August George anxiously sat in the car as he and his family made their way through South Dakota, over to Utah, past Nevada, up to Montana and back east through parts of Canada.
He and his family were on a cross-country road trip to visit some of both countries’ national parks. August writhed in his seat during eight-hour stretches – he had something important to tell his family and couldn’t find the right time.
The 15-year-old wanted to tell his parents about how he felt. About what it was like for him to be who he was – and the people he’d met the first year at ConVal High School who were just like him. And the people at ConVal High School who would make fun of him.
He wanted to tell them how he didn’t like his name anymore and wanted to change it. How he wanted to wear a binder to hide the breasts that were starting to form.
At the end of the road trip, as they arrived back home in Hancock, August knew he couldn’t wait much longer.Still the same person
“They didn’t take it very well at first,” said August of his parents’ reaction to the news.
He said, initially, his dad, Jason, was really confused. His mom, Diana, was angry.
Diana said before August came out she noticed that he was dressing more masculine and cutting his hair shorter. On the family’s road trip, strangers would address August as a male, and he wouldn’t correct them. Diana thought it was strange, but let it go.
“I thought, ‘Oh, who cares?’” Diana said. “I’m never to going to see these people again.”
Even though Diana said she saw signs, when August broke the news to them, it still came as a huge shock.
“I would never reject my child. I love my child more than anything,” Diana said. “But it was still hard for me and my husband.”
Before the first day of school, Diana said she and August agreed that he would be called Sam – a shorter version of August’s birthname – this year. But when the first day of school rolled around, August came home and said that he decided differently.
“It hurt me deeply, I was angry and upset,” Diana said of the name change. “As a parent, I felt like giving my child a name was a gift that I was able to give.”
She said his birthname is also derived from a family member, named Samuel, which gave it more meaning.
“I just have to accept that I still have the same person, and that’s the most important thing,” Diana said.
She said she also understands that August wants autonomy and wants to leave the old shell of himself behind.The fight for rights
August said his mom has come a long way. Now, she’ll even pull him out of school to protest alongside others who are fighting for transgender rights.
New Hampshire has a bill that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, but not gender identity, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. It’s the only state in northern New England that doesn’t have formal protections for transgender people.
According to a survey by the Williams Institute, scholars provide estimates of about 0.6 percent of adults in the U.S., or 1.4 million individuals identify as transgender. There are 4,500 adults in New Hampshire alone that identify as transgender.
When House Bill 478 was working its way through the state, August and Diana were active in trying to persuade lawmakers in whatever way they could to pass the piece of legislation.
“I don’t know how many people are in the House of Representatives, but I know that my mom wrote to 300 of them about the transgender bill,” George said. “Personal notes too, not like the fill-in-the-blank emails.”
Diana confirmed that she contacted about 300 representatives, although she said she copy-and-pasted a standard email.
August gave a personal testimony about his experience, as a way to express how important this bill was to pass.
On March 9, lawmakers tabled the bill, which would have added “gender identity” to the list of traits protected under the states’ civil rights laws, in a 187-179 vote. The bill was supported and sponsored by members across the aisle.
Opponents of the bill say the proposed law gives access to spaces where any person can go in, claiming they identify with the opposite gender.
“The proposed law gives uncontested access to those spaces to any male who claims he’s ‘really a woman,’” Concord Monitor, Rep. J.R. Hoell (R) wrote in an op-ed published in the Concord Monitor.
Gov. Chris Sununu has said that he has “no personal opinion” about the bill.
Diana said she is furious the bill didn’t pass, and said she’ll be there fighting for it again once it comes up again.In transition
Since August came out to his parents, he has been seeing a psychologist. Both August and his mom, said the doctor recently granted permission for him to start hormone injections.
August recently had his first appointment with an endocrinologist about starting blockers, which are agents, or medicines, that suppress the release of hormones that stall puberty.
Diana said August wants to forgo blockers and move straight to testosterone injections instead, but said she and her husband still need a little more time to process what that will mean.
“As a mother, and for my husband too, it’s a grieving process because you’re having to let go of a daughter you thought you had and realize that you’re not going to see your daughter come home with a boyfriend and not going to get married someday and buy that beautiful white gown,” Diana said. “These are the things that I have to accept in my mind that are not going to happen that I thought were going to happen.”
Diana said she is part of a Facebook forum online for parents with transgender kids, which reminds her that she is losing a daughter, but gaining a son.
Once August starts taking testosterone, he’ll start growing facial hair and building muscle mass.
Diana said she is still working through that. His sex drive will be different and he could have more aggressive tendencies.
So, August will start with blockers. Diana said the injections are administered every three months and cost about $6,000 each, a sum that insurance doesn’t usually agree to pay at first, although the decision can be appealed, and in many cases, reversed. Diana said parents on the Facebook forum have said the injections generally end up costing about $600 in out-of-pocket pay.
“There have been times through this when I’m like ‘he’s 15 years old, how does he know for sure?’” Diana said of August’s decision to go through all of this.
But when the questions surfaces she’s reminded of the time when August was in fourth or fifth grade and the family was watching a season of “American Idol.” One of the contestants on the show wore a bandana in his back pocket and August took to the look and started tying scarves to the back of his pants as if he had a tail. Diana said this went on for almost a year.
“That’s what I mean when August does something he does it because he wants to, and he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. If you don’t like it, too bad,” Diana said. “It gives me some confidence with the specialist telling us that he is transgender. Because August knows who August is and always has from a very young age. So that makes it, in my mind, a little easier to accept.”
Diana is a nurse too, and believes in modern science and medicine. She said specialists have confirmed that August is transgender, and she believes them.
August said he plans to be on testosterone by junior year. He said he hopes to be fully transitioned by the time graduation rolls around.
But that’s just one of many goals August has for his future. He wants to be an film actor one day. He has taken roles in theater productions at school. He was also recently selected for a summer acting program at the New York Conservatory for the Arts.
The idea of acting in the elite program this summer makes August’s face light up. He says he’ll have a reel by the end of it, which he can show while auditioning.
“Part of me just wants to drop out of high school and start acting full time, but people tell me it’s important to finish,” August said.