Jay woke in darkness, the summer and a girlhood behind him. A sharp pain stabbed through his stomach. In an hour, he would be a high school freshman.
Please, he thought, don't let anyone recognize me.
He dragged himself out of bed and lumbered through the double-wide trailer he shared with his mom and two sisters. His mother was at work, his siblings asleep. Only his dog, a 9-pound Chihuahua named Chico, marked Jay's passing from one life to the next.
Jay faced the bathroom mirror. He was 14. His dark brown hair spiked just the right way. His jaw was square, his eyebrows full and wild. But his body betrayed him. He was 5-foot-2 and curvy in all the wrong places.
He tugged one sports bra over his chest and then another. He pulled on a black T-shirt, hoping it would hide his curves. He eyed the silhouette, and his stomach rumbled with anxiety.
Not flat enough.
He had finished eighth grade with long hair and a different name. At his new school in southwest Washington, most of the 2,000 kids had never known the girl Jay supposed he used to be. As long as his contours didn't give his secret away, "Jay" was a clean slate, a boy who could be anyone.
He took one final look in the mirror. Puberty was pulling him in a direction he didn't want to go, and reversing it would take more than a haircut and an outfit. But how much more? He was a boyish work in progress, only beginning to figure out how to become himself. His mom and his doctors had little precedent for how to help.
He had taken great pains to start school as this boy with no past. His mom had met with the principal, and a counselor had created a plan. Jay could use the staff bathroom. Teachers would avoid his birth name, a long and Latina moniker that stung Jay every time he heard it.
Jay stepped outside and knew he should feel lucky. Whole generations had lived and died without any of the opportunities he would have. He was a teenager coming of age in an era Time magazine had declared the Transgender Tipping Point.
By his senior year, Jay's quiet life would ride a surge in civil rights.
Barack Obama would become the first president to say the word "transgender" in a State of the Union speech. Target would strip gender labels off its toy aisles. In Oregon, student-athletes would gain the right to decide whether to play on the girls' team or the boys'. Girls would wear tuxedos to prom.
That didn't make the path forward easy or safe. North Carolina would forfeit $3.7 billion to keep people like Jay out of the bathroom. An Oregon city councilman an hour from Jay's house would threaten an "ass-whooping" to transgender students who used "the opposite sex's facilities." Even Washington, the liberal state Jay called home, would consider a bill rolling back his right to choose the locker room that felt right. President Donald Trump would take over for Obama and ban transgender people from serving in the military.
But that morning, Jay was just a teenager, just a boy walking to school. He didn't want to be a trailblazer. He wanted to be normal.
Read part one on Oregonlive.
Read part two on Oregonlive.
Read part three on Oregonlive.