Nguyen transitions, embraces identity

Yufei Zhang, Staff Writer

While growing up, Alex Nguyen couldn’t go to sleepovers with her best friends, she couldn’t listen in on “girl talk,” she couldn’t even wear the dresses and heels that all her friends wore.
“It was a time before people knew that many others were gay,” Nguyen said. “In my generation, there was a lot more bullying than acceptance about being queer.”
Despite portraying herself as straight in high school, Nguyen said that most people suspected otherwise. Either way, she said she never felt comfortable with her sexuality.
When Nguyen was a freshman, the environment at Westview was drastically different than it is today.
“In the locker rooms, I would hear people saying, ‘Oh my god, can you believe there’s a gay kid in our class?’ right in front of me,” Nguyen said. “I knew they were talking about me but I was just too scared to say something.”
Fear of the stigma against queer people deterred Nguyen from joining the Gay Student Association at Westview.
“I was afraid to associate myself with people who were queer because I didn’t want to [feel like] a loser,” Nguyen said. “No one wanted to be associated with the ‘weird gay.’ I didn’t feel safe to be part of the larger community. Culturally, it felt so isolating being gay in school compared to now.”
However, speckled in her life were moments of validation.
“There was this moment [during] junior year where it was me up for Homecoming prince versus these football people,” she said. “And I won. Most people knew I was queer even though I wasn’t out, so it felt really good to win in public.”

Alex Nguyen worked as Mob Scene Marketing Agency prior to pursuing her Pre-Law education at UCLA. She hopes to become an attorney to advocate for and represent the LGBTQ community. Photo courtesy of Alex Nguyen

During her senior year, Nguyen performed in the senior musical “Curtains” where she met other people who also identified as part of the LGBTQ community.
“I felt like things were clicking,” Nguyen said. “I [realized] these were my people. Being in theatre and having some gay people with me was that spark.”
Nguyen said she always felt a need to be herself, but failed to, since she was young.
“Coming out is the process of [forming] my soul into my outer identity,” Nguyen said. “You just can’t hold it in.”
So in senior year, Nguyen decided to be honest with her friend group of six girls. Every single time Nguyen has come out, she’s been in a car.
“I would come out to each [friend] individually,” Nguyen said. “I had hit a point where I had enough. I wanted to go to sleepovers. I was sick of not being allowed to. I wanted to hang out with my friends past 11 p.m. I just wanted to be a part of it.”
Simultaneously, Nguyen had to uphold the high expectations of her parents.
“In high school I just took a bunch of AP classes and [participated in] a bunch of extracurriculars, but I didn’t know what I was doing,” Nguyen said. “My goal all of high school was to graduate, go to a good school away from my parents so I could be gay in peace. The fantasy of living somewhere else was so important to me that it was the only motivating factor for me to go to college.”
In 2012, attended UC Berkeley as an English major.
“I was just my own boss,” she said. “I joined the gay fraternity. I worked for the Gender Equity Resource Center doing LGBTQ programming. I worked for the Alliance Resource Center at UC Berkeley. I worked for the student government as the Chief of Staff where they could create a seminar. It was the feeling of safety in college that made me really come out.”
Even after coming out, Nguyen still had internal conflicts with her identity.
“Every day waking up, I had body dysmorphia,” Nguyen said. “I’d look at my body or my face and obsess about things I couldn’t change. I would look at these things and obsess every single day. I would never be a “hot girl” or I would never pass. It was terrible. It was destructive.”
But over time, she found answers to those questions..
“I realized I wanted to be a woman,” she said. “It was even harder to admit to myself that [transitioning] was the thing that I needed. Coming out as gay was pretty easy because my self perception shifted. So instead of liking women, I like men. That logical jump was not as difficult as the logical jump between [how] my entire gender—who I am, how I present myself, how I’ve been raised in this world—­was completely wrong. It was such a difficult, crazy question.”
Nguyen said she was still mistaken for the wrong gender post transition. She wanted to exist as a female without being questioned for it.
“It’s the difference between [someone] saying, ‘thank you, sir’ and ‘thank you, ma’am,’” she said. “It’s about the way that people perceive you. It just feels nice for people to call you by the right pronouns or people come to see you for who you really want to be.”
After transitioning, Nguyen said she feels like herself for the first time.
“There’s something magical about finally being who you are,” she said. “My whole life just changed. Coming out changes everything. Dating used to be miserable because I was so self-conscious and I didn’t see myself as a boy. So when I became a woman, I could actually be confident.”
Now that she attends UCLA Law school, Nguyen said she hopes to become a lawyer to advocate for the LGBTQ community.
“To me, my identity is not a question,” Nguyen said. “I’m not trying to fight the good fight anymore. I’m just trying to live my life, minding in my business.”