American Coming of Age LGBTQ+

The first day of school is just loaded with emotion, joy to see friends that weren’t around all summer, curiosity about the couple of new kids in the class. Stanley and his classmates entering Junior High were now in a completely new building, meeting new teachers they’d never seen before, and would soon be taking on new classes that generated anxiety for all. Stanley quickly connected with his two best buddies, Mike and Harry. They were thrilled to have the same schedule, they would have lockers close together, and would start every day in the same home room—which is where they were when one of their heroes stepped into the class room, the Quarterback of the local professional football team. Jonathan David was known by football fans across the country, but was more than just a celebrity in their town. The boys were mesmerized, just staring at Jonathan, wondering what he was doing in their classroom. He turned and smiled at the students all sitting quietly. The teacher spoke to him briefly, the football hero turned and walked out. 

Stanley turned and looked at his friends, “Wow, that was cool! What do you think he’s doing here?”

“Has to be something to do with our football team, don’t you think?” offered Harry. “I guess we’ll know later.” The boys were going out for football and would be on the Junior Varsity squad meeting after regular class hours that day, “But, I agree with you, that was cool!”

Before they could continue the conversation, the home room teacher, Mrs. Patterson, stood, introduced herself, welcomed them to her class, went over some of the rules the kids would be held accountable for and then wrapped up her short presentation with, “Please, check your schedule, make sure you know where your first period class will be, and quietly, please, head to that classroom. For most of this semester, you’ll have only five minutes between classes, so don’t get distracted. When you do get to your next classroom, you’ll notice there are little signs on the desks, signs with names printed in block letters, try to find your desk and again quietly, quickly get settled in.” She smiled broadly, “I think you’re all going to be very happy and excited at what’s in store!” At that moment, the bell rang signifying the end of Home Room, and Mrs. Patterson said, “Again, to all, Welcome and I wish you all a wonderful school year! Now, go to your class.”

The guys were only two rooms away from their first period class, but there was a mystery about this. Last year, and the years prior to that, they spent all day in a single class room and most of the time with a single teacher. Now, in Junior High, they would have different rooms and different teachers for every subject. Two of the guys had older siblings, so based on info from them, the boys had some idea who the teachers would be. That is, all of the classes except this one---Mrs. Patterson had given them a list of the rooms for each subject, along with the teacher’s names, for classes beginning period two---but nothing for period one. One of the older siblings told them that it could be a “study-hall,” a free hour to read, work on homework, but those were usually in the library—and this wasn’t the library. They walked into the First Period room and with another dozen or more 7th graders, began to search for their desk. Harry found his first . . . it was the desk closest to the door, so he stopped and had a seat. It was just a minute or so and everyone was seated. There were no teachers in the room, nothing written on the board, no stacks of text books anywhere—so what was this all about? Everyone was quiet but clearly anxious, looking around to see who else was in the class. Suddenly, the back door of the room opened and four people walked in, the principal, a man that no one knew, Jonathan David, and someone that they all knew, Tiffany White, a super-star singer.

It was a stunned silence, just what the principal expected. He walked to the front of the class, “Welcome! You guys are all part of the class of ‘27—meaning, if all goes well—and I’m here to tell you that all WILL go well, you will all graduate in June 2027. But, for now, you will be part of something very extra special!” All the adults had huge smiles on their faces. 

Principal Wright, turned and sort of pointed at the people that came in the room with him, “Let me introduce you to your teachers.” He could see the looks on the students’ faces, he knew they were stunned that a Quarterback and star Singer were going to be teachers. He continued, “Mr. Kemp, please step up.” He turned and gestured to the one unknown. 

Mr. Kemp smiled and began to speak, “I am new with your school system, but not new as a teacher. I have been teaching behavioral science to college students for a very long time. This opportunity, however, struck me as very special, so I jumped to accept Principal Wright’s offer. Many of you know our guests, Mr. Jonathan David and Miss Tiffany White. They will be spending this hour with us for the next few days. The “why” behind their presence will come clear as the week goes on. For now, I’ll ask them to introduce themselves. Miss White,” she motioned to the singer. 

She stepped forward, smiled and then in an unexpectedly deep voice, said, “Hi, my name is Timothy White, my stage name is Tiffany—and yes, I am trans and I am in the process of coming out to everyone. Gratefully, my family and friends, my band, my manager and the recording company---all of those people have demonstrated remarkable kindness, respect, and generosity, allowing me to make this announcement when and how I feel is best.” She was smiling broadly. “Does anyone have any questions?”

The students didn’t make a sound, they just stared.

She waited a moment, then, still smiling, “Don’t be shy, I know you have questions and I am willing to answer them.”

Stanley raised his hand. Tiffany looked straight at him, “Ok, what’s your name and what’s your question?”

He sounded a little nervous, but went right to it, “My name is Stanley. How did you know? How did you decide to tell? Doesn’t it, like, scare you to death?”

“Wow, Stanley, that’s a lot. Is there a reason you’ve asked all of this?

“What if I know someone that wants to be trans but is too afraid. Is there anything a friend can do to help?”

“Well, I can answer part of that. The when and how are too complicated, but I’ve known for several years that I was in the wrong group---gender. And, now I’ve decided to tell because it’s time. I have to step up and try to help others have a decent life, help them not live in fear. It’s not right, not fair that anyone should be afraid to live the life that is right for them. And, today, there’s a lot to be afraid of for people ID’d as male at birth and now living the life that’s right for them.” She was talking directly to Stanley, but now turned toward the rest of the class, “There are laws in some states that make me a criminal for the changes I’ve made to myself---not for anything I’ve done to another person, not for any harm I’ve done. And, that’s wrong.”

