“I was the oldest of three girls and I had really only male friends for most of my growing-up years,” Nick Heap says in this week’s StoryCorps. “I had long, long blonde hair, long enough I could actually sit-on-it, blonde.”
Nick grew up female and transitioned to male as an adult. He recorded his story as part of a partnership between StoryCorps Chicago and the Trans Oral History Project.
As a kid, Nick was a “tomboy” who enjoyed riding around the neighborhood on his dirt bike, without a shirt on. His parents were supportive of expressing his identity as much as they understood it, but he struggled to understand himself.
In seventh grade, Nick wrote anonymous love letters to a girl at school who figured out pretty quickly who was writing them. “Within days it was all over the school,” he says. “The harassment I would get after that was daily.”
StoryCorps’ mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to share, record and preserve their stories. This excerpt was edited by WBEZ.
Nick’s parents were called into the principal’s office, but they stood firm: “Is she causing an academic disruption in the classroom?” they asked. “So she wrote some notes to another kid. Kids do that.”
Nick says that years later he talked to the girl who passed his notes around. She became a family counselor as an adult and they were able to talk through the experience in a healing way.
Even with that kind of support, for a long time it felt like he was on the outside looking in.
“It was really hard feeling like I was utterly alone,” Nick says. “Now that I am passably male one hundred percent of the time, I am finally free to express those aspects of myself that are feminine, safely. But for so long, I spent so much of my life being ultra-masculine.”
Over time, Nick has learned to have more patience with his family and himself.
“For so long in my life, I couldn’t feel the love of all the people around me,” Nick says. “It was like I was walking around inside a shell of armor. And their love just couldn’t get to me. I couldn’t feel it. I saw it, I knew it was there, I just couldn’t feel it. And today that’s not the truth. I can absolutely experience all this amazing love that has been all around me all the time and I’m able to give that back to people now.”
In June, StoryCorps launched the “Out Loud” initiative to collect stories from LGBT people. One of these stories will be broadcast nationally on NPR each week for the next year.
The Trans Oral History Project continues to collect stories in partnership with StoryCorps Chicago. They recently published a toolkit for gay-straight alliances and community organizations that work with LGBT youth.