I kept walking back and forth over this invisible line from the girls, who at that time were all obsessed with colored powder and sticky stuff you put on your lips for fun, which I never understood; and the boys, who would do very repulsive things like punch each other until one of them bled, and tackle each other over an oddly shaped ball (which I later found out was a football).
(Italics are Jesse’s out loud thoughts while reading the essay.)
(Bold is the stage directions.)
Jesse is writing their college essay to the admissions officers of their dream college. They’re sitting on the campus of the college they’re hoping to get into called UCLA. They’re typing on their computer that is set up on the grassy dirt.
From the start, I didn’t know where the hell I belonged. I probably should delete “hell.” I don’t think the admissions officers would appreciate my steller word choice. From the start, I didn’t know where I belonged. Now the sentence is bland, but I’m not using any cuss words just in case the officer reading my essay is ultra-Catholic or something.
(Jesse stands up with their laptop clutched to their chest and starts to type more aggressively as they stand on the grass.)
I kept walking back and forth over this invisible line from the girls, who at that time were all obsessed with colored powder and sticky stuff you put on your lips for fun, which I never understood; and the boys, who would do very repulsive things like punch each other until one of them bled, and tackle each other over an oddly shaped ball (which I later found out was a football). I never understood that because if you liked someone and wanted to hang out with them, why would you want them to bleed? Why would you want to see them hurt?
(Jesse starts pacing around the field/campus, still with the laptop clutched against their chest.)
Not everyone at my school was like this, but the people that would catch your eye in the hallway did those things and persuaded everyone around them to follow their lead and be part of their clique. I won’t name names since I’m not using this essay to tattletale. Rather, there was one person that led the clique with not an iron, but a gold fist. He or she, because it was only he or she, I guess loved to be and act old fashioned since all he or she wanted was “normalcy.” The last four years I’ve been asking, what’s normal? What is normal? I’m genuinely curious to see if anybody or anyone has an answer to this. A legitimate answer. If our teachers were really trying to teach us that everyone is different, then how come the word “normal” even exists? If everyone said that they were a genderless blob, would that be considered “normal”?
(Jesse stops pacing.)
To be clear, practically all of my grade was one big clique of people that dressed in clothing I couldn’t afford and acted in a repulsive manner. They just didn’t seem to have any care about the people that didn’t fit their “ideal style,” whatever that meant. I spent most of high school pretending I was talking to some friends on the phone, reading numerous gender studies books like In Their Shoes by Jamie Windust, and desperately trying to find clothes that wouldn’t make me look like a girly girl or a jock. In my school at least, there was no in-between. The in-between was something I was trying to create, but no one was joining me because my bet was that they were scared of everything besides the status quo.
(Jesse’s voice gets louder with more passion to it and they put down their laptop and walk to a nearby rock that’s on the field/campus and climb on top of it.)
I knew I had to do something. Not for me, not for my friends, but for the people out there who had similar feelings as me. Who had similar thoughts and desperately wanted change. On the very last day before spring break, (I’m currently writing this during break), I stood on the wobbly cafeteria table and asked the question to everyone who would listen, “Who am I?” One responded that I was a loner, one said genius, one said try-hard, yet no one said I was a man or a woman. I took note of that and responded, “No one here has said I am a man or a woman. I was expecting someone to mention what my gender or sex might be but no.
(Jesse’s voice gets even stronger and louder with more passion and they start pointing at the invisible people in the crowd from the rock they’re standing on.)
None of you said anything about that. I was expecting someone to say I’m a guy for the way I dress or I’m a girl for my hobbies and interests. I believe the reason none of you mentioned that is because deep down you all know that everyone deserves to define themselves how they want to. Everybody. Every BODY. Who you are is who YOU are and not who somebody else is. Someone else is a woman, someone else is a man, some go by she/her/hers, some go by he/him/his, and you want to know who I am; what I go by? They/their/theirs, I am them. Respect that and I’ll respect you.”
(Jesse walks back to their computer, stretches their hands and back, takes a big sigh, and sits down comfortably. Jesse’s voice softens.)
The amount of love and relief I felt afterward was tremendous. I felt more relieved than after I took the PSAT! One single moment I’ll forever remember and cherish is when that person with the gold fist looked up to me, smiled, nodded, and clapped along with everybody else. I knew right then and there I made at least some change, a good change. I didn’t fix the world, I didn’t fix everything, but what I did do was make a small yet huge improvement in my community that will very much spread to other communities and places around the globe.
(Louder typing sounds.)
To whoever is reading this essay, thank you. Truly from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Whether I get into UCLA or not is honestly not my number one priority. My forever number one priority is inclusivity of every single body. Thank you.
Jesse hits the submit button on their laptop and gives themselves a round of applause as they stand up and take a deep breath. They did it.