Jonathan David stepped forward, he smiled at Tiffany, “Can I interrupt?”

She smiled back, “Yes, whenever you’re ready.”

“I think most of you know me, I’m a football player. I play for the Saints, but today I’m not here to play. I’m here because in my mind and in my heart, we are living in a very sad time for our country—for our planet. So many people, too many people, don’t understand the simple concepts of CARE, of RESPECT, of KINDNESS.”  He almost shouted those words. “In spite of all our differences, our size, shape, color, age, and yes, GENDER, we are all more alike than we are different. And, there’s room enough, on our planet, in our lives, for all of us. And, the fact is that our differences often make us stronger—think about my football team. We are all different, different in so many ways, but we are a team. Think about, the biggest, strongest players play line and block the other team so I have time to throw the ball to the receivers who are the fastest runners. We’re all different but together our strengths work to help us, all of us, as a team to do better. And, we’re not just talking about gender---it’s every difference, our skin color, how tall we are, how strong we are. I have a good friend that told me a story, from many years ago, when he made his first black friend. Suddenly, he said, the courts made all the kids, no matter the race, go to the same school. There was this black kid that was in his PE class and they played basketball together.  He said they quickly figured out that when they got a rebound on the opponents end of the court, whoever got it would pass the ball to the black kid because he was faster, and the defense would all run after him. But my friend was the better shooter, so when the black kid got down court, all the defense was near him he passed the ball to my friend who was often wide open, who would shoot and score. He said they did it dozens of times that season—and won a whole lot of games—because they were different. And, as they became friends, they learned that in spite of what anyone said, they were more alike than different, they liked the same songs on the radio, they had the same sports heroes, Micky Mantle and Willie Mayes, they both liked Pepsi more than Coke, their favorite food was red beans with sausage, they both went to church on Sundays, they both respected their elders. And, the lesson they learned is one that all of us need to learn, and that’s why I’m here with my friend Tiffany.” He reached over and grasped her hand. “You will all hear more about this over the next few months. To get us started I want you to think about this, ask yourself this question, “Am I harmed in any way because Tiffany made this choice about who she is, because of any choices she’s made?” I dare say the answer to that question is a resounding “NO”! And, then we’re going find an answer to the bigger question, “How can we stop people from hating, threatening, fearing people like her?””

He sat down and the teacher, Mr. Kemp, stepped up, “So, we’re going to meet like this for one hour per week during the fall semester. Mr. David may be out of town playing football, Ms. Tiffany will be away for performances, but my trust is in you!” He waved his arm to let them all know who he was referring to. “We will all talk about how we will work to make our world kinder, more respectful, more generous. Are you with me?  Stand if you are!”

Stanley jumped to his feet and shouted, “YES!” His buddies, Mike and Harry, were a second or two behind him, but both stood and smiled at him. They talked later and were all happy that every member of the class stood with them.  No one knew their story. They had spoken of it only briefly a few times, yet, they were anxious to share the secret and to begin living the lives that they truly desired.  

As they headed out the door for the second period class, Tiffany stepped over to the door and stopped Stanley, “Stanley, is there something you’d like to talk about? Just me and you?”

Stanley grabbed Harry’s arm, Mike stopped, and stared. Stanley spoke first. In a soft voice he answered, “Yes, I would like to talk, but I think my friends would like to be in the conversation, too.” He looked at his friends and waited.

Mike was first, “I think the best way to start this is to say that we all have gender things going on.”

Stanley added, “Yes, but not the same things. I’ll start.” He paused and looked to his friends for the OK.

Both Mike and Harry smiled and nodded, so Stanley began, “Here’s the short version, I was born the wrong gender, Mike and Harry both like the same gender. It’s our secret, the three of us, nobody else knows. We talk about it sometimes, but mostly just trying to figure out how and when we’ll tell everyone else.”

Tiffany smiled, just as Jonathan joined them, “Then that will be our mission.” She turned and told Jonathan what the boys told her. 

Jonathan had a broad smile on his face, “We will do this at your pace, when you’re ready, in a way that you guys approve, with the confidence that everyone will join us in welcoming you to the lives you deserve. You OK with that?”

The boys’ emotions were soaring—going somewhere close to happy, hysterical tears. Jonathan could tell what was happening, “Don’t be shy! We’ve witnessed this, or been part of this, enough to know and understand—and for now at least, we’re the only ones who know and you can trust us! And, we can stop here and pray that by the time you leave this school, everyone will know, understand, and love you for who you are!” He opened his arms inviting the boys to come in for a hug, “Come on, bring it in!”

And, that hug was the beginning of a new world order, a new clarity and a new level of courage where we judge others by the content of their character and nothing else.

December 24, 2023 00:00

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Karen McDermott
11:48 Dec 30, 2023

I feel a bit muddled here - is Tiffany in the process of becoming a man but still using she/her pronouns or is that a slip up on Jonathan's part? I liked this, very wholesome. If only more first days back at school were this encouraging and positive in my youth, haha :)


Bracy Ratcliff
21:00 Dec 30, 2023

Thanks Karen, you made a good point. . . I left out a large portion of the story with Tiffany's introduction. In my mind, she was born Timothy, and had made most of the transition to her new life as Tiffany, but had not completed it. I maybe didn't give it enought thought---I just wanted a transgender character and made it too simple. Again, thanks for the feedback!


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