What’s in a Name?
Konner Paxton’s story as told by Lisa Renze-Rhodes
I want to use my name. I want to use my name and tell my story because there are others, there are kids who need to know that someone feels like them, is like them. And they are here for a reason, because I am here for a reason. We all have a purpose.
My name is Kate Paxton, and though I didn’t know it at the time, my counselor and I decided that I’ve had depression since I was probably about 10. It’s been a long time and I didn’t know what it was when I was younger, I just thought I was that weird kid who sat in a corner.
But 10 was a transition point in my life. We had moved from Alabama to California, and then I got told we would be moving to Indiana. That was also the time I started to realize I was going through gender issues, sexuality issues. And my parents weren’t very… I wouldn’t say they weren’t supportive but they don’t talk about their feelings. When I started thinking about these things, I couldn’t really explain it them. I couldn’t explain it to myself.
I remember one instance, I was in sixth grade and I had short hair because when it’s long, it’s incredibly curly and my mom and I just didn’t want to deal with it. I had a friend who invited me over to a birthday party, but it ended up not being a birthday party, it was a “Let’s Make Kate Feminine Party.” I remember them trying to teach me how to be feminine — there were heels and purses and dresses and the whole time I was thinking, ‘This is not for me,’ but I went along with it anyway because that’s how you fit in.
After middle school, I just shut down. In high school, I was that kid who came in, went to class and went back home. I did just enough to not be noticed. I made grades that were good enough so that I wouldn’t have someone give me a stern talking to, but I didn’t make grades that were great so teachers would think, ‘Oh I need to help her do more.’ I stayed right in the middle. I wore the same thing to school everyday — jeans and a sweatshirt — and I sat in the back row.
I got really good at hiding my depression, I mean I became an expert. I knew how to pass by completely unnoticed. I had three guy friends who filled the need of having somebody to sit with at lunch, so I wasn’t that kid who ate alone. And they were the guys I would see a movie with, or go to football games with so I could be seen ‘out’ — as in I was normal because I was ‘out’ doing things. After school and on weekends I would come home and go right into my bedroom, come out for dinner and then go back into my room. The way my family is set up, we don’t talk, so it was fine.
When I came out it was to a person who I thought was my best friend. At first he was supportive and then he was like, ‘You’re just saying this because I asked you out,’ and ‘You just want attention.’ And then I was terrified about the rumors that could follow if he told anyone, because my high school was vicious.
So I kept to myself. I kept to my head. That was keeping me alive.
Even at that when I look back on it, I was suicidal. I didn’t think I was, because I tried drugs a couple of times, but I never tried to overdose or anything. I went through a time when I was cutting, though I rationalized that I was just being a kid — it made me feel better. And I drove this old truck and would get into these drag races and chicken fights with people, but I never put my seatbelt on. And I was never the one who turned away first.
What I would have wished could have happened back then is for a teacher to even just ask if I was okay, because I didn’t even get that. Just that, just getting a sense that a teacher cared enough to make sure my needs were being met — that would have been huge.
Since coming out to my parents, even though it didn’t go as I had planned, they weren’t mad. I know they love me. I’m getting older and I’m hanging around people who understand who I am. I’ll probably be managing my depression my whole life, but I know my triggers, I know what happens when I get depressed now. I have a whole plan.
Recently I’ve been really thinking that I don’t know if I’m a ‘Kate’ anymore. I love myself enough to choose to do what makes me happy. I’m not going to live as society thinks I should. I’m not going to grow my hair long and pretend to be a straight woman named Kate. I’m starting to think that I may be Konner. That took a long time. But it makes me excited. I’m excited about all these things.
My dream one day is to be a police officer and head a unit that focuses on the needs of the LGBT community. I want cops to have transgender training because that’s becoming a huge issue. I want them to be safe zone trained. I want to make social change through the police departments.
I have a purpose, and everybody who is going through what I’ve gone through has a purpose too.
They deserve to know that.
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The Facing Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that connects people through stories to strengthen communities. The organization’s model to share stories and raise awareness is in cities across the United States focused on topics such as poverty, sex trafficking, mental health, immigration, and more. Facing Project stories are compiled into books and on the web for a community resource, used to inspire art, photography, monologues and—most importantly—community-wide awareness, dialogue, action, and change toward a more understanding and empathetic society.