An incredible story of an incredible guy, which I think deserves to be told by he himself– the best way possible. So today, I’m passing over the keyboard to him. Enjoy.
My name is AaronJames (AJ for short). I use he/him pronouns. I am 18 years old as of today. I love spending time with my sister who makes me laugh so hard I feel like I’m drunk (and vice versa) as well my friends in the LGBTQ+ community which I am a proud member of. But I’ll get to that later. I have a variety of interests, which include but are not limited to: 80s and 90s movies and TV shows (Full House, Boy Meets World, Smart Guy, Sister Sister, Friends), and especially, the magic of Disney. I feel like I strongly I feel that I identify with Peter Pan because I refuse to believe that anyone grows up. My favorite Disney movies are Beauty and the Beast (1992) Oliver and Company (1987) and Mulan (1998).
Ever since I was little facing every hardship in life, two simple phrases from iconic Disney movies got me through it all:
“Hakuna Matata- it means no worries” –The Lion King
“Just Keep Swimming” – Finding Nemo and Finding Dory
I believe that my greatest strength is writing. It provides me with an opportunity to express the emotions that I am unable to verbally. I always say that my love of writing first started when I learned how to read and use a computer. The first thing I did with a computer at school was write a story about a lonely dog. It is my dream to write a variety of novels and memoirs, which will hopefully turn into best-sellers.
Without further delay, here is the story of my life as told by me.
My life began on December 11, 1998 in Manila, Philippines. I was born to a wonder mother and father in addition to an energetic older brother; who had just turned 2 exactly two months and ten days prior to my arrival into this crazy, mixed up world. From then on I was diagnosed with multiple exceptionalities such as hydrocephalus, epilepsy, cerebral palsy (with that, left hemiplegia) and at age 12, autism spectrum disorder. I’ve been told by several teachers and friends that that is more than any adult will see in even half their life time. As I grew and became more aware of all that was around me, I knew that I was different but it would soon become evident in more ways than what my family and teachers already knew. They say there are no do-overs in life, well, I was about to get my mine as I discovered what it truly meant to be myself.
I believe my gender journey began when I was around 8-9 years old; which was in the midst of the 6 year period when my sister and I shared a room. Though we were different in many ways, we were still as close two peas in a pod. What else can you expect from being born 14 months apart? We shared a lot of things, including clothes. There came a time in my life when I felt as if she looked better in everything in our closet. So when I asked my mom for a bowl haircut and received my brother’s hand me downs and looked at myself in the mirror, I thought, “this is who I was meant to be.” Eventually life had me refusing to wear dresses, getting my first crush on a girl, wanting to be the man she could marry some day, and experimenting with different male given names whilst alone on the playground at school such as: Leo, Oliver, Jack and Joey.
Upon initially telling my mother how I felt at age 9, she was very supportive but wanted to ensure that this was something that I really wanted. So she told me that she would love me regardless of my gender but I should further explore femininity until I was one hundred percent certain that becoming a man was what my heart truly desired; which I agreed to. I even graduated elementary school in a dress. But deep down inside, I still felt like I was going to grow up to be a brilliant man.
As time passed, it seemed harder and harder for me to break out of my shell and voice my true feelings once again, especially with the expectations of my teachers, educational assistants and my underlying fear of the school board’s by the book attitude. The summer before grade 11, I decided that enough was enough. I was through with playing a role I was literally and unfortunately born to play. I took off the mask of science and society’s expectations and revealed my true identity to the world. I knew going in that the journey would not be easy. I would encounter people who didn’t understand or refused to understand, I would learn to cut toxic people out of my life and overall I would grow to be more confident and stronger than I was already made to be. I vividly remember the first time I was gendered correctly by a sales woman at H&M; she escorted me to the male fitting room when my mind had been trained to enter the women’s. I was over the moon and realized that the world could see me the way I saw myself.
Coming out and finding the courage to be who I believed I was meant to be was the best thing that has ever happened to me. If I didn’t have a supportive family and some amazing staff in high school, I would have never met the amazing friends that I have at an LGBTQ+ support group that I attend every Tuesday.
When I was younger, I used to look up at the stars every night and think: “why was I made this way?” I was just a child riddled with confusion and self-loathing. But as I have gotten older and found ways to be involved in my communities, I realized something very important. Everything that I have gone through in the past 18 years all happened for a reason– simply because I was made to make a difference in the world. So today I hold my head high with pride in saying that I am an advocate for the LGBTQ+ and special need communities.
It may not have happened right away but I do embrace who I am every day as I continue to grow. My hope for the future is that people will learn to do the same if they ever feel that they differ from what society expects.
If you are reading this and you are in the midst of exploring your identity or thinking about it, I leave you with one piece of advice. Things will get better; maybe not right away, but soon. And there is no better feeling than being your true self. No one can tell you who you can and cannot be. The only one who can determine your life is you.
This has been the story of my life thus far. As I enter this new chapter in my life with optimism, I would like to thank everyone who has been there for me over the years. Special thanks to my sister for being my best friend, therapist and personal jester when I need it (or don’t). Love you, Chummy!
Thank you so much for listening. Who’s next?
Yours in writing,
AaronJames (he/him pronouns)
Find more of AJ’s story on his blog.