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Running Away Will Never Make You Free

A+crystal+ball+flips+the+image+on+the+women%27s+bathroom+sign.
A crystal ball flips the image on the women's bathroom sign.

A crystal ball flips the image on the women's bathroom sign.

Mary Catherine Selig

Mary Catherine Selig

A crystal ball flips the image on the women's bathroom sign.

Maxton Preuninger, Writer

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Every morning is a maze of mirrors and nit-picking, trying to compose myself in a way that won’t leave me stuttering and nauseous after being called “she.” I’m going through a mental checklist before I’ve even left my room, starting with how I’m walking to my closet to pick out clothes that won’t accentuate the attributes of a female body.

I’m conscious of each swing of an arm and sway of a hip, the way each piece of clothing grips my body, how a pair of shoes will take an outfit more toward the masculine side than feminine. There’s a dull hum of the pitch of my voice ricocheting through my head at all times, a constant reminder to try and relax and lower my voice before I’m stuck on the sound of a girlish trill.

Every day is a tiring cycle that leaves me detached and numb by the time I sink onto the cool, tile floor of the kitchen and scratch my dog’s ears.

I walk through the halls with a varying level of confidence that depends on how my teachers address me in class. I zone out in conversations after I hear the wrong name or pronoun, because I’m then too busy thinking about what I didn’t do to help someone else see me as who I am.

It’s a constant weight on my chest, either making my heart race when I get confused stares or leaving me breathless and panicked late at night. It makes me feel like a kid who’s trying to figure out how to tie his shoes and match shorts to a t-shirt.

I remember the day before the first day of school this year. I was curled up in a ball on the floor of my mom’s closet. No matter where I was or what I was doing, the world seemed to spin endlessly while simultaneously closing in on me.

It wasn’t over the death of a loved one or lack of acceptance from my dad, but it was fear and my own identity taking its toll on me. All summer, I was able to clearly express myself as male, as Maxton, and surround myself with people who understood what it meant to be trans and how certain actions affected me mentally.

Facing teachers that I didn’t know and students who only ever knew me as her, she, Mikala, felt like the end of the world.

I was scared of being ridiculed behind my back for wearing chinos and a button up (that my best friend Lauran bought for me in a successful attempt to comfort me) on the first day, instead of a pair of distressed skinny jeans from American Eagle and a cute top.

I remember waking up the next morning, making sure my shower was hot enough to fog up the mirror so I wouldn’t have to actually look at myself and become glued to a reflection that became more and more distorted with every passing minute.

The past school year has brought the lows that come with name and rooming complications, but has also presented identity-affirming experiences. Two years ago, I never would have thought that I would be cast as a boy in a musical, and here I am still doing the dance for “Let’s Hear it for the Boy” from “Footloose.”

I’m learning that every day’s struggle is going to lead up to the day where I won’t have to act like confused looks, pronoun mishaps and awkwardly-fitted clothing don’t faze me. This journey is not about how others see me, and while my appearance affects me emotionally every day, my journey is solely focused on being stable in my identity while not being afraid to challenge the norms and stigmas around being trans.

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