5:30AM. My alarm woke me up. While still in the state of not being aware of all my surroundings, I checked all my social media. Nothing special. My phone wasn’t fully charged, so I had to get up and put it on the charger. I always set my alarm early so I can charge my telly, and so I still have the nice feeling of having another hour to snuggle in my bed with my pillows.
But as I walked backed to my bed, I froze. I remembered what today was to be, what was to happen. It was May 12th, 2016, and today I would announce to the world that I am transgender. I would explain to many people that despite being born as a girl, I felt like a boy. I felt like a man.
A little irritated that I couldn’t get any more sleep, I stood up again an hour later. I got two slices of bread out of the freezer, but didn’t eat any of it. Only a single glass of cold milk that morning.
Luckily, I could stay at home longer than usual. At 8am, my mom and I went to my doctor to get a referral to the hospital in Amsterdam—the hospital that would help me with my gender identity. My doctor—usually a cranky woman whom I avoid eye contact with—was today rather nice. I explained my situation to her and then she googled what to do. I stared at the keyboard in suspense as she typed with one finger, which made me sigh deeply. She said the referral would come in two weeks.
I then rushed to school—only to have the day drip by. I was so nervous that I blurted out that I was trans to a girl at lunch. Good job, Maarten. Wait for the presentation, Maarten.
TIME TRAVEL TO THE END OF THE DAY. (The rest of the day is too boring to tell you about, whereas, the end of the day is the real spicy stuff.)
3:00PM. Almost pissing my pants, I walked into my Dutch class. My kind teacher smiled and asked me and my friend (who was also doing a presentation) if we we’re ready. Nodding yes, I asked if we could go to the bathroom, and with her permission we rushed out. With little hesitation, I stepped into the Ladies’ room. This was probably the last time I would be allowed in here. Waiting for my friend as she washed her hands, I thought about what was about to happen. As we walked back to the classroom, I was lost in another world. I didn’t give her presentation much attention. In my head, I was thinking 100 thoughts at once. Something I am used to. It’s almost never quiet in my head.
She was done. Now it was my turn. I stood up, and looked at my classmates. Luckily, a lot of them were gone on a school trip. It was a mere 13 pairs of eyes looking everywhere around the class except for at me. At first, I had a hard time getting the attention of my classmates, but as soon as I said my presentation was about “transgenders,” it became quiet and focused. I started talking about famous transgender people, the research, pronoun use, and more. When I said that there were ‘’women who felt like men, the feeling of oh shit" swelled in my chest and made me gasp for air. But I wasn’t going to give up, and so I pushed on. I was maybe a little out of this world, because inside, I was cringing about the video I made—the video that would post at the same time I was doing my presentation. In my video, I am on the edge of tears. This bothers me a little, to be vulnerable like that. I don’t like to show weakness.
My classmates interrupted me in certain moments. Sadly, there were a couple of rude comments that do not bear repeating. To close my presentation, I showed a couple of before-and-after photos of some trans folks. My class as a whole was shocked that hormones could change a person’s appearance so much.
Then—after showing a picture of the trans guy Ty Turner—my own before-and-after picture flashed on the screen. My class almost fell off of their chairs. In that brief moment of silence and shock, I thought about everything that happened to that point, about my family knowing and accepting me being trans, about my closest friends, about the video that was going online right at that moment. The video was replaying in my head. I was now out online. I stared at my classmates. Time slowed down. I only remember my teacher saying something vague about “change”.
That day I came home to so many notifications. People saw my video post, and they were actually happy for me. Some were surprised, but most said that they were proud of me. So many people were so kind and genuinely proud of me. Their kind words filled my heart with love. I don’t cry much, but that day some tears were shed. I never expected so much love and kindness. Without my friends and family, I could never be the man I have always wanted to be.
Even though I am young and inexperienced, I am proud to be open and happy.
Post-Coming Out Interview with Maarten
by Paula Gilovich
Maarten was one of the first people to find our site. We launched just as he came out. In publishing his story, we want to take the opportunity to ask him about the time leading up to his coming out, and what has happened since—an update on how he’s doing and how it’s going.
We will continue to post updates from Maarten, checking in on our Dutch friend.
When did you come out to your mom?
It was the winter of 2015. I said to my mom: I like girls. My mother said, Yes, I know that. That’s ok. There was a pause for like 10 minutes. Just quiet. She wondered what else I had to say. Finally, I said, I feel like a boy. Then I corrected myself. No, I really know I am a boy.
How old are you?
Is your mom supportive and accepting?
At first she was very skeptical. When I was little, she read this book, a horrible book – essentially on how to correct your transgender children. She was searching for answers…
Why did she think you were trans?
