My 20 year high school reunion was in September 2018 and I was going. I wanted to go. I was excited to go. I had missed the 10 year reunion on some other stuff that we’ll probably never cover here. <long story short: haters> Just kidding, I don’t really know why I missed it but I lived in LA at the time and never got an invite; even though my parents had lived in the same place for years. But we aren’t talking about that and I’m not bitter.
So back to the reunion. I had come out publicly in 2017 in my hometown so anybody that still lived here probably knew and people that didn’t live here but don’t live under a rock probably knew too. I mean and if they didn’t know, they were going to find out because I look different. I look the same-ish, like it’s obviously me; I act the same, carry myself the same but adding a beard, losing your chest and finally feeling like yourself can change your appearance a tad. Not to mention that last September I was going through my shoulders-growing-buff-looking-mug phase and I was all good with wearing joggers and medium tees.
I was excited but nervous and knew that I would need some back-up and cover. I text my best friend from 6th grade and basically told her that we were going. She was reluctant but I wasn’t having it. We reached out to a few other people to just see who was going to be there. If things went sideways, were lame or nobody wanted to talk to me, I’d at least be able to drink and hang with a couple of friends I hadn’t seen in years. As it got closer, I got more nervous. I didn’t want to admit it but yeah, I was really actually worried that people would look at me weird; that I wouldn’t be accepted. That I would feel uncomfortable. Not because I’m not ok with me or wasn’t sure about who I am but because this was some serious, vulnerable exposure. Like EXPOSURE back to a childhood that doesn’t totally resonate with me. I also had zero idea what to even expect out of a high school reunion. So what did I do? You guessed it, I Googled it.
I didn’t Google, “what’s it like to go back to your high school reunion trans” – I Googled what are high school reunions like, what to expect from them etc. I like to be prepared for situations I’m walking into.
So here was the agenda:
Picnic at the Park: 11a-2p (roughly)
Dinner & Party: 7pm Downtown Lansing
I paid $50 to go so I was doing it all. My friend wasn’t super happy I was dragging her to the park in her minivan with kids in tow but she is my ride or die so she did it. We decided to meet there at 11:30am. Can’t be getting places first you know, have to make an entrance. So we get there and there’s a group under the pavillion. We know it’s us because we see the black and gold Waverly Warriors streamers. I sat in my car for a second and took a deep breath and just said, “here we go.”
I have a group chat with my family – has my wife, brother, his wife, sister, grandma, aunt and parents in it and we use it on a fairly consistent basis to make plans, tell jokes, catch up etc. So I text everybody that I was headed to the reunion and got the usual “have fun” “good luck” “let us know how it goes.” I didn’t realize how worried some people in my family were until I started walking up and saw that there were only like 8-9 people there at the time and I text the group “OMG.” These replies were hilarious, like: “what happened, who said something?” “are you ok?” The panic was real – they knew what I could be walking into. I calmed their fears and just told them that there weren’t that many people there and relax. Like chill. Ha.
This next part is going to sound like an open love letter to the class of ’98 from Waverly High School but my 20 year high school reunion experience rocked so hard. And it was because of the people. There were a few of us who made it all the way through from elementary to high school together and they were there and they were happy to see me. We hugged, they asked how I was, they acted like nothing had changed and they were just hanging with a kid they grew up with.
People that I recognized but didn’t remember told me they read my story and thought it was great. They had conversations with me; told me about their lives and children. You know human stuff. It was AMAZING. I felt fine; accepted, maybe even loved. By the end of the picnic, after the police had come and killed a rabid raccoon, I was on a high and ready for the night.
The dinner and party brought out another group of people and we had so much fun. I did anyway. All I really did in high school was play basketball so I didn’t make a lot of time to build relationships and hang out but the class of ’98 reminded me why I’m still proud to be a Warrior. This group is smart and silly and fun and successful and exactly what I hoped us to be. So many hugs, (not my thing per se, but I did it), so many jokes, SO MANY DRINKS…
I appreciate these people more than they will ever know or understand. I’m not going to put anybody’s name in here but AF, AC, JB, CQ, MC and so many more – thank you for being you and being ok with me being me. It means more than you know.
If you’re going back to your 20 year reunion – I mean, I could see how it could be an awkward situation in general – but if you’re going back and you are much different now than you were then, in whatever way, embrace it and be exactly who you are. Sometimes people surprise us in the most wonderful ways.