StoryCorps: for this 18-year-old transgender, queerness means happiness E! News UK
Kaysen Ford, right, reflects during a StoryCorps conversation with their mother, Jennifer Sumner, about years of milestones – and struggles – while growing up transgender.
Kaysen Ford, who is transgender and now identifies as non-binary, is a recent high school graduate.
Ford returned to StoryCorps this month with their mom to reflect on their 2015 conversation.
At the time, Ford told their mother, Jennifer Sumner, the happiest moment of their lives: the day Sumner bought Ford boy’s underpants.
The memory now makes the 18-year-old girl cringe a little.
“I remember being like, woo-hou! And then, looking back and like, ‘Ugh, I told everyone what time I had my underwear on?’ Ford said.
“I’ve definitely become more mature, but that’s bound to happen when you go from 12 to almost 19.”
Ford has since moved with his family from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to Birmingham due to access to local services that allow transgender people to live more authentically, such as Point of Pride – an international network of support programs for gender affirmation – and Magic City Acceptance Center, a drop-in center for LGBTQ youth and their allies.
Sumner could be Ford’s most favorable ally. She is excited for their future, she said.
“Sometimes I want you to be a little baby again so I can just hold you and rock you.” But I’m very happy that you hit milestones that, to be completely honest, I was afraid we weren’t going to hit – you’re not going to hit, “she said.
In recent years, Ford has struggled with depression and suicidal ideation.
“You faced so many challenges and yet you stayed strong and you were always brave,” Sumner said.
For Ford, staying strong was not a matter of choice: “I had to be in a way. “
It is important for them to show others that they are happier when they are just themselves.
“One thing that’s really sad is that the media tends to focus on queer tragedy,” Ford said. “I think that’s why parents have such a hard time accepting.”
“This stuff is real and it happens, but another real thing is being weird and happy. Like, that’s normal. This is the expectation you must hold on to. Being happy is not in spite of being queer. This is part of it. “
Product audio for Morning edition by Kerrie Hillman. NPR’s Emma Bowman adapted it for the web.
StoryCorps is a national non-profit organization that gives people the opportunity to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.