Telling the Story of Gender

A veteran English teacher and novelist, Alex Myers noted that he “frames the whole world in terms of story.” Speaking to the School on October 27 – between Coming Out Day on the 11th and Trans Awareness Week in mid-November – he eloquently told his own story of coming out as transgender right before his senior year in high school.

Illustrating his talk with several photographs, Mr. Myers first showed a picture of himself as a preschool girl in a dress – apparently happy but already aware of wanting to be a boy. “This is gender on the outside,” he said, “but gender was going on deeply on the inside.” Initially only having two words for gender, boy and girl, Mr. Myers considered himself lucky to have grown up in a decade where “tomboys” were prominent on TV and in advertisements. The word “gave me permission to be like a boy,” he said.

A second picture, taken when he was 10, showed Mr. Myers sporting a girlish shoulder-length haircut and a boy’s shirt – not the dress his mother wanted. “This was the constant struggle of my childhood: what I could wear,” he recalled.

Entering boarding school in ninth grade, Mr. Myers came out as lesbian there, finding that this at least told people, “I’m not like other girls,” even if it didn’t feel quite accurate. It was not until he attended a queer youth group that Mr. Myers heard another person use the word “transgender” in describing themselves, and it immediately struck a chord with him. He came out as transgender after that and returned to his boarding school as a boy for senior year.

“That year was not at all easy,” Mr. Myers remembered, as his parents were upset, some friends were confused, and some people were critical or dismissive of him. But a photograph taken of him smiling broadly back then clearly showed “how good it feels to come out and live how you’ve always felt,” he said.

Still, he allowed, “When you come out, you’re just getting started.” It took time before he decided he would not try “to live up to any gender idea other than my own.” As an adult, Mr. Myers has worked with schools and colleges to educate students, faculty, and administrators about gender identity, and he has assisted dozens of schools as they redesign facilities, practices, and policies to be more gender inclusive. “When I work with kids today, they tell me, ‘You’re the first boring trans person I’ve ever met,” he laughed, adding, “You can grow up to be trans and be yourself and have a normal life.”