All my life I never knew anywhere better than I know western Pennsylvania. I’ve lived in the same town since the day I was born and have rarely considered moving. The entire state is gorgeous, which is one of the main reasons I have liked being here for so long. There are hills everywhere and most of them are forested. Where I live there is but a single road that goes in and out of town and the rest is covered by hills and forest. You can look anywhere and see nothing but trees, houses, and windmills. On top of that you have to look pretty far up to see the sky due to the height of the hills surrounding the town. It’s really quite magical, especially in the fall when the leaves are changing. It seemed as though I was in the perfect place but the biggest secret of my life was eating away at me, one day at a time.
Though I love my hometown, it came with a lot of uncertainty. I went to a public school, which has a holiday for deer hunting season. Yes, we all got a day off from school so everyone could go hunting. I never fit into the stigma, although I never complained about having a day off. I would spend most days entertaining myself and wondering why I was the only one in the world who felt as though I was supposed to have been born a girl instead of a boy. At the time these feelings were unheard of around here. These were thoughts that stuck with me throughout elementary school, and by middle school I really learned what it was like to be completely different. While everyone was hanging out amongst his or her group of friends I floated around just trying to find a connection. I had few friends, a lot of whom were girls, and I dealt with bullying almost regularly. Being different often drew attention, which was rarely a good thing. I quickly learned what it felt like to be called names and having to sit by myself at lunch. I enjoyed music so I even tried to join the school band thinking that might do something for me. It didn’t take long before I was forced out due to the constant harassment. I even tried switching from the drum section to playing the baritone but that ended in the same manner.
I managed to find a way to make the bullying and harrassment stop. I just had to fit in and start acting like everyone else. I did that but with my own twist. Soon I was known as a “punker” and a “skater” around the school. I figured at least these were interests a few others shared around here and it gained me some more friends. I just had to keep pretending. During these times I was still talking with a lot of girls and it gave me some form of connection even though none of the girls saw me as one of them. At least they enjoyed my kind and genuine personality. About halfway through middle school I learned that some guys in popular bands were wearing women’s jeans and it was being accepted amongst the people I was hanging around. This was my chance to feel some form of ease and it certainly helped. However, this was a bold move around here. Once I started wearing girl pants the bullying began once again. I was much stronger this time around so I mostly ignored the ridicule. At least none of them knew about the women’s clothing I would wear underneath my boy clothes. Over the years I had built up collections of clothes and I would wear them as often as I could just to feel like myself. During the struggle of all of this I had actually burned these clothes on two separate occasions hoping that the feelings would diminish. Both times ended with me eventually gathering more girl clothes just to feel comfortable again. These feelings just wouldn’t leave me alone.
I made my way through high school still wearing the girl jeans and still catching a lot of heat for it, but really nothing was any different. I had several relationships, all of which eventually came to an end. I didn’t realize until later that it might have been my insecurities about my gender that was causing the problem. There were several times I almost threw in the towel but every time something kept me going. I think it was my determination to make music my life. It was a good distraction from those “girly” thoughts.
The day I finally realized who I am, I can still remember the tingling feeling that was coursing through me. I had somehow discovered what being transgender was and finally all the confusion went away. Not all at once of course. This took several weeks of dialogue with myself just trying to sort it all out. I doubted myself for awhile but I realized it wasn’t me I was doubting, it was everyone else. I remembered all the horrible things I’ve heard people say about this sort of thing. It terrified me. I was even ready to uproot my life and start fresh somewhere else as the girl I was meant to be. Luckily it never came to that as most have embraced it after discussing with me what being transgender is actually like. The ones who didn’t… well I quickly shut them out of my life. I didn’t have time for anyone’s ignorance and negativity. I was on my way to becoming Claire.