Vime-Olive: Choosing myself

Lucas Vime-Olive, Op-Ed Contributor

I spent the first half of my freshman year at Northwestern with a three-year Army ROTC contract, dreams of commissioning as a Second Lieutenant and a secret.

However, my story starts long before I marched through the Arch my freshman year at Northwestern. Ever since I was little, I have known I was trans. My childhood experience follows that of the usual female-to-male transgender narrative. Short hair, love for Spiderman and an innate but indescribable sense that I was born in the wrong body. Knowing I wasn’t a girl, but not knowing how I could fix that, defined much of my early existence.

Everything changed my sophomore year of high school when I finally learned that transitioning was an option. Through the power of YouTube, I stumbled upon a one-year update video from someone on testosterone who showed that it was possible to transition from female to male. After watching that 10-minute video, I automatically knew that this was what I needed as I saw his voice drop, facial hair grow and muscles form. Being on testosterone, a hormone that helps aid the process of transitioning by masculinizing most secondary sex characteristics, became my goal.

Discovering that it was possible to transition from the gender you were assigned at birth to the one you identify with prompted endless hours of research. Unfortunately, I went to a Catholic school that was not open to the idea of having transgender students. Staying in the closet and waiting to transition until I graduated was a better alternative than losing my only friends and going back to a hostile public school environment.

Now, I would love to say that starting my freshman year I enjoyed being at Northwestern, but that would be a blatant lie.

The problem was that I did not come out at the end of my senior year. I waited because of the way I was financing my future Northwestern education. I was all set to receive a three-year tuition-based scholarship through the United States Army Reserve Officer Training Corps. I was doing everything right — waking up early to work-out, doing well enough in my classes, commuting to Loyola University Chicago for ROTC every day. The list was endless.

The only thing that eclipsed the joy of being notified that I was awarded the 3-year full scholarship, saving over $150,000, was the magnitude of knowing I should be living my life as male. Being able to transition how I wanted while in the military would not be an option under President Donald Trump’s transgender military ban. Starting last year, the Department of Defense declared that any transgender person intending on medically transitioning could no longer join the U.S. military.

I was faced with a choice: I could contract and become an official member of our U.S. military and graduate from Northwestern debt-free and with a job but sacrifice my capability of coming out until I was 28 years old.

Winter Quarter last year, my resolve to join the army at the cost of coming out began to make less and less sense. I knew I was purposely throwing away my happiness to chase a dream that, by nature of who I am, was becoming a nightmare. So, I pulled myself up from my camo-colored bootstraps, marched into the Lieutenant Colonel’s office and told him the secret I had been hiding for well over five years.

I was met with conditional acceptance. I was told that I could not contract if I decided to transition. I wouldn’t be writing this if I decided that the military — and the benefits — was worth staying in the closet for an indefinite amount of time. I picked transitioning over the military and deciding to put a financial burden on myself because I knew that was the version of my life I wanted to live.

This was about seven months ago. It has since been 200 days since I walked into his office and doing something that would change the course of my life. Every single day has been substantially better than the day before. I have started to live the life that five-year-old me only dreamed of.

My newfound happiness does not erase the emotional damage caused by having to spend the majority of my freshman year fighting institutional barriers that are enforced for very arbitrary reasons. My rights seem to consistently be threatened in many parts of our society — from barring my potential contribution to the military all the way up to the Supreme Court.

It is more important than ever to fight for our right to exist.

Lucas Vime-Olive is a Weinberg sophomore. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.