Sarah, age 12
West Chester, PA (1998)

This was my 12th birthday. I used to have long, curly blond hair, but when starting middle school my Mom presented me with two choices: take care of it myself or cut it off.  I decided I wanted short hair - really short hair. It phased in and out of a mullet, depending on how long I went between haircuts.

"Watch carefully, I don't want you to get burned"
Later that year I tried to come out to my mother, who assured me that I couldn't be gay because I was too young to know about these things.

One thing I was definitely aware of at that time was a growing infatuation with both Gillian Anderson and Tina Fey. This is also around the time when I was almost exclusively assumed to be a boy when I was out in public, which shocked and horrified my Mom but was very exciting for me. I was also very protective of my younger sister, who is watching me adoringly in this picture. Even now, we are very close and live in the same town, 400 miles from where we grew up.

This was also around the time when I stopped fitting in with the girls in my class easily, and when the boys in school stopped letting me play football with them. But I still remember being very happy with who I was, despite how frustrated I was with everyone else.

When I imagine myself as a child, or get in touch with that part of me that is still a child - this is the picture that I get in my head. Partially it is because it is tied so closely to when I began to really know who I was, but before I grasped the real world ramifications of that identity. I think it is also because those pre-teen years were filled with street hockey, long hikes, tree climbing, and rainy days spent reading, doing puzzles, or playing Monopoly.

And even though socially my world was a mess, and school was very difficult, the majority of the time I remember feeling idyllic and content. I was omfortable in my body and with how others saw me, confident that I could be whoever I wanted to be.