The struggle of gender identity
Zach Eberts is courageous. Her courage comes from a life of struggle; struggle with identity and acceptance. Zach, who was born male says she always knew she was different.
“I always kind of knew that I was not identifying as a boy and with boy things. I didn’t really know what it was, I was really young,” Zach said. “But I looked up to people like Caitlyn Jenner when Caitlyn Jenner came out as transgender, that was a huge thing. That’s when my family started knowing,” Zach said.
Fortunately for Zach, her family was open and accepting.
While Zach’s mother Janine Eberts accepts her daughter, she says it was a process.
“I think of her as nothing other than my daughter,” Janine said. “It was hard in the beginning not even just to accept, but the dynamic of the family changing. You realize your child is blossoming before your eyes and it was never two daughters and a son, it was always three daughters.”
Not all parents are as accepting as Janine Eberts. Many trans teens are left to struggle alone with the societal shame and bullying.
According to the Williams Institute School of Law, 98 percent of transgender people who had experienced four instances of discrimination and violence in the past year thought about suicide that year. 51 percent of them attempted suicide in that year.
The discrimination towards transgender teens has grown with the use of social media as well. According to stopbullying.gov, Nine out of ten LGBTQ+ students experienced harassment online.
Zach faced harassment online and in school.
“There was one comment that was so aggressive,” Zach said. “It said, If I personally buy you a rope, will you hang yourself with it? My school was not the best with it,” Zach said. “It was really sad. I didn’t go to school for a couple of days because I was getting threats and stuff. I graduated a year early because I was so sick of it.”
In spite of the hateful comments, Zach says she never let them impact her sense of self.
“I never wanted to delete the comments because I didn’t want the people writing them to know that they affected me,” Zach said. “I have always cared more about myself than what other people were thinking, I am proud I was able to work through them.”
Zach uses music and songwriting as an escape. She has been able to take negative thoughts about self-expression and turn it into an art form.
“I use music for expressing myself,” Zach said. “Any time I have discomfort in my own skin, I just write it down. I like that I can show not only how I felt at this time, but how I have grown as well.”
Zach encourages anyone struggling with gender identity to find an outlet that makes them feel liberated and self-actualized.
“I think we can all relate every single struggle to each other,” Zach said. “No one is ever alone. I’m getting there. I was really unhappy with myself and the way that I looked. I have changed myself a lot, and my mental health has been way better.”
Zach Eberts is courageous. Her courage is built from a journey filled with loss, pain and acceptance. It’s a journey she hopes inspires others.
If you or someone you know are struggling, support is always available through multiple lifelines, including the Trans Lifeline and Suicide Prevention Lifeline.