The first time I remember seeing her was at the freshman awards night. She hauled in numerous awards for academic achievement, FFA (Future Farmers of America), and art. Her demeanor showed that she was less than comfortable with the attention, I surmised that she did what she loved with a drive and passion that can only come from internal motivation, and that the awards were an unpleasant side-effect of her achievements.
The following year, my daughter went to her house with a group of friends to get ready for Winter Follies. They were new friends, but we had known both of her parents for years as stellar community members, so we had no qualms about dropping our child off at their house.
As the friendship developed, it seemed that Alex and my daughter, Hannah, had much in common; artistic ability, a quick wit, and a free spirit that likely needed a venue more stimulating than the rural county in which we lived. I liked Alex immediately when she came to our house. She was poised, confident, and kind with a keen sense of humor and outgoing personality. She offered help freely, the kind of friend that Hannah could call if she was in a pinch, knowing Alex would come through. Period. Alex is the kind of friend you want your child to have. Solid and kind, a person of integrity.
Hannah and I are close, and we talk freely, so it wasn’t too surprising to me when Hannah brought up Alex’s sexual identity. It seemed like a slow progression, but in hindsight, it went fairly quickly, and after several months, Alex changed her Facebook profile to Xander, and came out as transgender. By that time, it was no big deal. I had been referring to Alex as “him” for months, and the switch to Xander was easy.
Nothing changed for us. Hannah still goes to Xander’s house and spends the night, and Xander is still entirely welcome at our house. Xander is the same person of integrity that he always has been, in fact probably more so, because he’s being true to himself. The more I read, the more I see that science is on his side. Though in our rural, conservative community, acceptance is slow, frankly, I see Xander as a whole person, and one who I admire, respect, value and embrace.
I’m not a person you would expect to see as an LGBT advocate. I have plenty of other things to do, that’s for sure, but once you know someone like Xander, once you see past a big, scary word like transgender to a person that you like and trust, well, it’s pretty much unbearable to think of them as not being welcome or having full rights in any area of society. It goes from being an issue in an election platform to being a real person who matters to you. As such, I see advocating for Xander’s rights as every bit as natural as advocating for the rights of my own boys.
Xander was up for Winter Follies King this year, and though he didn’t win, he walked with dignity and aplomb across the gymnasium floor when presented as candidate. I’m a sap for any story of determination and resilience, and this is one of my favorites. The community that Xander has been a member of all of his life, has affirmed him as he is. I am sure that he has faced and still faces discrimination, but last night a step was taken in a small, rural community, a step of acceptance.