To find oneself

Maggie Burton

Maggie Burton

Known for being an openly transgender student dedicated to securing rights for the LGBTQ+ community, Hayden Wilson, sophomore, has struggled to gain freedom from society and his own mind.

Hayden was diagnosed with depression in October of his eighth grade year while still identifying with his birth sex. Hayden was born female and had not questioned his sexual or gender identity until finding little pieces of himself within the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA). Prior to joining the GSA, Hayden said he had no experience with the LGBTQ+ community. According to Hayden his depression was not caused by his gender or sexuality, but added struggle through his journey building who he is today. Hayden found himself leaning heavily on his best friend, Olivia Griner, sophomore, for support.

“I carried the burden of helping him,” Griner said. “And he carried the burden of helping me.”

According to Hayden and Griner they shared everything with each other. The pair laughed when the other laughed and cried when the other cried. They worked as each other’s rock, taking turns comforting each other. According to Griner she found herself tumbling deeper into her own depression as Hayden’s dark thoughts began manifesting in Griner’s mind.

“My therapist told me, ‘The reason you have [severe depression] is because you’ve taken on too much,’” Griner said. “I told [Hayden] to stop coming to me with his problems and things got worse once he didn’t have someone to talk to.”

According to Hayden, he did not have a strong support system at home, so leaning on Griner allowed him to get the understanding he needed. Hayden was left without someone to talk to, forcing him to spiral deeper into his depression as he struggled to understand who he was.

“Depression feels like there’s something so big on you that you can’t get up, and you don’t want to,” said. “I would be like, ‘I don’t need to get up, nobody is going to miss me if I just lay here.’”

According to Cecilia Bodet, KHS guidance counselor, adolescents trying to make sense of where they fit in, both in the LGBTQ+ community and in the world, need support in order to find themselves and then choose to accept it. If they lack support at home they tend to look elsewhere and develop a ‘chosen family’ of people they trust and choose to stand beside.

“Sometimes there are students that are more accepting than others,” Bodet said. “I see [kids] who need different support tend to gravitate towards each other.”

Hayden was hospitalized after attempting to end his life March 2016. Hayden’s classmates, including Griner, had no idea that Hayden had been dealing with suicidal thoughts until after he was hospitalized. Griner learned of Hayden’s hospitalization after texting him following his absence, to which a member of his family answered her worried messages stating he had tried to end his life.

“I was the first person he talked to about [depression and sexuality],” Griner said. “When I got the phone call after [he was hospitalized], I just broke down in tears.”

Following Hayden’s first hospitalization, he and Griner began growing close again. Once freshman year rolled around their friendship was stronger than ever. Hayden, with the full support of Griner, identified as an openly gay female at KHS. To a stranger, Hayden seemed better than ever, but he knew he was not himself yet.

“I started learning more about genders,” Hayden said. “I realized that [being referred to as a] ‘she’ all the time wasn’t me, so I came out as genderfluid.”

Coming out as genderfluid prompted Hayden to officially begin going by the name Hayden after dropping his birth name. For a few months, Hayden identified himself as a genderfluid teenager, but did not feel genderfluid was who he truly was. When he finally came out as a transgender male, Griner did not hesitate to support him and his transition. Hayden said it seemed struggling with depression and being transgender was a lot for his parents to wrap their minds around at once. According to his mother, Sandi Wilson, the hardest part was seeing him hospitalized multiple times.

“I try to be as supportive as I can,” Sandi said. “I know sometimes I am not [supportive and I wonder] if that is what’s causing it.”

According to Hayden, talking to his parents has gotten easier. Hayden said that even if they do not understand now, he has faith they will grow to.

“[My mom] was like ‘I don’t get it, but I love you,’” Hayden said. “That was really important to hear. [Hearing that] meant they are taking [my transition] seriously, and even if they don’t get it they are trying to. That means a lot to me.”

Coming into his sophomore year knowing who he is, Hayden met new people that would not refer back to his birth name because they only knew him by the name he went by. That still does not eliminate the gender aspect. Hayden said coming out as transgender has made him feel like a weight was lifted off his shoulders, but it is not always easy because the depression is still there.

“When I meet new people it’s conflicting because I don’t know whether to tell them or not,” Hayden said. “Part of me knows I need to [tell people] because I can’t hear [my classmates] refer to me as a ‘she,’ but the other knows that [telling them I am transgender] is going to change things.”

Hayden said discovering and accepting who he is was gradual, but it became easier to breathe. According to Hayden and Griner, since coming out as transgender, he has become more confident and his depression has lessened. Hayden continues to struggle with his depression, but finally feels like he is who he was always meant to be. Despite all of his struggles, Hayden is ready to tackle what is ahead of him.

“This has definitely changed me,” Griner said. “Seeing his life being harder than mine and him still alive is a real motivation. [Hayden] has struggled with so much, but found himself in it. It’s a real inspiration.”