I’m From Midland, MI.

by Zachary/Rose Pantoja

State Satellite overhead image from Google Earth 2022

Ever since I could think about myself, I never felt truly “right.” So, around four years of age, I started trying on girls’ clothes from my friends, and, when I did, I just felt at peace.

As time went on in school, I never really had “friends” except for one person who talked to me a lot. One day, he invited me to spend a week camping with him. Being the lonely kid I was, I quickly agreed. His idea of camping was a week-long time of sexual torture. As I sit here typing this, the memories are coming back, and all I can do is cry. I have only told a few people of that week, but now it is for everyone.

Still, I would try on clothes. It was what made me happy and what made me okay with myself. Then came sixth grade. I had heard of dating and I wanted to do it because I was still very lonely. So for a good year, I would scare girls away because I came on way too strong. It was a very sad year. Then came seventh grade. I was starting to come into a state of understanding social behaviors and actually made real friends. Near the beginning of that year, I met a girl named Courtney. She was seventeen, and I was twelve, but I still felt like we were meant to be and so did she.

So we dated for about a year and a half, but during that time there was a lot of emotional torture and manipulation. I literally cried and yelled twice a day. I cried at school in front of everybody and I cried at home in front of my family. Yet, we always made up. During the time we dated, she started making me explore myself deeper and, as I did, I noticed feelings toward guys; sexual feelings. At first, I was confused and scared, but she took it well. Then came the true understanding of my gender identity as I looked at her and other girls on TV or in public. I found that some of my sexual attraction was actually envy. I wanted to be them. I wanted to look as good as they did. So I experimented more with clothing and other such things until, one day, on my birthday, Courtney told me she couldn’t stand me being this way and had been cheating on me for two weeks.

I was devastated. I stayed in bed crying for about a month. But then I realized I’m stronger from this and know what I want out of a relationship and out of myself.

But I couldn’t share these feelings as I was scared others would react like Courtney, so I hid them more and only told my close friends. Finally, my mom found some of my clothing and we had to talk about what was going on and exactly how I felt. I told her how I felt as a woman in a man’s body. She took it well, but my dad still resents it and constantly tries to change me and puts me down.

Two years ago, an older man was being very sweet to me over the Internet, treating me like a real girl. I felt great because of it, but, unfortunately, when I went to go see him, I got raped again. I have told no one about this since that day and, again, it hurts to talk about it.

Ninth grade wasn’t a great year either. I was still quiet about who I was and I had a cutting problem. The only way to deal with the emotional pain was to deal physical pain. Another problem I had was that when I looked at other girls and saw how skinny and beautiful they were, all I could see on me was fat. So I began to throw up after every meal just to feel semi-good about myself by knowing I was at least trying to look better. Luckily, I was able to get my self-abuse under control with the help of a friend.

Finally, my story brings us to this year. I am still constantly bullied for what I am, but I have friends and know what I want to be and what I am. The only thing that hurts is seeing all the beautiful women in school and not being like them at all. It kills me inside every day to see people wear what I can only dream of wearing. But I have a clear sense of direction and am happy to have friends there for me.

Sharing your story can change someone's life. Interested in learning more?