A few days ago, I watched the person I’d known for years as Shane strut proudly across the graduation stage as Iris. She walked back to her seat with her diploma in hand and a smile on her face, leaving Shane behind forever. That wasn’t her; he never was, really.
When Iris first told me she was transgender, I was taken aback but not entirely surprised. We’d only been living with each other for a few weeks at that point and I didn’t know her very well.
After persuading my dad that the man I was going to live with definitely had no interest in me and was, without a doubt, not going to try anything, we finally moved in together and settled into our new groove as roommates.
We weren’t really friends yet, though; our move was more out of convenience. Shane, as I knew her at the time, needed a place to live, and I needed someone to fill an empty room. It never really crossed my mind that Shane would eventually become my best girlfriend.
When I knew her as Shane, she always seemed to be hiding something; she avoided eye contact and rarely spoke up, afraid her voice was too deep.
She presented herself as an awkward man who was obviously uncomfortable in her skin. She had been growing out her hair and would refuse to cut it even with the barrage of rude comments about how her hair was “too long for a boy.”
When she came out to me, it shifted our relationship in a way I never saw coming. Then, when she decided to begin her transition process, I became her secret ally. I drove her to doctor’s appointments, listened to her problems and was her “femme spirit guide,” as she liked to call me.
She came out officially in the most dramatic fashion, of course. I’d dragged her to see a band called, Against Me!, in concert. The lead singer, Laura Jane Grace, recently came out publicly as a transgender woman, and seeing Grace finally be her authentic self was the catalyst Iris needed to make the most important decision she ever made.
She was going to let the world know who she was and she was going to be proud of it. Mid-concert, she slipped away to the bathroom and when she came back told me to check Facebook. She came out officially that night, receiving 100 plus likes and a flood of support.
What’s surprised me the most about Iris’s transition was the overwhelming support she received. If you ask me, our generation is one of the most inclusive and least judgmental generations ever.
When Iris needed money to legally change her name -- a steep price for a college student -- I set up a crowdfunding page for her, not expecting much to come from it.
“Don’t be disappointed if we don’t reach our goal,” I said, trying to prepare her for the inevitable. “We’re just college kids, none of us have enough money to give to someone else.”
We reached our $525 goal in less than 24 hours.
As I felt my heart swell with pride and astonishment at my peers, I realized we are the generation we’ve been waiting for. We have the capability to stop cruelty and hate, and we have the willingness to learn more about what we don’t understand.
Having Iris as a friend has opened my eyes and changed my life. I’ve seen her struggle, but I’ve also watched her triumph on her journey to loving herself.
It’s made me see that even though we, as a generation, have our shortcomings -- there never seems to be an absence of flack directed at Millennials -- we are still, well, awesome.
We embrace people. We love instead of hate. We stand for something. We are inclusive. We are progressive.
Now, I don't have rose-colored glasses on; I know we have our faults. But next time you hear someone make a comment under their breath or criticize us, remember that we humans can actually be pretty great to each other. Remember Iris, and in the words of Laura Jane Grace, she’s a “true trans soul rebel.”
Photo via Tumblr