Personally, out of everything that has happened to me, I wouldn’t undo any of it. I do believe it has shaped me into who I am today. However, I do still have regrets.
I mainly regret letting fear hold me back. I am 100%, unapologetically myself today, but less than a year ago that was not the case. For a long time, I tried to make myself hyper feminine and ladylike because (due to the fact that I was assigned female at birth) that’s what society told me I had to be.
In my mind, there has always been two versions of myself. The fake version that was presented to my parents, the church, and the outside world; Katelyn. A picture-perfect daughter, straight-A student, who mirrored her parents' political views. Then, there was the version of myself that only I saw. On rare occasions, I let my closest friends catch the slightest glimpse of him. His name is Kaden. He is independent, strongly opinionated, and not afraid to stand up for his beliefs.
For years and years, I only let the world see “Katelyn.” I sacrificed my happiness in exchange for the approval of transphobic family members and the church. I was only happy when my parents weren’t home. I would sneak into their room to try on my stepdad’s clothes, and try exercises to lower my voice. But that was only when I was alone.
I locked the real me away and let myself become numb to the world, wearing pink frilly dresses, just to make sure no one even suspected that I may be anyone other than who I was supposed to be. I let the fear of people finding out who I am control my life.
I am proud of who I am today. I am proud to be a part of a supportive community, and I am proud of my values and beliefs. But if I could go back and give one piece of advice to my younger self, it would be: “Stop letting yourself be controlled by others. Stop compromising who you are. Once you stop needing the approval of others, you will be more free and happier than you ever have been before. There will always be people who love you. You won’t lose your best friends, teachers won’t treat you any differently. Everything will be okay. It will be better.”
Of course, after coming out and letting the world meet Kaden, there are different kinds of struggles. Unsupportive family members and rude classmates will always exist. But I know I can handle it now, as long as I’m true to myself.
If I have one regret, it would be not coming out sooner because of the fears that held me back. I am strong and brave and genuine for the first time in forever. I am Kaden, and I am not ashamed.