‘I know you’re a boy’: Nick’s transition story

nick sits in a stairwell after coming out as trans
(Photos: D. McCollister/Boston Children's)

After returning 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. Yet five years later, I came home from my senior prom smiling — and took off my tux and crown. That night, I was walking on air after being named prom king. Who would’ve thought a school dance would be one of the best moments of my life?

The path to that night had been a rocky one. My family isn’t religious, but each night of my childhood I found myself praying that I would wake up a normal boy. Growing up, I was a tomgirl, 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.

trans boy looking out of a window

Extremely happy — and scared

When I first found the term “transgender” online in eighth grade, I immediately felt a huge weight lift off my chest. I realized this was how I felt, and there were others out there 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 did this mean for my future? Would I ever fall in love? Was I going to be safe? These were all questions buzzing in the back of my mind all day. I kept my identity under wraps from everyone else because of these concerns and the lack of acceptance I had for myself.

Then, Caitlyn Jenner came out during my freshman year. I was suddenly thrust into a world where everyone was offering up their opinions about transgender people. My classmates said things like, “I’m okay with gay people, but being transgender is just weird. It doesn’t make any sense.” The constant pit in my stomach turned into a boulder — so I expressed my agreement. I wish I’d had a stronger voice in that moment and stood up for myself and my community, but I wasn’t ready yet.

trans patient poses for camera

Finding trans role models

Moments like these ripped holes in my heart. I hid who I was and planned to never tell a soul. I read books on Harry Houdini, hoping to learn how to fake my death and live as a boy with nobody knowing my past. It was outlandish and crazy, but I would have rather died than bring shame to my family or have my friends hate me.

Slowly, I started finding positive trans role models who were living life out and happy. This gave me such hope. I began to drop hints to my mom about my identity (“Look at this guy! Isn’t he cool? He’s transgender!”). One night, after I’d made 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.

trans patient at the doctors office

Coming out

When I started my sophomore year at a new school, I was ready to turn over a new leaf. With around 2,000 kids in the building, I felt it’d be easier to be myself and not be judged. The following year, I confided in my field hockey coach about my identity and how the skirt uniform made me uncomfortable. She got me shorts I was comfortable with in under 30 minutes and became one of my best allies.

Soon, I started visiting the Gender Management Service (GeMS) clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital and was prescribed testosterone. After countless visits with endocrinologists and therapists, I would be able to start my senior year comfortable with myself. That meant 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. But 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 fellow field hockey players 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 I was overjoyed. 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.

smiling trans patient talks to his PA
Nick visits with physician assistant Haley Chrisos during a recent appointment.

Falling into place

Last year, I decided I wanted to take the next step, so my clinicians in GeMS referred me to Dr. Oren Ganor in the Center for Gender Surgery. In March 2019, I underwent chest reconstruction surgery. I love the whole team there, and they made sure I had all the information I needed about the procedure and aftercare. I’m really pleased with the outcome, and now I can feel comfortable wearing different shirts — or no shirt at all. I recently was able to enjoy my first day at the beach and totally feel like myself.

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 can take time, but that can be necessary for people to feel comfortable with new things. People make mistakes. Allow them to redeem themselves instead of writing them off. And be patient: It can be hard to wait for change, but things will fall into place.

Learn about the Center for Gender Surgery and the Gender Management Service (GeMS).

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