“I’ve been so lucky,” my friend Graham Blair said. “It’s not like this for most trans people.”
Graham just started at Evergreen College this fall and was giving me a tour of his room, like a cool kid. “I have fairy lights up along the ceiling because that’s important for my aesthetic,” he explained.
He had his bags. His books, including “a bullet journal page dedicated to my aesthetic." And his confidence.
“I like to think I’m pretty cute,” he said.
He sounded certain about his life and where he's going. But it wasn’t so easy when he started transitioning to living as a gay trans person.
Graham had a lot of support though. His mom, Jordan Blair, told me that “pretty much the instant he was born, I had a full understanding of unconditional love.”
She recalled when he first came out to her: “I didn’t know anything at all about being transgender. I had questions, and I did get emotional.”
“We both cried,” Graham said. “I also didn’t understand anything about the trans community. But in retrospect, we’re both like, this is like the easiest thing.”
They navigated everything slowly. “People talk a lot about how they knew they were trans since the beginning, and that’s great,” Graham said. “I didn’t.”
He started questioning his gender in eight grade. “It was like, looking at wikiHows on how to act like a dude.”
His mom suggested that he find a gender therapist. Together, they worked out the bumps in the road once he came out, like telling his school and his friends, who all knew him from before he had transitioned. And telling the rest of his family.
Graham wrote an email to a group of chosen family members, explaining his news. But he hesitated to send the email.
“We were sitting in the car in the driveway and he was crying,” Jordan recalled. “He never cries. He was so worried and saying, 'What if they’re not going to love me anymore? What if they don’t want to be friends with you?' And I just said, 'It won’t matter because they won’t be people we want in our lives then.'
“I said, you can’t deny the world who you are anymore.”
Graham sent the email and everything changed. Their friends rallied to support Graham during the confusing time.
It was a difficult first year. Graham wouldn’t even use the word transgender.
“I didn’t like saying the word,” Graham explained. He felt it was “a good descriptor of my identity, but I’m not this word."
That changed later.
“Now I am so trans. Like the transest you can get.” He laughed.
Graham decided to have the surgery – top surgery, which is a chest reconstruction surgery. Once the procedure was approved by their insurance company, the hospital only had one slot left: the day before Christmas Eve.
“I called Graham and said, Merry Christmas!” Jordan laughed.
Graham was in and out of the hospital within two days. They celebrated Christmas with the rest of their family, happy that Graham was another step closer to being more comfortable in his body.
Graham’s mom was also another step closer to her son: “It’s just not that big of a deal. So everybody should just love their kids.”
Graham was taking a big step towards who he wanted to be physically and knew that his mom would fight anyone who wouldn’t accept him. But there was still something he wanted.
“A lot of who I was in high school was too uptight and stressed about my grades,” he said. “I didn’t have the confidence that I have now.”
He sought to further transform himself by joining The Service Board, a non-profit, youth-led organization that focuses on social justice, service learning, and snowboarding. He was thrust into another totally new environment, learning more about the world and himself.
“One of the community agreements at The Service Board is push your growing edge,” he said. “Which means instead of going outside of your comfort zone, you just expand your comfort zone.”
That push gave him the confidence he needed for college life.
“I mention to people that I’m an adult, but I don’t know how to be an adult,” he said.
That didn’t stop him from trying. He got a car, a tattoo, and a new legal name.
Graham went down to the King County Courthouse to change his name the day after he turned 18. He endured hours of waiting with nervous feelings piling up in his stomach. Finally, he was called to stand before the judge.
“I had to stand up and be like, ‘I’m not doing this to avoid the law.’ Then [the judge] was like, ‘Great you’re done.’”
It was a 15 second interaction that opened new doors for Graham as he transitioned from one chapter to the next.
At Evergreen, he plans to study foreign languages, linguistics, and gender studies. In this new stage of his life, there are new questions to be answered. I asked him if he wanted people at college to see him as a trans guy, or just a guy.
“I mean, if it comes up in conversation I’ll be like, heck yeah I’m trans,” he said. “But I’m not necessarily going to be as invested as I have been in high school."
He added: "I don’t want people to think that’s the only aspect there is about me. Sometimes I think that, and I don’t want to do that anymore.”
This story was created with production support from Angela Nguyen and edited by Carol Smith. Music: "Take Me Higher" by Jahzzar and "Postcards" by Scott Holmes. The RadioActive theme song is by Patrick Liu and Abay Estifanos.