If I Knew In High School What I Know Now

If you had a chance to go back to high school knowing what you know now, would you change anything or do it all the same?

There’s a large part of me that would be scared to change anything because it could have such drastic  consequences on who I am now — if I  had done things differently then, I wouldn’t be who and where I am now. At the same time, it would be impossible to do it all the same. I identified as a girl, and I was mostly in denial about not being straight, when I was in high school. That’s not the case anymore, and I don’t think I could go back into the closet.

To be completely honest, as much as I adored theatre in high school, going back to my very conservative Catholic high school as a really gay, queer-identified, transmasculinely identified person with admittedly rather radical politics would be a nightmare. Actually, I think they’d kick me out — if not for being too queer and too radical, then for the fact that it’s an all-girls school, and I’m not one. Being at an all-girls school would be really interesting, by the way — I haven’t been “one of the girls” since I moved to Chicago, and Bryn Mawr wasn’t nearly as bad about the “we’re all women” mentality as my high school was.

If I were to literally be transported back into my fourteen-year-old body, nearing ten years in the past, I don’t know if I could handle it. I didn’t have any queer community back then, let alone trans folks. It would have been very lonely and very isolating. I think it might have taken more strength than I have just to get by.

Even little things — my hair was so long back then! And the uniforms — even though I generally wore pants, we were still required to wear the skirts for formal uniforms. Dances would have been super awkward. Even theatre — the joy of my life back in high school — would have been different. I was primarily an actor, not a techie. That means that I was on stage, in costume. I wore a lot of dresses and makeup in my shows. That’s not something I could do now. Not like that.

Knowing is different from feeling, of course. And knowing is different from being. Perhaps, if I simply had the knowledge (about the world and about myself) that I now have, I wouldn’t feel the same way as I do. Maybe. But I just don’t believe that if I had known all that I know now — about gender, about my options, about all of the people I know now and how they express their gender, about how I feel about my own gender — that I would still be comfortable with identifying as a girl and being as admittedly feminine as I was then.

Even setting gender aside, I think high school would be really rough. I am far more conscious about class privilege and white privilege than I was, and being back in that kind of environment where class just wasn’t something anyone thought about, and race was only addressed in terms of multiculturalism, would be beyond frustrating. The heteronormativity and gender policing that permeated everything would have just been too much. And the passionately abolitionist framework I now have regarding the prison industrial complex and my overall feelings toward the criminal legal system would just not mesh well with high school, if for no other reason than that no one would have any idea what I meant and would probably think me a complete extremist. I feel like I would probably explode about something and alienate everyone.

It just would be very lonely. Yes, there were things I loved in high school — I’m not trying to act as though it was this terrible ordeal that I only barely survived. But I am, in many ways, so very different from who I was in high school: knowing what I now know, I would not be able to simply go along with the flow and follow the path of the least resistance.

Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t do it all the same: I wouldn’t survive four years of being a straight girl. I’d like to think that even if I’d decided to do it all the way I had, when I just couldn’t stand it anymore, I’d come out and hope for the best.

What would I change? Honestly, I don’t think I can fathom it. Somehow being in a version of Vis as a twenty-three-year-old I can kind of imagine (maybe like a reality TV show?). I think I’d just go in, radical queermo all the way, and stir things up. But being fourteen again and re-entering high school? Before I came out as trans, I thought about that a lot — I would have joined theatre earlier and gone to Scotland with them; I would have come out as gay; I would have been less shy, less passive, less desperate to just be liked and not offend anyone. Now, it feels like it’s been one shift too many, and I just can’t figure out how it would even be possible to conceptualize what it would mean to re-do high school.

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