Transgender Teen Opens Up

Emily Wong, A&E Editor

Though most high school students look forward to college after high school, junior Nikki Young is looking for something even more profound, a chance to finally be in the body she feels right in.

Previously known as Dean Falanai, Nikki Young was born male but now identifies herself as a straight transgender woman. She chose the name Nikki after looking through names with her mom. They discovered “Nicole,” and its nickname, “Nikki,” which they thought had a nice ring to it.

Though she initially identified herself as gay, Young felt that she had always known she was not in the right body, especially during the uncomfortable changes throughout puberty.

“That’s kind of when it clicked in my head that I was transgender,” Young said.

At first, the junior found it difficult to come to terms with her identity as a transgender. Fearing the reaction of her family and peers, Young kept her identity to herself for a while.

“For a long time I felt uncomfortable with myself and I didn’t know how to tell myself or others what I really feel. So I kind of kept it away for a long time until high school,” Young said. However, Young’s family and friends have been incredibly supportive after she revealed to them how she truly felt about her gender. Her most adamant supporter is her mom, who has been behind her throughout her transition. Nikki’s sister is lesbian and her brother is gay.

“When Nikki made this revelation to me, I knew what was to come, but I didn’t hide in denial, nor shame for the sake of pride within my family, church or community. In turn, I embraced my child, Nikki, to give comfort and full support just as I did 17 years ago when she entered my life. At the end of the day, nobody should ever sway or compromise your unconditional love for your child,” Florence Young, Nikki’s mother, said.

Despite Young’s early struggle with confidence, she has now learned to accept herself and began dressing more feminine during sophomore year, with outfits including fake nails and dresses. To avoid problems surrounding the use of restrooms, she uses the nurse’s restroom.

Young is currently complying with her doctor’s orders to refrain from undergoing any surgery or hormone therapy until she is fully developed, around the age of 21.

“I wish I could get it sooner but they highly advised to get it at 21,” Young said.

Many transgenders face bullying from their peers and are shunned by their parents, such as last year’s case with Leelah Alcorn, a transgender girl whose suicide garnered national attention. Young, too, has faced teasing and bullying, especially through elementary and middle school, but has learned to ignore the stares and name-calling.

“I never really let it get to me. I kind of just tried to stay positive with my life because there really is no need for all that,” she said.

Though society’s attitude toward transgenders has been in the spotlight lately with a transgender character on Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” and ex-Olympian Bruce Jenner’s revelations, Young’s biggest role model is not in the media; it’s her mom.

“She is a very accepting mother and understands how hard it is to live our lives just the way we want,” Young said.
“Having her support really helped me with my whole transition because she made me realize I shouldn’t be hiding from myself and that I should be showing the world who I really am.”

Young also joined Peer Counseling after her sister shared her positive experiences with the organization. Hearing about this, Young wanted to find a safe place to feel comfortable in.

The junior advises others going through similar situations to have confidence and to prepare themselves mentally for what is to come. Young also opposes those who claim transgenderism is a choice.

“Why would I choose to make my life harder? Why would I choose to have people hate me?” she asked.

After her doctor asked her to share her story at an upcoming seminar for transgenders, Young hopes to be more
involved in the LGBTQ community.

“I definitely do want to see more acceptance because I know a lot of problems is transphobic people in the world and a lot of times, they just don’t understand where we come from. They should be more understanding and there should be more openness,” Young said.