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Rowan Colins Edited 1

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Hi, I'm Rowan Collins, and I am the education coordinator for the LGBTQ Academy at the Gay Alliance. And I just wanted to share my personal coming-out story with all of you. So hi, everyone, I'm Rowan, and I'm an only child. And when I was born, I was my parent's only daughter. I identify as a transgender man. And I'm one of those people who knew at a really, really, really early age that something was just a little different. I didn't like all the girly things I was supposed to, I didn't like pink, I didn't like princesses' dresses, I wanted nothing to do with this stuff. At about the age of three, one of the first sentences I ever actually strung together was no more dresses. I said that every single morning to my mom for about a month. I had the end of the month she looked at me and said, "I heard you the first time why are you yelling at me." And I never wore a dress after that. When I was about to turn 6 years old, my family was gonna make a really big move. My dad had been offered a new job and we were kind of making a huge trek to move to this new place. And so my parents felt really bad for uprooting me at such an early age and they said, "You can have, basically, whatever you want for your 6th birthday, just whatever." I realize now in hindsight, I completely squandered this offer and I'm like, "I could've asked you something cool like a horse or a rocket ship." But at the time, I said, "I want a haircut." I think they, kind of, looked at me funny and were like, "Are you sure? You can have literally anything you want." I was like, "No, I really want a haircut." So they said, "Yeah, of course." Probably thank their lucky stars, I chose the cheapest birthday present imaginable. Took me to the salon, the hair that was coming all the way down my back, they put a nice ponytail and chopped it right off, and to this day, it is the best birthday present I have ever received. But I showed up on my first day of 1st grade wearing boys' clothes, had a short haircut, and I was really new. None of these things went over very well with my classmates. I could probably say with 100% confidence that I got asked the question, are you a boy, are you a girl every single day for about a decade. The way that I was presenting my gender, it didn't really go over well with most people and I had no answers for anybody. I didn't know the word transgender, I had no way to describe how I was feeling, I just knew that it felt comfortable to wear the clothes I wanted to wear and have my hair short. The first time I even knowingly saw a transgender person wasn't even until I was in 7th grade. I was homesick one day from school, I was about 12 years old at the time, and both of my parents work so I was home alone. And since no one was there to tell me what to do or what not to do, I turned on Trashy Daytime television and I turned on Jerry Springer. Now there is a transgender woman on Jerry Springer that morning, but since this is an Ellen or Oprah, she wasn't really there to be interviewed about her journey or what she was contributing to society. She was just there to be laughed at. And I remember I was sitting on my couch, kind of, bundled in his blanket, watching this woman get booed and jeered and called every name under the Sun, and then a whole bunch of that I had never heard before. And I remember thinking, "I'm so glad that's not me." And then changing the channel. And I didn't think about it again for another three years. It wasn't until I was in 10th grade, I was about 15 that I realized the word transgender actually applied to me. I basically made my first friend who was trans. He was transitioning at a different district and this was back in 2007, 2008, so this was kind of unheard of at the time. And the first time I met him in person, he just scared the heck out of me, now he's like the shortest person on the planet and also the nicest person I've ever met in my life. So it wasn't a physical intimidation. It was because he looked like me. And I kind of froze. I had never seen myself before. It was like looking in a mirror for the first time after 15.5 years on the planet. I wasn't ready to recognize that the word trans was my word. I knew that it was, and at the time, I really didn't want it to be. Everything that I had ever heard was negative. I was worried that my parents would kick me out that I was gonna lose all of my friends, that no one will take me seriously, and so I figured I'll just ignore it and it will go away. Not my best strategy. Everything always comes back to you eventually. But I spent the vast majority of the second half of high school just not mentally present. I checked out completely. I didn't want to deal with who I was and I didn't want to deal with the potential that other people wouldn't want to be around me anymore. About halfway through my senior year of high school, I was in a very intensive drama course and I had to have a costume for a scene that I was performing the next day. We were doing Shakespeare scenes, and mine was from Macbeth. Now my costume had to be a woman's costume because naturally those were the roles that I was getting at the time, and I was really freaking out. The thought alone of putting on women's clothing was, kind of, sending me into a panic attack. Now my mom was the only person in the house who had women's clothing at all. So she found me like midnight in the dead of winter on a school night desperately rifling through her closet, trying to find something to put on that wasn't gonna make me hyperventilate, and I was failing. So she found me clutching this floral bathrobe, sitting on the floor outside of her closet, and she looked at me and said, "This cannot be about the costume. We really need to talk." She took me downstairs, she sat me on the couch, and I cried for an hour and I didn't say anything. I was petrified that if I just opened my mouth and said it, that was gonna be the last conversation I'd ever have with her. And it almost didn't make any sense 'cause my parents had supported me my whole life, but everything that I had heard outside of my house was so much louder than any reassurance my parents could've ever given me. But I watch the minutes, it get closer and closer to one on our cable box and I remember thinking just say it. Rip the band-aid off, it's not gonna be any easier to do this tomorrow. So I took a deep breath, I looked at my mom, I said, "Mom, I'm a boy." She paused. And at the time, I felt like the longest pause of my life. Before she just took this huge sigh of relief and said, "Thank God, I thought it was something serious," which was probably the coolest and most infuriating reaction she could've ever given me. I freaked out as a very dramatic 17-year-old. It was like, "What did you think, I had cancer, mom?" Like, "What's worse than this react to me?" And she shook her head at me and did that affectionate. I role that moms are really good at, and she said, "It's okay." You're okay. So naturally, I burst back into tears. And she said, "We'll talk about this when you're ready." I wasn't ready. I wasn't ready the next day or the day after that or the day after that. I graduated that spring having never breathed on the word of it. I didn't want to talk about it, I didn't know what to do. I went away to college in New York City, thinking that I would reinvent myself, but I didn't even know who I wanted to be in my reinvention. So I took my second semester of my freshman year of college off to come back home and start seeing a therapist who had some sort of background in this sort of stuff. Through seeing her, I started to come out to my dad and to all of my friends and start to actually put a plan together of who I wanted to be. I came on to my dad and all my friends all in one day, it was a pretty busy Thursday for me, but I am one of the unfortunately rare few in the trans community who has not lost a single person and coming out. My friends and family were incredibly supportive and excited. It obviously takes a while to make the little switches in your brain, but they were on board from the very beginning. I started hormone replacement therapy that summer, applied to a bunch of different schools for transfer, ended up in the Rochester area, which is now where I live and work, started getting involved the Gay Alliance, very soon after my arrival five years ago in Rochester. And it's been a pretty amazing journey. There's always ups and downs, but I wouldn't regret it and I wouldn't change it for the whole world. I get to use my personal story to help and inform people and educate around New York as well as across the country. I'm trying to create the kinds of spaces that I wish I'd had when I was younger, but I have to say to pull it all together the best part of my entire transition is now I get to say I am my parent's only son.

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Duration: 8 minutes and 31 seconds
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Language: English
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Posted by: dstoetzel on Jul 18, 2018

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