Yesterday, I ended my term as AU’s student body president. I have learned and grown so much over the last year, both personally and professionally. As proud as I am of all of the issues we tackled together, the biggest take away, for me, has been the resolution of an internal struggle.
For my entire life, I’ve wrestled with my gender identity. It was only after the experiences of this year that I was able to come to terms with what had been my deepest secret: I’m transgender.
For me, it has been present my whole life, but, for the longest time, I couldn’t accept it.
At an early age, I also developed my love of politics. I wrestled with the idea that my dream and my identity seemed mutually exclusive; I had to pick. So I picked what I thought was easier and wouldn’t disappoint people.
To avoid letting myself and others down, I rationalized my decision: if I can make life a little fairer for other people, then that work would be so fulfilling that it would make me feel complete and somehow mitigate my own, internal struggles. I told myself that if I could make “Tim” worthwhile for other people by changing the world, that being “Tim” would be worthwhile.
As SG President, I realized that as great as it is to work on issues of fairness, it only highlighted my own struggles. It didn’t bring the completeness that I sought. By mid-fall, it had gotten to the point where I was living in my own head. With everything I did, from the mundane to the exciting, the only way I was able to enjoy it was if I re-imagined doing it as a girl. My life was passing me by, and I was done wasting it as someone I wasn’t.
I told my family and some of my closest friends over winter break. My brothers and parents greeted me with immediate support and unconditional love. This was the first time that my parents have had to worry about my safety, my job prospects and my acceptance. This story is my experience and my experience alone. There is no one-size-fits-all narrative; everyone’s path winds in different ways.
The experience highlights my own privilege. I grew up in an upper-income household, in an accepting environment and with incredible educational opportunities. I never worried about my family’s reaction.
But those worries are all too common for most. For far too many trans individuals, the reality is far bleaker; coming out oftentimes means getting kicked out of your home. I say this not to diminish my own experience, but to acknowledge the privilege and opportunities which have been afforded to me.
Today is the next day of the life I’ve already had, but at the same time, the first day of the life I always knew I wanted to lead. Starting on Saturday, I will present as my true self. Going forward, I ask that you use female pronouns (she/her) and my chosen name, Sarah.
With every birthday candle extinguished, with every penny thrown, my wish was always the same. I am now blessed with the opportunity to live my dream and fulfill a truth I have known since childhood. My gratitude is great to my family, friends and this university for accepting me as the person who they now know me to be, and for letting me show them the possibilities of a life well lived.
I now know that my dreams and my identity are only mutually exclusive if I don’t try.
Sarah McBride is the outgoing SG President.