Being Your Beauty: Arlo


14 years old

& their mom Kelly

Waterford, NY

A: There was this book I read in 6th grade called George. It talks about a male to female trans kid in elementary school and her being herself. And I was like— that sounds like me!

My teacher, Mr. Jerome, had us write down a secret about ourselves anonymously. I was like, this is my chance. I’m going to do it! I wrote, “I think I might be transgender.”

He was reading all the secrets, and he’s like “whoever said that—you can come to me if you need to, and I support you.”

George helped me realize that I don’t fit into a black and white gender category. I was like, “I’m the gray, but what is the gray?” And what with being queer in general…I’m like, “oh maybe being trans is the gray.”

I think if I had known someone that was non-binary, I probably would have realized that I was. Right now, I’m not completely sure if I’m also trans.

A: Oh, my mom’s definitely my best friend. People are like—who’s your best friend? I’m like, my mom.
K: I always support my kids with any decisions they make and everything that they do. When Arlo said that they felt they were a he/him, it didn’t completely make sense to me.
A: Well, she didn’t really believe me. I mean—I was a very feminine kid. I played with Monster High Dolls and American Girl Dolls and Barbie Dolls. But Monster Dolls were my favorite.
K: It’s not that I didn’t believe you, I just never got he/him vibes, you know, from birth all the way up. I felt like you were more of a tomboy, or a they/them. So I said okay, if that’s how you feel, that’s how you feel; and we’ll go with it.
A: And you were right! I remember sitting in the car saying “I don’t think I’m a boy. I think I’m a they/them.” I think you turned to me and said “Really? Imagine that!”
K: Yup I was right, but I never said I told you so.
A: Yes you did!
K: No I didn’t, I think I said, “hmm.” *shared laughter*
A: Oh, yeah. I think you should have.

K: I was very much a tomboy. I remember one year we went school shopping to buy new sneakers. I told my mom that I don’t want new sneakers, I wanted my brother’s old sneakers! And my mom was like, “why?” I said “cause they’re cool and they’re high tops and they don’t make girl high tops.”

And then another couple of years later they started making girl high tops but they were all pink and stuff. And I was like, eww. So, you know, all the kids picked on me cause I was wearing my brother’s old high tops and they were boys’ shoes and I’m a girl and blah, blah, blah. And I was like, I’m just me.

I think if I had the same experience now I would probably consider myself non-binary because I always really wanted to dress like a boy, and the next day I would wear, you know, a skirt or something.

A: I think bullies act the way they do because they’re incredibly insecure. All they want is attention from other people; so they act like assholes because it gets them attention. Whether it’s positive or negative, it gets them a lot of attention and in general they act like they’re better than everyone else. If they feel bad, they want other people to feel bad with them.

If a bully says “I bully people because I’m insecure” all his friends would make fun of him. If we could just be like, “hey did you know that it’s actually okay to talk about your feelings?” then they could admit that they feel insecure too.

I like Diversity Club. It’s once a week, every Wednesday. Probably around 10 people. It’s definitely very positive, and the teacher who runs it is gay himself (shout out to Mr. B!) I actually don’t know what he teaches. He’s not my teacher. But I feel like there’s a safe space. You can just go and hang out with Mr. B if you want to. I always say hi to him in the hallway.

A: I think there will always be bullying. There will always be homophobic and transphobic people. But I think in the future, there will be more allies. Those are my favorite kind of people. Not the ones who are like “you can’t say that, that’s homophobic!” I love people that are just like “shut up, nobody cares about what you’re saying.”

When people tease me, they’re like *small growl* “you’re queer!” And I’m like, “I know! Did you know that I’m actually aware?”

If I tell them “you can’t say that about me because it’s wrong—even though I’m not ‘socially acceptable’ you can’t say that about me” they don’t listen to that. I’ve tried that so many times, they don’t listen to that. You just gotta be like, “no way, really? I’m queer?” People respond to sarcasm differently than being told what to do.

I think back to the idea of individualism—if people were just themselves and there wasn’t any judgment, then everything would be fine.

I feel like over time, queerness will just become more and more normalized.

A: Mr. Kitty has been my cat since I was born. He’s a very good cat. He’s definitely one of my best friends.