When it comes to what makes someone authentic, sophomore Benjamin Profitt has quite a lot to say and knows how to say it. He’s full of advice and ideas and he’s all about sharing them on a uniquely personal level.
In the past year, Profitt has been growing and learning more about himself, especially over the summer. Most importantly, he has come out as a transgender, bisexual male.
When asked about the most important thing people should know about him, his answer was simple: “My name.” His real one, not his birth given name. Ben explains in an interview that he has spent most of his childhood and teenage life denying himself who he is for the sake of other people and their opinions.
Even before coming out, he faced bullying and forms of harassment, and it only increased after finally being comfortable as himself. He has come to terms with this and feels stronger, and his case is just one of many.
According to a study conducted by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), 34% of LGBT youth respondents identified as transgender and most if not all answered questions related to bullying and harassment saying they have experienced it heavily and that it has affected their lives and the process of coming out.
Reasons for prejudice and bullying against people who identify as LGBT, especially youth, are varied. Religion, political views, and misconceptions spread through media are on the list, but lack of education seems to be the biggest problem.
The same HRC respondents have also specified that health programs at schools barely touch on the LGBT community (LGBT sex and safety, gender, sexuality, etc.) if at all; only 12% said they were given sex ed. relevant to them as a person of the LGBT community. There is little to no discussion of those topics along with a discussion of hetero-normative sex and safety. Because of this, most peers in the lives of LGBT youth are uninformed and aren’t sure how to comprehend what people may be going through.
Peers aren’t the only ones who can be difficult to engage with. “The most difficult part of coming out… was definitely telling my parents,” Profitt opens up about his transition, “The problem with coming out to my parents was getting the same answer, which is ‘Oh, it’s just a phase, it’s just a trend…”
Not only are students uneducated and mislead, but so are most parents and other adults. 78% of LGBT youth say they have yet to come out to their parents or other family members for fear of judgment, rejection, and even punishment (HRC).
Profitt describes his experiences with being out and how he’s begun to move forward. “It’s definitely a very hard process to get used to and what I’ve learned is that you just have to have tougher skin than most people… You have to stop caring if people ask you personal questions they don’t have the right to ask when it comes to your body appearance or your self-worth” (Profitt). He believes in educating people and being open instead of blaming them for what they believe, because “everyone has a voice.”
Finding ways to cope during his transition has not been an easy task, as with most drastic life changes, but Profitt lists the new activities and habits he’s been practicing to help. One of the most important things he mentions is therapy and trying to keep connections open with friends and family, allowing himself to communicate with other people has also allowed him to communicate with himself and be more self-aware.
Hobbies including writing, drawing, singing and music (he’s got a YouTube channel), and exercise were all major points he touched on that have helped him, and he suggests them all as great tools. Profitt stresses the importance of finding something that helps you personally and makes you happy, as long as it’s healthy.
It’s taken him a long time to find himself and the things that help him get closer to his goals, and he also says this is not uncommon in young people dealing with mental illness and/or part of the LGBT community.
Referring back to the HRC study, 85% of LGBT youth respondents report levels of stress, depression, and anxiety at levels 5/10 or higher, and 90% report trouble sleeping or getting to sleep. Coping with the struggles modern youth face is never easy, some less so than others. And confirming these struggles, Profitt has decided to change for more opportunity.
He wants to grow and is setting goals for himself to do so. He plans on putting much
more effort into his schoolwork than he has in previous years, taking an interest in his classes and improving his grades. Socially, he wants to reach out more. Close friends that he’s kept from before his transition are people he wants to reconnect with, and he’s also made efforts to become more socially involved with new friends.
Overall, his goals are to better himself. Throughout his journey, Profitt has always tried to stay true to himself and be authentic, which he explains is important to his coping process. “You shouldn’t keep yourself in a cage…don’t let yourself be restricted,” He states on the topic of being authentic in who he is. “You wanna wear makeup to school? Do it! Girl, guy, do it.”
In a generation where youth are becoming more and more aware of who they are and becoming independent in themselves, it’s important to remember that there are inevitable challenges. How we face those challenges and how we grow from them determines a lot of things, among them, are how others see us, how we see them, and how we see ourselves.
Being educated about your surroundings and demographics is important, as well as being authentic in yourself and not letting your differences or challenges get the better of the goals you want to accomplish. Benjamin Profitt is one of the many LGBT youths who has taken difficult steps to be authentically himself, and he encourages anyone struggling with similar or even completely unrelated issues to work towards the same goal; be unapologetically “perfectly imperfect.”
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