Reflections: Tris Langston

by Tris Langston | Gilman '20

Throughout my life, I have met hundreds of people. Teachers, students, friends, enemies. All of them have affected my life in various ways. From small comments that make me smile to life lessons that stay with me years later, the people I have met while I have grown shaped my character into what it is now. I would like to share a few stories, of just a couple of the people in my life who have made me who I am today. I might as well start at the beginning, so well, here it goes.

Imagine. This little kid. First day of school in a completely new place. Of course, I am talking about 1st Grade at my school, Gilman. Now from the start, life at Gilman was a little bit different for me. You see, I am an actor, and that year especially was really busy for me. Long story short, the various filmings I had to go to caused me to miss a LOT of school. Enough that, in all honesty, I did not feel like I was a part of my class. I felt different, I guess. Which like, I know now is by no means a bad thing. But back then? It was the worst. But then one day, a special day for the first graders back then, Pioneer Day to be specific, the strangest thing happened.

As part of Pioneer Day, everyone in my grade dressed up as pioneers. Now while almost everybody dressed like you would expect, with jeans and maybe a threadbare shirt, one of my classmates did something different. Alex wore a dress. And he killed it in that outfit. Seriously. I mean you would expect some kind of visible amount of nervousness right? But no. He was proud. He was strong. But most importantly, to me at the time I mean, he was different. To this day, whenever I start to hesitate, to hold back from doing something that would be “different”, I tell myself that if it was ok for that little boy, way back then, to wear a dress? Then, heck, it is ok for me to be different too. So I say now, thank you to Alex, for teaching me that it is ok to be different and that it is our mutual differences that truly connect us and make us all better as a whole.

Now my next story takes place a bit later, and over multiple years. You see, I have always loved singing. I do it all the time, walking down the hallways, during class, I am always singing. But for the longest time, I was always ashamed of the music I loved, whether it was to sing to or even just listen. Now, this manifested itself in multiple different ways. For instance, rebuking all other types of music than what I already knew, thinking they must be stupid and inferior. Wow, I was horrible back then. But then I had this music teacher, Mrs. Beckman, who taught me that no one type of song was better than any other. Now, the lessons that Mrs. Beckman has taught me over the past 9 years have been countless, but this one is the most important, to me at least. Because I see now that it does not apply to just music. While no one type of music is inferior or superior to any other, the same holds true for people. This lesson that Mrs. Beckman taught me through years of singing in her choruses, talking in her classroom, and even just by setting an example, is exactly why I am as open as I am today. So once again, thank you to Mrs. Beckman, for teaching me one of the base requirements of human decency. To honor, love, and respect all others equally, in spite of, or dare I say because of, their various flaws.

Now this last lesson, I learned quite recently. During my junior year as a matter of fact. So I have this one friend, Isabelle. Some of my favorite things about her are her love for art, her constant, shining smile, and her innate desire to question things around her and try to understand them to her full ability. Now by the time Izzy and I had become friends, I already knew that I sure as heck was not a boy. But honestly, I had no idea who I was past that, much less where to start the process of finding out. But in came Izzy and her questions to save the day:

“Hey can I ask you something?”, she said one day. “How did you know you weren’t a boy? Like was it clothes, your friends, society, or what?”

“Do you experience dysphoria?” she asked later.

All of which are seemingly simple questions, but ones I had not thought about nonetheless. Especially that last one. I had never heard the term “dysphoria” before. To those who are unfamiliar with the term, dysphoria is, strictly speaking, the opposite of euphoria, which Merriam Webster defines as “a feeling of well being or elation.” Now if Dr. Ciar was reading this, he would tell me I can not define something by what it is not. But, in all honesty, I just do not know how else to do it. Dysphoria is just one of those things you can not define. The best words I have to describe my own version of it is as “the fight against myself.” It is that little voice brain that cries out saying that I am some sort of disgusting abomination because my physical traits do not reflect who I am on the inside. But its not necessarily the same for everyone else.

Regardless, back to Izzy. These seemingly innocuous questions, her efforts to understand me, made me start the process of questioning myself. And as I questioned myself, I reflected on the importance of what Izzy had done. It taught me the meaning behind trying to understand others. It is the greatest form of respect, in my opinion. To go out of your way to learn something new about someone else, whether it is something big, like gender, or something small like what their favorite game is. It is how we express love in its truest form. So once again, thank you Izzy for teaching me to question, and consequently love and respect, both myself and all things and people around me.

Of course, I have learned from far more than just 3 people in my life. Every step in the process my growth and development have been affected by countless others. For instance, my sister taught me to not back down from what I think is important. Mrs. Leuver told me to look for the fun things in life. My friend Jilly proves to me every day that size is most certainly not everything. While the journey into ourselves as we move through life may be personal, it is not without others helping along. So one final time, thank you to everyone for helping me grow into the strong person I am today, and I hope that I never stop paying attention to you all because I will never know what I might miss if I do.