp, I blurted out over the phone: “Mom, I’m a dude.” She told me she loved me no matter what.
I came out publicly as a boy in high school and went through therapy, hormone treatment, and surgery to help the body I saw in the mirror reflect the person I felt I was. I was the first openly transgender student at my school and the first to publicly transition. I started using the boys’ bathroom my senior year.
But a handful of students and parents at my school, Boyertown Area Senior High in Pennsylvania, sued to stop the school from allowing transgender students like me to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match our their gender identities — saying the presence of someone like me there violates other people’s privacy. Less than an hour after arguments in a federal court yesterday in Philadelphia, three judges rejected that argument and said that treating transgender students equally does not hurt anyone else.
I was so relieved. When I started at Boyertown Area Senior High, the first time I stepped into the girls’ bathroom, the girls stared at me because I looked like a guy. It was uncomfortable, and it was clear that I didn’t belong there. I asked school administrators if there was another option, and they said I could use the nurse’s bathroom.
I had started seeing a psychotherapist who is a gender specialist, and I started taking steps to live in a way that reflected who I am. In 10th grade, I asked my teachers to call me “A” rather than my birth name, a girls’ name.
That summer, I started taking hormones to helpfully become the guy I was meant to be. I was already wearing guys’ clothes at home, school, work, and church. When I went back to school in the fall, I asked my teachers to call me Aidan and refer to me as “he” or “him,” which they did. I immediately felt different in every part of my life. Schoolwork was easier for me. I felt happier and more myself.
There were more steps. I began the process of legally changing my name to Aidan Maxwell DeStefano. I stopped competing on the girls’ track team — but stayed on as a manager because I loved the team. I had a bilateral mastectomy. I began the process of changing my legal documents, including my birth certificate, from saying “female” to saying “male.”
In 11th grade, the boys’ cross-country team asked me to join, and my counselor told me I could use the boys’ bathroom if I wanted to.
By the time I first walked into the boys’ bathroom in 12th grade, I was ready. I knew I was a guy, and everyone seemed to support me. I even got elected me to the homecoming court. When I ran my last race on the cross-country team, it felt great to hear the cheers from the other guys, my teammates. And in the locker room, I really felt like “one of the guys,” something I had been waiting for my whole life.
Being able to be my true self is more important than I can describe. In my last semesters of high school, I made the honor roll three times in a row — something I had never achieved before because I had been too distracted and stressed trying to hide who I was.
I was so shocked and angry when I found out that other students were suing the school to stop the policy of allowing kids like me from using a bathroom that matches our gender identity. I’m lucky to have a supportive family and friends, but most transgender kids I know don’t. What happens at school can make or break their world. And being allowed to use the bathrooms we choose is a way to show support and make us feel recognized for who we are.
At one hearing in this case, the judge asked me how many times I’d used the men’s restroom at the courthouse that day. I had been there several times — I had literally peed in the same room as one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, and he had had no idea the guy next to him was trans.
I graduated high school last year. Now I’m at community college, and I’m really happy. My experience in high school was formative — I became who I am with crucial support from my family, friends, teachers, and school administrators. No one stood in my way when it came to something as basic as using the bathroom consistent with who I am — and every trans person should have that same basic freedom. High school helped give me a strong sense of myself.
Now, as I make decisions about my future, I know I’m going to live my own life the way I want it to be.