In high school, the kids in the back of the room taunted me. I would tune out their ignorance insults, though, and turn up the volume to the sound of my own dreams of moving to New York and becoming someone.
Now, I’m one small step closer to that dream. I’m certain that I’m growing into someone and soon those bullies – who pelted me with taunts of mahu – will see me beaming from the pages of a major magazine read by millions. Last Tuesday marked my very first photo shoot – a vanity-plated milestone for me.
As I’ve previously written in a series of blog posts, I’m sharing stories from my childhood and adolescence in a women’s magazine in the hopes of reaching across those pages to let kids – who grew up just like me – know that they aren’t alone, and that all they dream is possible.
It’s possible because there’s a living breathing example of a kid, just like them, who grew up feeling different and was teased because of this glaring difference. She was challenged daily to choose between whom she knew she was or fold and satisfy her environment’s boxed-theory of categories. While it would’ve been easier for her to crush who she knew she was and blend in with the crowd in an effort to achieve “normalcy” – she didn’t.
That girl is me, and she chose to be herself.
It’s taken me a long time to get to this point where I’m able to stand tall without shame or fear and say this is who I am fully. All I hope is that this magazine article, with the story of my upbringing mixed with images of me smiling from the same streets I dreamt of as a kid at Kalihi’s Farrington High School (Go Governors!), helps every kid out there persevere past the taunts, past the bullying, past the broken family, past all the bullshit, and just believe in themselves and their dreams.
It’s possible. Believe. You’re a champion.