If you were anything like me in High School, the idea of a reunion can feel like you’re a POW being cordially invited back to your captors. Most of the people I’ve polled either refused to go from past trauma, or went and ended up having a good time. I don’t think I’ve heard of someone’s experience going completely awry, which was great on the one hand, but also couldn’t explain the childhood fears coming back. Maybe time is capable of transforming monstrous bullies and the victimized outcasts into beings with a little more common ground, but to find out, you have to risk encountering monsters. It’s a very personal decision to risk opening up old wounds, and it’s really okay either way. For me though, I needed to do this, and find out for myself.
There’s a small detail I think is worth mentioning. In high school, I was a girl, and now, I am a very hairy, bearded man. That’s not to take away from any cisgendered and heterosexual people out there with reunion fears. If you’ve survived monsters in high school, you’re my people, and we share the same fears.
Let’s backtrack to high school for a minute.
I wasn’t a popular kid, but I wasn’t unpopular either. I played sports, wrote for the newspaper, and loved to spread the word about my beliefs in ufos and alien conspiracies. One friend said, “Why do I only remember aliens when I think back on you.” I had a close-knit group of friends, who I’m still best friends with to this day. They are loving, supportive, open-minded, and have the compassion of saints. Without them, I know I would’ve committed suicide in high school. As far as I knew, there was no one else at my school who was like me, and I felt like a freak and a waste of life. Their love carried me every day of high school.
I lived what some would call a double life during that period, wherein school I was a girl, outside of school, I was a boy. I bound my breasts with duct tape. Sadly, binders were not a mainstream idea in the nineties. In the nineties, the only true thing I knew about being transgendered was from Brandon Tina’s story and ultimate murder. When I read about what happened to him, and how he was living his life similar to mine, I always had a fear that one day I too would be found out and killed.
Outside of the lovely collective of friends and alleys in the school, there was a very real danger lurking around. My monster, and his cowardly, sheep-like, fuck-face minion.
Peace and love ya’ll.
My monster was a creature who hurt people just to hurt them. He never showed his weaknesses or his reasonings as to why he wanted to inflict so much pain on those he viewed to be lower than him.
The peak of the abuse happened my senior year when the two of them caught me binding my breasts. They had heard the tape being used and I guess got curious what the sound was. If you’ve never been caught in the middle of binding your chest, I will tell you the fear is so powerful; I was almost certain that I would have a heart attack right then and there. All I remember from that moment was them taking my face and slamming my head into the brick wall next to me. When I woke up, I was half naked and bleeding. This became my life with my monster, and every day after that I was sure he was going to kill me. I continued to live my double life, but I left that place as soon as I possibly could. My “hometown” could never be my home.
I rarely ever went back out of fear I’d run into him or his minion, and that would be the end of my life right then and there.
As I’ve aged, and dealt with the other demons in my life, I began to really want my fears of my monster out of my life. If I saw someone who reminded me of him, I would be paralyzed with fear, and this wasn’t the man that I wanted to be anymore.
So, with the help of my best friends from high school, I was able to muster up enough courage to go back and present my new self to my old peers. I was scared, and sure that my monster would be there, and would keep his promise of killing me. I was shaking, my knees were buckling below me, and I swear I couldn’t breathe.
For the first hour, I kept checking the doors to see if he was going to walk through. I didn’t know what I planned on doing, but I knew I just needed to be prepared if he did show up. Some time passed, and I relaxed a bit and then shifted into the next phase of the night, which was to come out to my old peers. None of them had recognized me up to that point. How could they?
I was curious what their reactions would be, but, you know, also worried about rejection.
I started out with a girl whom I knew, but wasn’t close with in high school. She was surprised, but she was full of so much kindness and compassion. This gave me the confidence to come out to more and more people. Every person had open arms, minds, and hearts for me. The words they shared with me were so kind and supportive that for a second I wondered why I had been so scared of coming out (the answer is because it’s scary as shit).
That night, I was able to for the first time let the children I grew up with meet me for the first time. I didn’t have to pretend, or lie to them about who I really was. I was able to look them in the eyes, and let them see the real me. The love I received and felt was as special as the feelings I felt when I had woken up after my top surgery (boob removal). So much relief, so much happiness, so much security, and a sense of much-needed safety filled my body. I finally felt a sense of peace with my past ghosts of high school. It was like the wall I had built up out of old fears and insecurities had just crumbled in front of me.
My monster never showed up, but someone else’s did.
A few days after the reunion, a classmate confided in me the only reason he had gone to the 10 and 20-year reunion was to apologize to someone he had been cruel to in high school. He was a monster without a victim, and I was a victim without a monster, so together we told each other what we would have told our counterparts if they had shown up. It was a beautiful chance for him to make amends, and a chance for me to forgive.
I’m not sure why my monster didn’t show up. Maybe he was in jail, or lived somewhere else now. I like to think that maybe, he was also afraid of not being accepted and loved, after being a complete dangerous, hate-filled, asshat in high school.
If this story ever makes it to you, asshat, I don’t hate you anymore, and I hope your life is full of love.
** Not every transgendered individual will feel safe enough, or be safe enough going to their reunions, or would even have the same experience I did if they did choose to go. I’m so grateful that my friends from high school and my current friends all supported me in this step forward. It truly does take a community. We are all human.
If you are feeling alone and need a transman to talk to, I am here for you, please reach out **