Student Essay: Congratulations! It's a Mockingbird | Facing History & Ourselves
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Student Essay: Congratulations! It's a Mockingbird

This award-winning student essay captures a transgender student’s experience reading To Kill a Mockingbird, and how it intersects with their own experiences of gender and hopes of social change.
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Even before we're born, we're placed in one of two categories. Is it a boy, or is it a girl? It would have made my life a lot easier if I could have answered that question myself. 

Throughout To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout struggles with what is expected of her gender. Her favorite outfit is her overalls, not any of her dresses. When playing with Jem and Dill, she is both Mr. Crabtree and Mrs. Radley. While Atticus doesn't seem to mind her boyish behavior, the rest of the community does—Aunt Alexandra is constantly telling her to act like a lady, and the women at the missionary society giggle when she tells them how she's wearing britches under her dress. Other people try to dictate who she is and how she expresses herself.

Despite what my ultrasounds would tell you, I don't think I've ever been a girl. That said, I've never been a boy, either—while I call myself trans, I'd like to think it's not because I'm transitioning between genders, but that I transcend them altogether. I expressed this feeling from a young age, and fortunately, my parents were lenient about it. Even my community, being a small, liberal town, was okay with it for the most part. I could play with toy cars one minute, romp around in a dress the next, then wallow in the mud later that day and no one would bat an eye, at least to my face.

Still, sexism is insidious, and over time I started to separate myself from the boys in a desire to fit in. I'm glad to say I eventually came to terms with my identity and grew out of it, but it was a terrifying process; it's dangerous to be gender nonconforming. At its best, people make assumptions about your sexuality, constantly give you the wrong "sir" or "ma'am", or ridicule you for standing out in a world of pinks and blues. At its worst, you end up the next victim in a string of hate-motivated murders, where the news will ensure with sensationalism that you never rest in peace. Time and time again, we are defined by the communities we live in and not by ourselves. Even growing up in the most liberal of places couldn't have shielded me from this brand of bigotry.

This is where To Kill a Mockingbird hit me the hardest, because being trans is like being at once Tom Robinson and Scout. I watch as my community fights for its rights, and know in my heart it's a losing battle, but hope for societal acquittal anyways. Day in and day out I battle with discrimination, but only understand the gravity of it when I look at it from an outside angle. We are making steps, but just baby-steps—it's time that we too took control of our own stories.