It’s kind of a blur on where the ‘start’ of my whole story is, but I’ll try my best,” he began. Raymond CangKimVo has many parts to his life story that are underneath the initial surface. The current sophomore was born on January 30, 2002. “I skipped kindergarten,” he says, addressing his young age. “My dad had me go through three years of private preschool, so I was a bit more advanced than the kids in my grade; I already knew my basic alphabet and spelling.” Outside of school, he can often be found playing ukulele, drawing, or hanging out with friends, as well as engaging in extracurricular education. “I have Aikido, a martial arts, on the weekends and I spend a lot of time at my church’s youth group. The confirmation [church] program I’m in has the most accepting and caring people in the world! We all kind of clicked and became really close in the span of five weeks; I feel like I’ve known them all my life.” Being social with church and friends are an important part of Raymond’s life, which is common in a majority of teenagers; however, there is a special piece in his timeline that sometimes goes unnoticed.
A large aspect to Raymond’s life story is that he is a prideful transgender male. While there are many + transgenders and people around the world, the media has just recently been peeking into the lives of a few, such as reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner. However, each person’s story is different and unique, including Raymond’s. “I’ll start off by saying that gender and sex are two different things,” he explained. “Sex is your biology (chromosomes, genitalia, etc.) and gender is what you identify as! They are both two things that you really can’t control, and they differ for each person.” Raymond was born female, but states, “I haven’t exactly felt like I was female since I was a kid, but I didn’t exactly know that you could be transgender and accepted until 8th/9th grade. That was when I started experimenting with different labels.” He understood that he was a transgender male around October of his freshman year, and in January he began asking people to call him by the name Raymond. A common question he receives is why he didn’t keep his previous unisex name, and what made him decide upon “Raymond” as his new name. “I associate my birth name with when I identified as female, which can give me gender dysphoria and anxiety. Also, ‘Raymond’ has a similar meaning and imagery to my given name.”
After finally connecting a name to how he feels on the inside, Raymond proceeded to come out as transgender to his loved ones. This process is unfortunately often very stressful and frightening for those who are coming out, for the fear that they won’t be accepted for who they are is very possible. However, Raymond’s experience is mainly a positive one. Although his mother and other adults in the Asian community had trouble truly accepting him, there are friends and fellow church-goers that are very accepting. “It’s really empowering for me when people call me by my trans name and use he/him pronouns, even if it seems like a small thing. However, coming out is always hard. Even now I still have trouble telling people. I’m not exactly accepted by all of the people around me, but I can’t do much about that.” Raymond, however, keeps his head held high despite those who don’t accept him. “The only ‘retaliation’ I have is just having pride for who I am and just trying to spread awareness and acceptance,” he states proudly.
It is widely known that there has been a large debate regarding which bathroom is appropriate for transgender people to use. For those who aren’t connected to the issue or don’t have an opinion about it, it may not seem like a big deal. But when you are directly faced with this problem, as many transgender people in the world are, it becomes a daily struggle. Raymond disclosed that “the bathroom debate had me convinced that people had no regards towards trans people’s feelings. This, of course, isn’t exactly true, but it did highlight the numbers of people who did not regard trans people as actual people. I feel unsafe in either bathroom. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to feel safe in them, which is dumb because the only purpose I have of the bathroom is the same as everyone else’s.” Raymond also discussed how horrifying hate crimes are towards LGBT+ people. The Orlando shootings that occurred June of 2016 have left too many people fearful for their lives. “It hit close to home because it literally could have been me or one of my friends as the victim. In the two years that I have been out of the closet, I have had to live in a calculating state where I check my surroundings before obviously appearing LGBT+, like holding hands with my significant other, or something as simple as talking about the topic. Every time an event like this happens I feel very vulnerable and afraid. It’s a stark reminder that any LGBT+ person isn’t as safe as they would want to be, and that the world isn’t as black and white as people pretend it to be.”
Despite all the hate and social debate surrounding this part of Raymond’s life, he still manages to have a positive outlook. Rather than dwelling on the negative effects that followed him when he came out, he has shifted his focus onto the optimistic and accepting parts of his life, and hopes that others do the same. “I know it’s kind of over-said, but my main goal in life is to make other people happy and to have a safe environment for people who need it! I also aim to try and look at things from other people’s perspective and to empathize,” he stressed passionately, “you never know a person’s story when you first meet them, and you should never judge before getting to know someone.”