Several years back, on the first day of the semester, a student walked into my classroom. A boy, clearly, a male — wearing a long pink skirt, his hair tied in a low pony-tail. When I read the roster and got to his name, he corrected me and told me that his name was Sophia.
I quickly noted the change.
When I met Sophia, she wanted gender reassignment surgery. She wished for it, but knew it would be a long road. As gender reassignment is an irreversible procedure, two letters of therapy clearance would be required. She explained one therapist (psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, sexologist) would be required to have a doctoral degree, and one of the two therapists would have to know her for an extended period of time. When I met Sophia, she was simply trying to change the name on her birth certificate and running into all kinds of roadblocks. A ward of the State from age 15, if memory serves, Sophia was an emancipated minor living with distant relatives. She had no car, took the bus to campus, and had no expendable money for one therapist, let alone two with the kind of credentials that she would need to put her on the path towards gender reassignment.
That semester, Sophia was distracted. It was hard for her to get to class on-time. Hard for her to make deadlines. Hard for her to deal with the stares and (I imagine) comments in the hallways. A talented writer, Sophia was exhausted at age 19. And I wanted to help her. Eventually, Sophia stopped coming to class. I had lost her.
In June 2009, I read that the person once known as Chastity Bono, the precious little blond-haired daughter of Sonny and Cher who often made appearances at the end of their shows, would henceforth be referred to as Chaz Bono. At age 40, Chaz Bono went public that he was undergoing gender reassignment surgery, and I read the surgery had been completed in May 2010. Of course, I thought of Sophia.
I cannot imagine what it must feel like to be a person stuck in the wrong-gender body.
I am English teacher. I am supposed to teach my students how to improve their writing skills; how to properly use their commas; how to understand and compose for different audiences and recognize the varying modes of discourse. But writing teachers also get to read their students’ words. And I got to read hers.
So while I don’t know where Sophia landed, I still hope she is okay. That she feels good about herself. That she saw the article about Chaz Bono and feels hopeful about her future. And I hope she doesn’t have to wait until her 40th birthday to get the surgery she wants.
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