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Eighth grade at Kalihi’s Kalakaua Middle School in Honolulu, Hawaii, was the hardest year of my life.
I was the editor of our yearbook, a dedicated band geek (I was section leader of the tuba section – What…What!) and one of seven National Junior Honor Society inductees at my school.
But I hated my body, which was in full hormonal swing, betraying me and the girl I knew I was: I began to see a hint of an Adam’s apple, peach fuzz above my Lipsmacker-lacquered lips and I was flat-chested.
I was about 13, praying at night that a genie would come to my aid and transform me into the young woman I knew I was, and of course, fast-forward my years in school so I wouldn’t be forced to endure the taunts and teasing from the boys in the back of the room.
But there was no genie, and that was the hardest time, knowing that I would have to find the strength to endure the rest of that year as well as four years of high school in a body that did not match my insides.
So I had a choice to make. I could pretend to be something I was not, butch up and blend in with the crowd OR I could fight the hardest fight there is, stick out and live my truth and be my authentic self.
I chose the latter.
In my freshman year of high school, I began transitioning from Charles to Janet, with the support of my mother, siblings, great friends and tolerant teachers. I sought their help when bullies would shout ridiculous things at me in the hallways, and they listened and offered me solace.
Even if you have no one, tell your story to one person (call the Trevor Hotline 1-800-4-U-Trevor), it can change your life. You’ll have someone who can support you, offer you a nugget of hope and it’ll help you become braver and more courageous.
With the help of those closest to me, I eventually thrived through those four years, earning Farrington High School’s only full-ride academic scholarship to the University of Hawaii. Now, I live in New York City, where I earned my masters degree in journalism at New York University, work as a Web editor for a popular magazine and am writing my very first book about my teenage years.
My memoir Fish Food will be my love letter to you – just like this It Gets Better video.
Since high school I’ve also found even more people who love me just as I am, including my boyfriend Aaron, who has helped me be more courageous, who tells me everyday that I am special, and who directed me from behind the camera and molded a moving story from my childhood photos and words.
This kind of love and support is out there for you too, if you just crack through the hard shell and get to the juicy sweet goodness that will be your life. Trust me, it gets better. And I can tell you this because I am you.
Remember, you are important and that you matter. Realize that four years of high school is not your entire life. There’s a whole world of outcasts and bullied kids just like you waiting to meet you.
I love you and can’t wait to see you on the other side.
For more on Janet’s story of transition and finding love – plus, an exclusive photo shoot – pick up the June 2011 issue of Marie Claire, on newsstands May 17.