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Cayden ehrlich: self-made man




For my whole life, I’ve always known that I was different from other kids in some way. When I was younger, I thought that it was because I was destined to get bitten by some kind of radioactive something-or-other and become a superhero. I’m still waiting on that, but now I know I’m different in
another way.

Most people are cisgender, meaning that they identify with the sex that they were assigned at birth or the sex that was originally printed on their birth certificate. Unlike these people, I am transgender, because although my birth certificate currently says “female,” I am
a man.

The question I get asked the most about being transgender is when and how I knew I was trans. Honestly, I couldn’t give you a specific age, because the idea was there before I knew the words to express it. When I was younger, I didn’t see any difference between the other boys and myself other than the fact that we went to different restrooms. Multiple times in elementary school, other kids asked me if I was a boy or a girl because according to them, I “looked like a girl but sounded like a boy.” But that changed when a close family member told me at age seven, “Carolyn, you’re a girl. You’re going to grow up to be a woman, not
a man.”

Even though that may sound blatantly obvious to some, that statement almost shattered my world. I ignored it with some success until puberty happened.

Puberty was a very dark time for me. It felt like my body was rebelling against me, growing in ways that didn’t match who I was. For a long time, I forgot how to be happy; I had been living on the assumption that somehow I’d still be a man when I grew up, but puberty seemed destroy that idea. There was a time when I thought I was incapable
of happiness.

Dysphoria, in the context of the trans community, is the feeling of despair/discomfort because of the disconnect between the sex you were assigned at birth and the gender you feel you truly are. Dysphoria can result from things like being called by the wrong pronouns, people calling you by your birth name, or even things like face shape, voice, or foot size. I didn’t know it at the time, but the depression that I struggled with starting when I was about 12 was as a result of intense dysphoria.

It took me until the beginning of August this year to realize and accept that I am trans. The moment I realized that I’m trans was during my interview at Carleton College, which is the school I will be attending next year. I mentioned to my interviewer that I, at the time, identified privately as non-binary gendered, and he responded by telling me how accepting Carleton is of transgender students and how the school will give students a new student ID with their new name on it. At that moment, I realized that I wasn’t alone, that there were other people like me, and that it was okay for me to be who I am.

I came out as trans Aug. 30 this school year by posting a public YouTube video where I explained my story. I knew that this would be the best way to spread the information, but the other reason I came out in such a public way was in the hopes that someone someday would watch my video and that it would help them figure out who they are. Some people wanted me to wait, but I knew that I had to come out as soon as possible because I had begun dreading going to school due to the discomfort of being called by the wrong name
and pronouns.

Since I came out, I have met many other transgender people through support groups. People have messaged me on social media to let me know that I am not alone. And beyond that, I’ve had so many people tell me that they support me, and the support far outweighs the hate.

In my experience with being trans, there is a lot of looking back. On the days when I struggle more, I look back at old pictures and videos of myself to see just how far I’ve come. It’s amazing to look at how much happier I am in pictures after I cut my hair short. It’s almost funny to see how much more confident and less awkward I’ve become, even since my coming out video. It helps me to be happy with the way I am today to see where I
came from.

Since I came out, I have become far more outgoing, motivated, and generally comfortable in my own skin than I was before. And I know that as I continue
through this journey, there will continue to be days when the dysphoria will return. But I also know who I am, and that nothing can ever take that away
from me.

The future holds a lot of new, exciting things for me. On May 11, I am beginning hormone replacement therapy, and I have never been more excited to go to a doctor’s office in my life. Even though I’m a little bit nervous, I know that it will be worth it. In college, everyone will know me as a man, and no one will have known me as anything different. But I don’t plan to hide the fact that I’m trans. It’s a part of who I am, and I’m proud of it.

Throughout this journey, my role model has been my boyfriend. He has supported me through everything, and he’s there for me on the days I still struggle with dysphoria and every other day as well.

I also have received so much support from friends and family. My parents fully support my transition because they are just glad that I’m happier than I was. I have already made friends with other members of the LGBT+ community at Carleton College from people seeing my video on my Facebook page. I could not be more lucky to have so many supportive people in my life.

To watch my coming out video, go to pantherprints.com.