When I was four, I asked her if I could get a penis…and she thought, this is a girl, but this girl has the face of a boy...She knew, she just knew...She didn’t know I was trans at the time, only that something was going on.
Do you have siblings?
A little sister, and she doesn’t mind at all. It’s nothing to her.
Do they use the right pronouns, your mom and your sister?
Sometimes they don’t, but they just apologize when they don’t. They really try, and they do really well with it.
What happened at school the day after you came out?
I came out on a Thursday, and returned to school on that Friday. Half the school had been away on a school trip the day I came out, and so there was just confusion everywhere. The whole school knew about me because everyone was texting each other. And the next day, I had to go to gym class, and I had to go to the girl’s locker room. There were a lot of weird looks.
What about your teachers? How did they handle it?
All of my teachers were informed, and each teacher told me that I was brave to have done what I did, and they all said they would try and get my pronouns right, but they might mess up from time to time.
You came out to your school and you came out online in the same hour?
Yes, I planned it that way—that my youtube video was set to post at 3pm right when I was giving the presentation. So that I knew once I was done with telling my class, I had also told the world.
It’s such a cool—and extremely brave—way to come out, as part of a presentation, inside a presentation, a surprise ending, taking it out of the arena of school into such a personal moment. What were the students’ responses in the moment that they figured out that you were no longer giving a presentation, but you were telling them that you yourself are transgender?
The whole class went completely silent. And then I got a lot of rapid-fire questions. If I got any surgeries yet, etc., etc.
Are your fellow students supportive now?
Behind my back there is a lot of gossip, but to my face, they are nice to me and they try to be supportive. Can I ask you something? Are you trans?
No, I’m queer, a ciswoman and a trans ally. Our founder is trans, and she came out right around the time you did. What do you think the difference is between being trans in the Netherlands and the U.S.?
I don’t know. I know that Americans are considered ignorant. In the Netherlands, it’s not ok to be ignorant about such things. Discrimination against transgender folks still exists, but it’s less prevalent than it was. Discriminating against trans folks is increasingly frowned upon. In the Netherlands, there is so much more information, people who discriminate are just rude, but they don’t really hate – or it’s a different type of hate.
How do you feel about Americans?
You mean guns for breakfast?
Yes, guns for breakfast.
Well, the flip side is that Americans are also considered really nice. Always nice. That’s the other side of the stereotype. Either you all are violent or you all are really, really nice.
How was your school system surrounding your transition – how did the administration handle you coming out?
They were trying to make me procrastinate until I was done with school. They said: Do it when you graduate. When you don’t have to deal with us anymore. When we don’t have to deal with you anymore.
And what about the bathroom, how did they handle that piece?
At first I wasn’t allowed to go into the men’s bathroom. They said it was dangerous, because there’s a lot of immigrants at the school. That made me really mad. I have a lot of friends who were born outside of the country, and it made me so mad that they would say something like that. Eventually, the issue resolved itself because I just started using the men’s bathroom. Now they don’t say anything.
Discrimination in two directions…
Exactly. They still won’t let me use the boy’s locker room, but this is something I understand more. I look like a boy, but I have female body. It makes sense to me.
What about your name at school?
The school’s system is not allowing me to change my name because I haven’t changed my name legally. It’s going to be some years before I will be able to change my name legally. So school is just annoying. It’s one of those annoying situations, where they say: Is this you? Yes, but my name is Maarten. And then they ask rude questions about whether or not I’ve had surgery.
If you were to change anything, and thus quicken progress in the world for trans folks, what would you do?
The fact that I have to explain my name every time, and that I haven’t had any surgeries is just constant and it’s annoying. I would educate people not to ask such questions. And I would change the process on changing your name if you’re a minor.
If you live in a small town, is your trans community exclusively online?
What do you like to do?
And I just started working out, but I don’t have a lot of discipline. I actually just ate some chocolate chip cookies…[laughing]…Working out really helps the dysphoria. You really look more masculine. I’d like a six pack. But I don’t want to give up chocolate cake. Because then I would have a six pack, but I would be unhappy. I want a six pack and chocolate cake.
Maarten is a 15-year-old transguy from The Netherlands. He documents his transition on his Youtube channel, and spends his days waiting for testosterone while watching Netflix, working out, and writing silly poems about silly things. He is most active on his twitter: @Rabondo where he tweets his thoughts.
Paula Gilovich is queer, an ally to all those who are trans and non-conforming, a youth advocate and a playwright, essayist and regular contributor to trans.cafe. She is also the Director of Content + Production for abc home, where she is the producer of the Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh’s legacy calligraphy exhibit: “I have arrived, I am home.”