top of page
  • The Current UMSL

Representing A Once Former Life: How Acceptance Changes Lives

By: Molly Wilson

As a trans lesbian, growing up wasn’t just “Eww, boys are gross.” It was alienating. I liked girls but when I heard my “classmates” talk about girls in such an objectifying way, I was appalled. I didn’t understand why I hated that so much at the time.

Photo by: Molly Wilson

But, as Kristen Stewest said in an interview with Variety by Adam. B Vary on being a queer trailblazer “. . .I want people to like me, and I want certain parts,” she says. “I have lots of different experiences that shape who I am that are very, very far from binary. But I did get good at the heteronormative quality. I play that role well. It comes from a somewhat real place — it’s not fake.”

That’s what you do: You act with the best heteronormative quality you can. At least, that’s what I tried to do. I was a nerd, but nonetheless I didn’t fit in with anyone. I was so anxious I got diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I got bullied just because I didn’t play sports and was quirky, I didn’t think I’d fit in with anyone for a long time. You don’t go from an anxious, fourteen year old to a bubbly college freshman overnight.

You have to know my mom is the most supportive person on the planet. No one besides my partner comes close. One night when she was at a writer’s conference I was bawling my eyes out as I stared at my laptop reading about being trans. Being bi is one thing. In my mind, gender and sexuality were two different things that held different weight, so I thought I couldn’t tell mom because of said weight. At that time I thought if you were trans you had to be straight.

On the inside I was terrified, my body was wracked with sobs as I told my mom the truth. Despite her being the most understanding mom, I thought she’d hate me. Within the week I had a new wardrobe and got my ears pierced. Scarlet was my new name. I thought of the family first. Scarlet was an easy adjustment from Scott. That wasn’t the best choice, but I didn’t know that at the time.

My family has been through seven different names, six different gender identities, five different sexualities and a partridge in a pear tree. That’s a lot in nine years. The biggest thing you can do for anyone in the LGBTQ spectrum is be supportive. I’m talking about being a person who supports the gay friend through the ups and downs of finding a partner or being the friend who goes clothes shopping with the newly-out. Without that system, even just two or three people, our mental health plummets. We don’t function correctly. We lose weight. We get more anxious, more tired, more scared, more depressed. There’s a reason suicide rates are higher and lack of support is one of the reasons.

A lack of understanding is another thing. I’ve had people ask me why I changed my name from early last semester to this semester. “This one suits me better” is what I always tell them because that’s the quickest explanation. But for those who have unsupportive parents and/or have deeply religious parents, you don’t have that luxury. So if you don’t keep up to date with names or pronouns, that makes us feel like we aren’t really regarded as important or, even worse, like we’re unsafe with you. Being out of the loop isn’t as bad as being openly judgy, but it hurts just as well. That’s why I tell people when I can. When I was younger I brushed it off, I didn’t care about correcting people. But overtime that ate away at my strength to advocate for myself and my identity despite said identity being ever-shifting.

Mental health as a LGBTQ person is paramount. I found my love for writing via video games I don’t need anymore but it took over ten years of my life. Finding outlets like writing, art, or something creative is often what we turn to because we can turn the pain into something beautiful. We can just release it through sweat, colors and happy tears instead of breakdowns and self-isolation. I haven’t stopped writing for longer than a year or less in twelve years- half my life and now I have this job. But I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t start writing fanfiction years ago because of depression. The Pit, as I call it, can either be filled with dirt six feet deep or you can crawl out by bloodied fingers to a world full of opportunities. 

I have found UMSL is the most accepting place I could have found myself in. I lived in a football-or-nothing town where if you wore a salmon pink shirt they called you gay. They had “smear the queer” as an activity that seventh grade boys loved to make my play. Was I gay? Yeah I was and still very much am, but I couldn’t let them know. We’re often victims of bullying or even worse things, so trusting someone doesn’t come easy. It took me years of being with my family to finally feel comfortable saying “I don’t like this set of pronouns.” So to go in front of potentially hundreds of strangers over two plus years of schooling and at a new job? It’s Herculean; we take a small step of courage a decade or five before that which has us moving boulders like Sisyphus. But then we get to break those boulders someday. We spend years outside as much limelight as possible just to see who we can trust because of past instances of being an outcast. But when we find people that are supportive like I said above? That means the world to us. I wouldn’t have gotten here without a lot of growth including comfortability and security in myself that had to come from within and without. It’s been a long journey and that’s the thing about being on this particular journey: It’s full of pitfalls, setbacks, loss of self confidence and worth, gaining it back, and doing that all over again. We go stronger every day in the face of a world where we only have twenty two states to feel truly safe in anything that isn’t the Midwest or Southern states. We fight because we have to and that’s not going to stop any time soon. Our strength comes from supporting each other and supporting ourselves.

Representation is another very important factor in keeping up mental health. If all gay men could see was the flamboyant, make-up wearing gay guy, the lumberjack with a heart of gold who only shows the true him to a close friend group would think that’s all they can be. If all lesbians could see was the masc lesbian, the femmes wouldn’t have a way to express their femininity in a queer way. Not all lesbians are masc, not all bi people are promiscuous (you can date however many people you want regardless of gender/ sexuality), and not all gay men are femme or do drag. For me, finding out I could be a lesbian trans woman was mind blowing to me. No one said “Yo, you can kiss girls and be a trans girl.” I only re-came out and start Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) after finding that out. I have a former friend to thank for it. Owl House is a cartoon but it tackles themes like depression in the form of a magical curse, oppression, being yourself as a neurodivergent person, and found family. I saw a dance between the two main characters and I was absolutely floored. Twenty two and that was the first depiction I saw of a sapphic couple on screen. I literally cried and this was before starting HRT when crying was less common for a “man.” I fell in love with the show and about 80% of the main cast is queer in some way. Is it talked about? No, because the world is queer-normative. I think this world not being queer normative certainly has its dangers like death. But when I look at the love I see in the circles I’m in, how proud people can be, the smiles on everyone's faces as they walk hand in hand at Tower Grove Pride, I just get washed away in a sea of understanding and comfort unlike anything else.

Any LGBTQ person throughout history has a story to tell and we tell them when we’re proud of ourselves for getting far. So, if you want to be a good friend, make your LGBTQ friends feel safe and loved. Make a space for them at your table. Help them with crushes, be that shoulder to cry on. If we don’t think you’re a safe space, we won’t rely on you. Let them live proud, be free, and go loud. 


bottom of page