Hiding in the Closet

by Alice Rose

Special Series: Young Voices

I found my birth name unconventional. It’s a popular word that you can practically hear every day, but not a typical first name given by parents. While I am grateful my parents gave it to me, it was not something that fits with my own image and identity as I grew older and found out more about myself. Today, I am an adult who has every right to change it, and I plan to do so. But right now, erasing the negative associations I have with my birth name is my focus.

It’s weird, honestly, to have grown up feeling nothing particular about being called my birth name, and then all of a sudden it feels like hearing nails on a chalkboard. I would also get bullied over my name, being called all kinds of insults associated with it. I learned very early on that I needed to “deal” with this name. Then I realized that this wasn’t necessarily the case. Rather, I had a choice to tell people about my true self, and not have to grin and bear it. With this comes its own set of challenges. I have to tell my friends not to use my preferred name around my family, as I am immensely closeted and my family isn’t the most accepting of the LGBTQ+ community.

For example, I play a lot of video games where the protagonist doesn’t have a name and you choose it. I have taken to using my preferred name when I play these games. I feel a sense of relief and euphoria when the characters call me by what I wish to be called. On the other hand, I call other characters by my birth name to rid the association of it being mine.

It took years, but I have learned to love myself and for who I am. Yes, sometimes I feel dysphoria and discomfort around my body image, but for now, little victories bring me hope that someday I can be who I am on the outside, as well on the inside. From naming video game characters to telling some of my close friends about my identity, I gain small triumphs every day that only grow bigger as I get more comfortable opening the door of the closet.

Recently, I was able to change my name on my university profile. Now I can introduce myself in my classes properly and feel like I don’t have to hide who I am. It might be risky, since I still live at home and my family doesn’t know, but I feel as if I am strong enough to take that risk. I want my friends to know me for me, for my chosen identity, because, while hiding is perfectly acceptable and sometimes necessary, it can get tiring.

This message is for those who grow tired of putting more and more locks on that closet. You shouldn’t feel bad for having to hide who you are when it is for your own safety. You may not be able to change your identity in games, or with online friends, but just know that you won’t have to cope with this forever.

Someday, you’ll be in an environment where you can grow and thrive as who you’ve wanted to be. That’s the hope you can cling to like I and other trans people have held onto all our lives.

You won’t have to hide forever, I promise. One day, you can be who you want to be, and you’ll feel the best you’ve ever felt.

26Health offers support services to tweens and teens grappling with their gender and sexual identities.