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The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

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In Between Worlds: My Trans Teen Experience

Maisie Derlega

For those who don’t know me, I’m Dani Ortiz de Prado, and I’m a sophomore here at Jackson-Reed. I was born in Spain and moved to the United States when I was seven years old. Two years ago, I came out to the world as a transgender woman. Today, I’m going to talk about my transgender experience. Despite the cultural difference in my experience transitioning, I hope to shed some light on what it’s like to be a trans woman today.

I have many memories from my childhood, but the majority are from when I was older. One of my earliest memories, from when I was two or three years old, was recounted to me by my mother. I referred to myself as a girl in the third person. I would say things like “Dani is hungry, and she’s in a bad mood.” Obviously, I used my birth name, but sometimes I’d switch it to a girl’s name, like Lucia or Andrea. When I did these things, I was still very young, so my family didn’t pay much attention and thought it was just a case of being a “kid with a vivid imagination.” This was just the beginning of stories like these that indicated I was transgender. My parents, rightly so, never wanted to force me to say I was a woman or a girl before I felt ready to do so, but they always suspected I was different. So far, my family (or at least those who know, as I haven’t told everyone) support who I am and have no issues with me and the trans community.

Another funny story is when I was older, maybe around five years old, I used to pretend to be a pregnant lady from my hometown named Teresa. At that time, Teresa was expecting her second and last child. Teresa isn’t someone I knew well, especially compared to my other neighbors in town. She was a typical mother; very kind to children, but she’d change her behavior if you misbehaved. In most cases, she scolded the kids in town severely when they played with firecrackers during the patron saint festivities, which is an event that happens in almost all Spanish towns. Teresa had a 2010’s style; she’d wear tight blue jeans, high-heeled boots, a white scarf, and a small brown leather jacket. When I pretended to be her, I’d stuff a pillow under my shirt and act like her while my cousins, reluctantly, played along. When Teresa finally gave birth after 9 months, I still pretended to be her, until on one occasion with my sister as my “nurse,” I finally “gave birth to my child,” which was my favorite stuffed animal. At the end of the day, this was a desperate attempt to try to be a woman.

Now, I live in the United States. It was when I came here that I realized I was trans. In Spain, I didn’t know there were people like me. I thought it was normal to dream of being a girl every day and every night. I thought it was normal to see a girl on the street and dream of living like her. I thought it was normal to dislike my body because it wasn’t right for my gender. I thought it was normal for everyone to feel like the opposite gender. It was when I came to the US that I realized I’m trans, and that I’m actually a woman. I’ve never had any issues with my identity here; I’ve always felt accepted in the Washington community and at school. Honestly, Washington is one of the most liberal and accepting cities I’ve lived in.

As for the future, I have no idea how it will be, especially in a small town in Spain in the middle of nowhere. I’m from central Spain, which compared to other parts of Spain, like the north, is a bit more conservative. But that’s not to say Spain is conservative; it’s very liberal, even more so than the United States. My town is incredibly tiny, with only 100 people. Most of the residents are elderly, around 80 years or older. Because of the older residents, the town hasn’t changed in years. This is why it is a little behind with aspects of society in comparison to the rest of Spain, like the nearby town of Palenica, which is home to many more younger people. It’s like traveling to an extremely remote and rural town in the United States; what people believe there differs vastly from what people in D.C. believe. 

My family lives there, but they don’t think like the others in the town. There is no doubt my family loves me a lot, but it will be difficult for them to see and get used to me as a woman. Ultimately, they won’t care as long as I’m happy. My grandparents, Emilio and Genoveva ( we call her Ginou), although elderly, do not discriminate against me because of their age. They worry about me, the hormones I’m taking, my life after my medical surgery, and the medical difficulties that could arise. On top of that, they worry about the discrimination I’ll face, just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t happen. In reality, it’s because they love me, their worries come from the love that they have for me. 

As for now, I haven’t encountered any situations where someone has mocked me for who I am. The community here is accepting of me. For many people, this isn’t the reality, and I realize I’m in a very fortunate situation and I am very grateful. If someone is reading this who has experienced terrible things or any hardships because they’re trans, I send you all my heart, and I hope you know that there are people like you in this world who care for you and who value you.  

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About the Contributor
Maisie Derlega, Director of Art and Design
Maisie is one of the lovely Directors of Art and Design <3 Once a month she and the other members of the visual team lock themselves in a windowless room to make the Beacon look as beautiful as possible. She is super cool and creative and obviously the best ever. She enjoys rock climbing and of course art, she also can often be seen ordering a very large iced chai latte.   
  • 2021-22: Layout Editor
  • 2022-24: Director of Art and Design
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