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Photo by: Ximena Ibarra
Transitioning from Kylee to Ky
Barnhisel stepped out of the closet as transgender into the open arms of supportive friends and family members.
July 7, 2018
As his hairdresser snipped the long locks of hair off of Ky Barnhisel’s head four years ago, Barnhisel felt liberated in a way he hadn’t felt before.
“Honestly, it was really freeing,” Barnhisel, a 2018 graduate, said. “I never liked my long hair. It didn’t feel me, but once I got it cut short, I felt like a new me in a way.”
Though Barnhisel was born as a female, he identifies as a male. Barnhisel began realizing his gender identity before his haircut but never acted on it until that day.
Everyday comments made him wary of his gender identity. Barnhisel did not like compliments from others such as “pretty.” And when he would hold doors for people, a “Thank you, sir” felt more real to him than a “Thank you, ma’am.”
As a child, he wouldn’t feel comfortable in dresses and bows. When he had the freedom to choose his wardrobe, he steered away from the girls’ section.
“It really hit me at the end of middle school when I realized ‘You know what, I don’t have to pretend that I am a girl,’” Barnhisel said.
So he found a way that he thought would be easier to accept himself — calling himself gender non-binary.
“I didn’t exactly feel like a female, but I didn’t know what else [to call myself],” Barnhisel said. “I just thought I was born on what I was born with, and was stuck like that.”
He didn’t even know that being transgender was an option for himself during his time in middle school and part of high school.
“I didn’t realize it at the time but looking back, [middle school] was definitely a rough couple of years,” Barnhisel said. “I felt like no one was my friend and that was especially hard because I realized I didn’t love myself at the time.”
Eventually, Barnhisel found enough love and confidence in himself to accept his gender identity. This self-love, which was boosted by caring friends and family members, led him to come out as transgender.
In January, nervousness swept over Barnhisel as he texted fellow graduate Savannah Jones to disclose his gender identity.
“He was scared I wasn’t going to be friends with him anymore because he knows my beliefs,” Jones said.
Jones is a Christian and believes that the Bible accepts the LGBTQ+ community.
“The Bible says that, yes, being trans and gay is a sin, but what I believe is that Jesus loves you anyway,” she said. “No matter what sin it is, I still need to be there and show them the love of Christ just how Christ showed his love to me.”
For Jones, this meant loving Barnhisel unconditionally and continuing to learn about the LGBTQ+ community through her best friend.
“I feel like that took a weight off of his shoulders,” she said. “I just wanted to make sure he knew I wasn’t going to leave him.”
As months went on, Barnhisel began openly declaring his gender identity.
During a forensics tournament, Barnhisel noticed that his friend, 2018 graduate, Meghan Hess, had a bad round. So to cheer her up, he told her that he’s transgender.
“[For the] first time in a really long time, I saw him genuinely happy and confident in himself,” Hess said. “It was just a tremendous moment for our friendship.”
Hess noted several differences in Barnhisel after he came out. She also affirms that Barnhisel remains the same friend to her, but he merely uses different pronouns.
“Ky has always been Ky, no matter what name he used to be,” Hess said. “He just explored that avenue and found who he is.”
Hess and Jones noted Barnhisel’s change in demeanor and attitude as he revealed his true self.
“It’s been a magnificent experience to see the confidence and the strength and this personality blooming,” Hess said. “I know Ky is shaping out to be a work of art.”
Coming out as transgender fortified some friendships, but other friendships simply faded away from Barnhisel’s life.
“If they’re not going to be there for me then I don’t need them,” he said. “Now, I know who’s got my back.”
“It’s been a magnificent experience to see the confidence and the strength and this personality blooming. I know Ky is shaping out to be a work of art.
— Meghan Hess
Barnhisel’s support does not end with his friends —it expands to his family as well.
Although his mother and sister both support him, they declined to comment for this story.
Though Barnhisel has not personally encountered any intolerance, he does recognize society’s attitude towards his own community.
“I always see bullying and [transgender] people getting attacked,” he said. “Even though I haven’t personally been a victim to that, it does happen, and you can’t ignore that part. If you’re going to be true to yourself, you have to be aware of those risks.”
As someone who went through the process of accepting themselves, Barnhisel has advice for persons in the transgender community.
“You got to look after yourself because not everyone is going to be supportive,” Barnhisel said. “Just remember that you are you and that no matter what anyone else thinks, you’re still going to be the strong individual that you are.”
High school has allowed Barnhisel to be that strong individual he wants others to be, but college will offer more opportunities for him to blossom as a transgender man.
“I’m definitely going to start introducing myself as Ky,” he said. “I’m going to change my name to Kyler in the future.”
Along with a name change, Barnhisel plans on pursuing gender reassignment surgery some day.
“I don’t think I’ll do it anytime soon, but I feel like it’s going to be the most comfortable thing for me,” Barnhisel said. “It doesn’t matter what other people think, I’m doing it for myself.”