When did you realize you don't relate to your birth gender? 

I think I was about four or five years old when someone said "you can't do that, you're a girl!" That's when I knew things were different, but I really didn't know what that meant. When I was seven years old my mother bribed me with twenty dollars to wear a plain white Easter dress to my great grandparents' home. As a teen I knew things were very different than my peers. I didn't know there was a word for it, or a place that I could've truly fit in so, I just kept it to myself and eventually started hanging around with the people who identified as lesbians. 

How did you deal with that mentally & physically? 

I think as a teen I acted out because I wasn't initially accepted by some of my family. (Thankfully I have their support now.) I was a mess when I was trying to figure it all out. I often thought about suicide and I was a cutter for many years. I found support in GLASS (gay, lesbian, and straight support), a group at my high school, and the amazing social worker, Meredith, who ran it, who I'm proud to call my friend. If it weren't for her sitting with me and helping me cope with the different aspects of my family dynamic and sexuality, I wouldn't be here today. 

Physically, I pretty much always was called "sir" as a teenager. I was always a boy. I kept my hair super short and wore baggy clothes to cover any sort of shape puberty gave to me.

Give me glimpse of the inside you verse your outward appearance. 

I'm finding this a difficult question to answer. It's hard for me because my insides are soft and full of emotion and society says that's feminine, and even though I try not to care about what "society" says, I do. I think through the trauma I've endured I come off sometimes as trying to be tough, or bossy, when I think I'm being helpful. I'm growing, everyday and my insides are a huge canvas depicting the abstract painting of my life. Some places are pitch black with the complete absence of color, some are firey red with passion and love, and others are a bright sunshiney yellow with rainbow stiripes. Coming into myself and loving me for me, is proving to be a long process, but I'm getting there. I try to think my outward appearance is starting to reflect all of those parts, but I like to seem put together , and lots of times pretend the dark places don't exist.

How would you prefer people to address you? pronouns, preferred name etc

My name is Kayden. And I prefer people address me with male pronouns. I don't go around screaming I'm transgender. I'm just a regular guy trying to get by who happens to have a vagina. 

What does gender identity mean to you?

I think I didn't realize that gender wasn't just two things until recently, actually. Gender identity to me, is whatever the person who identifies as whatever gender they do, sees it as. It's really none of my business.

Was there someone in your life that helped you start to see your authentic/true self? Tell me about how they helped you/who they are/

I would say in my family, it has been my Mommom, she has always supported me in any and everything. When I came to her and said "mommom, what would you think if I wanted to be a boy?" She said "I think you need to make sure it's what you want because once you do it there's no changing it and you won't be able to join the Army because they don't allow that. So, you have a choice to make." I ended up not talking about it again until I was in the Army and just about ready to get out. I wanted to be a soldier so bad that I put who I was on hold, and even though it was more than a struggle and a battle every single day, I'd do it all over again. 

My biggest support outside of my family, who I consider family was and is Meredith. When I say she saved my life, it's absolutely true. She gave me support and love in ways I never knew existed and she is continuing to do great things for youth and the alphabet soup community through the young people. She stood up for the students involved in GLASS when it was still a dangerous thing to do and I am forever grateful for the splashes of sunshine she's helped me paint on my canvas.

Talk to me about your struggles with identity and how you've grown to overcome them. 

My identity has been quite the process. It's still in process, actually. I still have struggles. I think the difference from 15 years ago in high school is I am okay with voicing things now about gender and sexuality that I wasn't before. I really try to just be at peace with who I am and do what makes me happy and feel good and not worry about what society thinks about it. I've gone through lots of therapy, tons of sketchbooks and lots of poetry. I'm taking things one day at a time and one challenge at a time. Right now, that's what's working for me. And right now, I'm just happy being me, some days are harder than others, but that's life, and I'm okay with that. 

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