At a very young age I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted to live in Paris, have a beautiful home, ride a unicorn, and raise two kids. Not exactly in that order. I would stay up all night making plans for my future. I wondered about what college I would attend. Would I be president or a veterinarian, what would I look like when I grew up? In all that planning, however, I knew one thing for certain: my future did not contain a wife.
My mom always knew that I was gay. I didn’t really have to say anything about it. I think some stuff gave me away: my love for watching “Golden Girls” reruns, singing Barbra Streisand at my school talent show, or how I couldn’t go a day without wearing something without sequins.
Growing up I wasn’t like the other boys around me. I spent my time creating stories with my toy unicorns. My backyard was a place that held all sorts of whimsical creatures. I constantly played dress up with my sister and forced my mom to sit through impromptu fashion shows. I didn’t hang out with boys because I couldn’t relate to them. I didn’t want to play basketball or a video game. I connected better with girls. I understood their conversation. I loved playing with Barbies, but something seemed wrong to me when Ken ended up with Barbie in the end.
I came out to my mom when I was in fourth grade. I was in the bathtub surrounded by bubbles and she was brushing her teeth. “Momma I said I think Jordan is really cute.’’ She turned to me and without missing a beat, responded, “Well, what do you like about him?’’
“Well, I said, blushing, “I really like his hair and. He has a very nice smile.’’ I got out of the bath and dried myself off. My mom came over to me and wrapped her arms around me, and squeezed me as tight as a boa constrictor. She looked in my eyes and said, “Thanks for telling me, kiddo.”
I have always been confident. I knew who I was at a very young age. I was never ashamed of it. It felt good playing with dresses and letting my imagination go untethered, but I also felt alone.
When I got older I started experiencing gender confusion. I didn’t know if I identified as a boy or a girl. I mean, all my friends were girls. They wore dresses and I felt good wearing a dress. So, was I a girl?
The summer before fifth grade my mom took me to New York. I loved it. While we were there she took me to see the musical, Wicked. When I saw Glinda descend in her bubble in a gorgeous blue dress, my heart fluttered. I wanted to be like that. I was inspired.
The minute I left that theater, I decided to change my name and my gender. I was now Glinda and I identified as a girl.
When I started fifth grade I walked into my classroom on the first day with an over-the -top blue sequined shirt and a very large, very poofy pink skirt. At first, almost everyone seemed scared to talk to me. Everyone had known Noah. No one knew Glinda yet. People weren’t against Glinda; they just didn’t understand her. As the year went on, everybody just stopped caring. They didn’t see Noah anymore; they saw Glinda.
Outside of school was a different story. I could feel judgmental glares burn my skin. When I was younger I could wear dresses all I wanted, and no one would bat an eye. Baristas, flight attendants, waiters always mistook me for a girl. But when I got older, I could no longer hope somebody would mistake my gender. One day, I was looking at myself in the mirror, wearing this floor-length dress with huge heels on. All of a sudden, I felt this twinge of shame in my gut and in a split second I saw what I thought other people saw: A freak.
Since that moment, whenever I went out in public with feminine clothing on I felt ashamed, like I was doing something wrong. It’s like everyone’s eyes gravitated towards me, and I could see every discreet whisper, laugh, or look. I was aware of my difference. I started to question what it meant to be a boy or a girl.
As fifth grade came to an end, so did Glinda. I wasn’t embarrassed about identifying as a girl, it just didn’t feel right. It was like the dress I loved strutting in didn’t fit anymore. So, I went back to Noah. I loved Glinda, but it felt like the time had come to hang up my dress and tiara. I felt more comfortable in a boy’s body.
My coming-out journey has been different than most. I had a loving and accepting household and stable support among my family. Most LGBTQIP people get cast out of their families and experience extreme prejudice when they come out. According to the Washington Post, 43 percent of LGBTQIP youth run away from home because of family rejection based on their sexual identity.
I remember the morning when I read the news and saw on the front page, “50 killed in Florida gay nightclub,” and this nauseating feeling started to well up in my gut. I started to question my safety. Was the way I identified endangering my life? I became conscious of the injustice that LGBTQIP people endured. The pain and persecution the world was causing LGBTQIP people. There were shootings, hate crimes, suicides everywhere. Seeing that carnage wreck the lives of so many was sickening.
I’ve always felt a sense of confusion and isolation. Where should I go? Where could I go?Boy or girl. Gay or straight. Where did I belong?
In sixth grade I left the school I had been going to since I was in kindergarten. Suddenly, I was thrust into an entirely new experience. I was terrified. In my new school, I was the only gay kid in my class. On one of my first days there someone came up to me and asked me to be their GBF, which stands for Gay Best Friend. I didn’t know how to respond so I just said yes and immediately succumbed to a stereotype. I changed my personality to fit the cliché of a gay male, although I was confused and offended to think that someone decided to be my friend based on my sexuality instead of my personality.
I had friends but felt that I could never share my personal turmoil on being LGBTQ because they would never understand. In school I felt like LGBTQIP students were not even acknowledged. There was no sex education provided for LGBTQIP students, or books with LGBTQIP storylines or a safe space for LGBTQIP youth to just be themselves. Later that year I would need it more than ever.
The first time I was called a faggot, I was nagging this kid for a bite of his sandwich. To be honest, I was being incredibly annoying. He repeatedly told me to back off, then walked off to join his friends, who were staring at me and laughing. One of the boys started to walk over to where I was sitting. He stood over me and before I could say anything he just shouted “Faggot” at me. Then he ran back to his friends. As I sat there, stunned, tears welling up in my eyes, the only thing I could hear was “faggot” replaying over and over again in my head. I didn’t tell anyone for about a month. Not my mom, not my best friend, not my sister.
The need for LGBTQIP community is huge. To be surrounded by peers who are allies and understand, can change the course of someone’s life.
To my straight audience, every rainbow flag makes a difference. Thank you for being an ally to us, but acceptance isn’t enough. We need inclusion and education. We need to inform everyone about the damage that words like “faggot” can cause, the way they tear down people’s self-esteem.
My goal is to create a sanctuary for LGBTQIP youth. A place where there can be laughter, stories, and self-love; where we have a place where everyone on the LGBTQIP spectrum is welcome.
As I grow in my life, I can be comfortable in my masculine side and my feminine. Just recently I was in a play in which I played a female character and I wasn’t self-conscious. I became Glinda again for those hours.
We need to open the doors of acceptance and let every LGBTQIP person live his and her life filled with joy and vibrancy. I am no longer alone. I am accepted and understood.
Let that ring true for the entire LGBTQIP community.
Noah Carey, 14, is an eighth grader at Manzanita school. He loves writing, reading, taking long walks in nature, and trying to understand the divine teachings of the cosmos. He lives with his mother and sister in Topanga CA.
Editor’s Note: LGBTQIP is the all-inclusive acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Trans-sexual, Queer, Intersex, Pansexual.