This Is Me
Kingswood Regional High School junior Sarah Huckman was the featured guest at today’s All-School Assembly. Sarah spoke about being transgender and her journey to becoming a young woman. She dispelled myths and stereotypes, shared challenges she has faced, including in the New Hampshire legislature, and also talked about the immense support she has received from her family, friends, and the communities in which she has lived.
Using slides, she walked attentive students and faculty through her life beginning with the adoption of her and her twin brother Jim from a Cambodian orphanage and her childhood, first on Cape Cod and then to Wolfeboro where her family moved when she and Jim were in the fifth grade. Growing up she happily gravitated toward dressing up, wearing dresses, joining a cheerleading squad, and dancing ballet while Jim was busy pursing what might be considered more traditional activities for boys his age. Eventually, with the support of her family and friends, Sarah began publicly identifying as a girl at the beginning of seventh grade. She recalled sharing her decision first with her school chorus of about 80 classmates and, to her surprise, being met with a standing ovation of support.
As an athlete approaching high school, Sarah had to seek permission through the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association to participate on the girls’ cross country and track team because initially the rules stated that transgender athletes had to have sex reassignment surgery to play on the team that matched their gender identity (a surgery not recommended for adolescents). Although that rule has changed, school districts in New Hampshire ultimately get to decide on which team a transgender student can participate. Fortunately for Sarah, the local school district decided in her favor but there is still no sure policy at the state level that allows transgender students in New Hampshire high schools to participate on the team that matches their gender identity.
During her presentation, she offered practical advice such as using appropriate pronouns (he, she, him, her) when addressing a transgender person. “If you don’t know what pronouns to use when talking to a transgender person, just listen first … if you accidentally mess up wrong pronouns you just need to apologize really fast, don’t make it a big deal, it makes it awkward for me, it makes it awkward to you, just don’t make it a big deal … or you can ask if you feel comfortable.”
She cautioned that it’s not okay to ask a person whom you don’t know well if they have had sex reassignment surgery. “Some transpeople do choose to have the surgery but others may choose not to. It doesn’t make us any less of who we are.”
At times, Jim joined her on stage to talk about his experience as the brother of a transgender sibling. He shared how initially he experienced a range of emotions from sadness over losing a brother to feelings of annoyance and of why is this happening to me.
“For a while I sheltered myself a little. I didn’t really feel like opening myself up to being like ‘hey this is my sister, she’s transgender,’” he shared. “Now it’s a completely different story. I’m here now talking to you guys about how I feel and what’s happened and how it’s changed me. It’s changed me a lot by seeing how the world actually is as it is. You can’t just look at one thing and say this is that and that is going to be that.”
He continued, “The biggest thing for me was to cope with the idea that I have to deal with this for the rest of my life and then I realized that that’s just not the way I’m going to go at it. I’ve got to go at it with a positive attitude, saying ‘hey, my sister is transgender.’ I have to deal with this. This is great. And she has done incredible things like speaking to everybody now, going and talking to the whole entire courtroom, and it’s been a great experience for me.”
Asked what was the one thing each member of the community could do to support transgender individuals, Sarah offered, “Definitely just be a friend. Don’t make it a big deal if you find out somebody is transgender. If that person is transgender so what. They’re a human being. They’re just like you. All you can really do is go out into the world today and be you to them and have them be them to you. Just let them express who they are through themselves.”
Sarah and Jim, along with their parents and younger brother, joined the Brewster community for lunch. The Office of Campus Affairs and the Director of Community and Inclusion Programs Melissa Lawlor hosted Sarah and Jim’s visit to campus.