Being trans: The perspective of students at South

Katie Hamilton '24 and Julia Kado '24

*The asterisk denotes a source who wishes to remain anonymous
For many students at South, identity isn’t simple.
Questioning oneself and what gender you align with is monumental to take on, especially during adolescence. Having to deal with criticism, misgendering and hate from the general public, while also balancing the life of a student creates immense pressure for trans students.
Alyx Bocci ’23 started feeling a disconnect from his assigned pronouns during fifth grade. Throughout middle school, Bocci tested different names, eventually settling on Alyx in December of last year.
“Alyx means warrior,” Bocci said. “I’ve always been super into the meanings of names, so when I was trying out names, I tried out names based on the meanings that I liked.”
Bocci came out last year by changing his instagram name to Alyx and including his pronouns in his bio. This allowed Bocci a more casual coming out experience, without the pressure of a ‘big reveal’.
Recently, Bocci’s counselor and mother teamed up to surprise him by changing his name to Alyx on platforms such as MISTAR and Schoology, and even on the attendance roster.
“I just recently got my name changed on the roster,” Bocci said. “Of course I got excited because there are lots of students in my classes who don’t know my deadname, so that’ll help with substitutes.”
Similar to Bocci, Trans Rights Club co-president Gabe Wagstaff ’23 began to feel different early on.
“I definitely didn’t know what to call it for a long time,” Wagstaff said. “As an eleven year old, it’s not really something that you think, like, ‘Oh, I’m transgender.’”
According to a Behavioral Risk Study done at UCLA, the majority of teens who identify as transgender in the United States are between thirteen and seventeen years old. Wagstaff said the internet is often a place where teens go first when searching for identity.
“Once I started noticing these feelings and having this disconnect,” Wagstaff said. “I was able to turn to YouTube because there were a lot of small trans YouTubers out there that I watched, and thought, ‘Oh my God, they’re describing these things that I’m feeling.”
For Watstaff, watching somebody describe his experience word for word was relieving. It helped not only clear up his feelings but also cultivated hope.
“Beforehand, there was just a lot of confusion (and) feeling like I was completely in the dark,” Wagstaff said. “Seeing someone else who had gone through the same thing, someone else who had been able to medically and socially transition and feel better about themselves, not only was it, ‘Somebody else feels the same way,’ it was, ‘I don’t have to feel like this forever.’”
According to the Center for Discovery, gender dysphoria occurs when there is a mismatch or a sense of disconnect to one’s gender assigned at birth.
Reese Bartley* began to feel discomfort with their pronouns during quarantine. With all the time to spend alone with their thoughts, they began to explore who they were.
“At first it was kind of hard because I just didn’t want to be anything else,” Bartely* said. “I’ve been talking to my friends who are trans and stuff. So they’ve helped a lot too.”
Although Bocci and Wagstaff have had exterior support during their respective trans journeys, Bartley has not had the same level of solace.
“My mom was really weird about (me being transgender),” Bartley said. “Nobody in my family really knows except for my mom and my aunt.”
With the wide range of supportiveness at home, it is vital that South is a safe space for trans students, according to Bartley.
“I definitely think the school should have a meeting about being more inclusive, because I know a lot of people who are still being misgendered, which is not cool,” Bartley said. “(The administration) doesn’t even try (to support transgender students).”
Trans students at South, such as Wagstaff, have worked to create safe spaces for themselves, like South’s Trans Rights Club. As co-president, Wagstaff tries to create a structured but interactive space during club meetings.
“Usually our meetings are pretty discussion-based,” Wagstaff said. “I always have a topic, or a slideshow, or questions I want to ask the group. I really try to make it so that everyone is involved.”
Principal Hamka said he is planning to attend the club’s next meeting, Wednesday, Nov. 10, in order to hear directly from trans students.
“I want to understand the experiences of our students,” Hamka said “I want to know how they feel. I want to know if they feel supported, (and) what we can do to better meet their needs. I want to hear directly from them about their experiences. So as we move forward as a district, I can keep their experience, the student experience, at the center of our conversations in decision making.”
Administration has also been taking initiative regarding trans students. On November 2, during the district’s annual professional development, educators could choose from a variety of offerings and one offered through The Family Center was called Breaking Down LGBTQQIP2SAA, pronouns and honoring adolescent identity.
Presenter and local family therapist Ellen Miller said she took courses in gender studies and often works with clients struggling with their sexual and gender identities.
“I thoroughly enjoy getting out in the community and doing some of these (presentations),” Miller said. “We can cast this wide net of having discussions to start changing some of the narratives, and providing really helpful and accurate information.”
Miller said she was pleasantly surprised by the turnout during the professional development, even stating that some teachers hung around after the presentation in order to question her about specific students, and how to best support them.
“I always want teachers to know that even just being a validating, listening, supportive adult in an LGBTQ student’s life makes a world of difference,” Miller said. “So even if it’s them just sitting, listening and saying, ‘I can’t imagine how hard that is for you. Let me find ways that I can work to make this easier.’ Validation can be really, really important.”
Though South’s student body, staff and administration are always working towards a safer space for any student who feels the effects of discrimination, it’s a trial and error process, according to assistant principal Cynthia Parravano.
“It’s a very fine line to walk,” Parravano said.“You need to make sure that all students feel safe, protected, that they have a space that they’re included and welcomed.”
In light of this, Hamka said South is working to evolve with its students. Many trans students walked through South’s doors before it was even remotely accepted. Now, however, the school is doing its best to protect all students, regardless of how they identify themselves.
“(Change) comes about through open dialogue and continued conversations about difficult topics,” Hamka said. “The more we talk about it, the easier it becomes. So when you have a hard conversation, you’ve got to lean into it. Not run away from it”.