Dexter Fan is, in many ways, like any other teen. Surrounded by his friends Mitchy, Jesse, and Julian he laughs as they discuss their favorite ways to hang out. “Usually we play games or watch movies and we just make food,” says Julian. Jesse chimes in explaining, “We cook dinner or invite them over for small, family meals like spaghetti and meatballs…We used to do that often in the summers but then school got in the way and now we’re living unhealthy teenage lives.” Doing something as ordinary as hanging out and eating together comes as just a part of Dexter’s extraordinary story.
About 10 years ago, Dexter transitioned from female to male. Before the transition, “my mom, my family, was telling me you’re supposed to look like a girl, but in my head, I felt like a boy.” To be seen and to live comfortably as the person he is, Dexter made the choice to transition. “When I was transitioning I was afraid I was going to get kicked out, that I was going to have to fend for myself, and that was my biggest fear; being completely alone and that was hard.”
Finding acceptance, even within his own family, took time. “I kind of assumed that my mother would get right away-which she didn’t-and I realized it takes people time to understand. So I think you need to be patient to wait for people to come around.” Though he needed to be patient for others to see it, he knew, as soon transitioned, that he made the best choice. “Once I medically transitioned, I immediately felt more comfortable.”
Being transgender is just a piece of who Dexter is. “I was taught to have a good heart and to give it to other people.” His friends are quick to see that. “Before meeting Dexter, I’ve never known, personally, a transgender person,” says Julian. “But that’s cool with me. I don’t really care because he’s a great person and that’s all that matters to me.” Dexter’s friend, Jesse, supported him throughout his journey. Thinking back to high school she says, “Sometimes I feel like, in high school, people thought of him as just transgender and not as Dexter and that was pretty lame because he’s pretty cool.”
Transitioning allowed Dexter to be free of a body that suffocated both who he was and who he wanted to be. Now, he is able to openly express the person he has always been, the person his friends see, and to pursue his future; it was the chance to finally just be a normal teen.
“I’m still comfortable. All I really wanted, growing up, was to be normal and now I get to have that. I probably wouldn’t be here to today if I didn’t get that opportunity; so, I’m very grateful.”