Embracing Self: Insights from Amber Gray ‘26 on Transgender Journey

7 min read

By Lily Mellitz ’26

Features Editor

“For a long time, I used to believe my transition was my life. I believed it defined every aspect of my character, and that it was the key aspect of my personality,” Amber Gray ‘26 shared in a recent Tripod interview. “I have since done a 180. My transition is one small piece of my identity, of which there are countless and ever-dynamic pieces.” 

Born in Newark, Delaware, Gray is a transgender woman at Trinity College, pursuing a double major in religious studies and public policy and law. She is a member of the Pre-Law Society, a part of the Trinity College Task Force on Campus Climate Committee for LGBTQ+ Life, serves on the executive board of the Fencing Club,  and works as a Chapel Singer as well as at the Queer Resource Center. 

Gray’s personal journey began when she came out as transgender on her 14th birthday. Shortly after, she began her transitioning process. While the decision was initially met with resistance from her parents, Gray believes that navigating this challenging path has brought her and her parents closer, leading to their eventual acceptance of her identity. 

Growing up in a “politically moderate, small college town,” Gray found that “being transgender wasn’t unacceptable” and was actually “tokenized” by many. This led her to feel very different from other girls in her high school, even “shaming” herself for being “too feminine.”

As time passed, Gray grew more comfortable with her femininity, partly because she was becoming more visibly feminine, but also due to evolving “social constructs and understandings.” She shared that in high school, the uniform policy made it difficult to express her identity as a woman. However, Gray has since found Trinity to be “a sort of transformational place” where she has become more in tune with her femininity.

Reflecting on her time at Trinity, Gray noted support from both the broader and the queer community. 

“Trinity is a cliquey school,” Gray said. “That is true for all groups of people, including the queer community. [But I do] have a good group of people who support and love me, some are cisgender/heterosexual, and some are not.” 

However, Gray does believe that her experience as a trans woman “differentiates [her] from most cisgender folks.” When she is talking to other cis folks with marginalized identities, such as her queer friends who are cis, she finds that “sometimes there is less understanding between [them].” 

“I bond well with other transgender people,” Gray said. “I also bond well with cis people, but I feel my bond to trans folks, especially other trans women, is incredibly strong.”

Addressing negative stereotypes and labels, Gray expressed that trans folks are often viewed as “confused” and afflicted with “mental illness.” By believing these harmful and inaccurate notions, “bigots” are able to reason that society should not need trans folks. Such is the view, consciously or unconsciously, of those who stereotype trans folks in a harmful light.

Another misconception Gray addressed was “the notion that trans people are always at risk, always to be victimized and cannot experience joy because of their oppression.”  

“I have been infantilized, sexualized, discriminated against and overly-questioned because of my trans identity,” Gray said. “In most cases, people don’t do this out of hatred or bigotry. […] In my experience, [these] are people I know, usually who I work with or who are my peers, and they do these things because they think I am constantly a victim, and that applying an abstract concept to me will somehow alleviate that for me. I hate to break it to these folks, but this is in no way helpful to me, and as I understand it, any other trans person.” 

Recalling an incident during Halloween where she was dressed as a lawyer, Gray said, “My costume was appropriate, but was also very feminine and to a degree revealing. I felt mature, I felt beautiful and I felt confident.” However, that night she encountered a group of cis girls who initially complimented her friends. Yet, their demeanor shifted when they engaged with her, turning it into a moment that felt “humiliating” and as though she was “being put up for show and tell.” 

Gray discussed the challenges of being viewed as equal to cisgender women while simultaneously being rejected by patriarchal norms, confronting internal struggles with self-acceptance and self-love, and experiencing alienation from peers.

“I wouldn’t say I have overcome any of these challenges totally, afterall, if one can entirely overcome a challenge, then was it ever really a challenge in the first place?” Gray said. “Though, I have been able to alleviate these challenges almost entirely by how I carry myself. While cisgender women not seeing me as a woman is out of my control, and alienation from peers can be out of my control, I can often prevent the worst effects of these by carrying myself proudly and positively. Self-acceptance and self-love are personal struggles, and I have made great progress there.”

In a notable revelation, Gray shared a positive milestone in her journey: a legal name-change. She candidly disclosed that the process of changing one’s name in the United States can be “very scary” for trans folks and was one she avoided until last summer, where she changed her name, her ID and gender markers.

“I honestly think this was the best moment for me related to my gender identity since I started hormones in 2021,” Gray said. “These positive experiences are sometimes colloquially referred to as ‘trans joy,’ and while I don’t love this term being overtaken by mainstream, cisgender media, or being used inappropriately by anyone, I do think the moments of true ‘trans joy’ are amazing for us trans folks and those in our lives.” 

“At the end of the day, trans folks deserve the same rights and privileges that are ideally afforded to everyone else. No strings attached, no questions asked,” Gray continued. “That will not come easily, and trans people are not the only group not afforded rights and privileges. In my lifetime, I would like to see and be a part of trans mobilization efforts, so that we can be seen in the public eye, not negatively but as fellow people. We may differ in terms of one aspect of our identities, but trans folks are not to be seen as a burden or illness for society to ‘fix.’ Trans people are easy to ostracize and alienate from cis folks because, frankly, our numbers are very small. Most people haven’t met or engaged personally with a trans person. If we can be put into the mainstream, not as a taboo but as people who share interests and hobbies and jobs with cis folks, then I think we will be safer and more accepted.”

As the interview drew to a close, Gray imparted insightful advice to her younger self. 

“She’s allowed to speak up, she’s allowed to be herself, and she’s allowed to exist openly,” Gray said. “Womanhood is something she should embrace and express more freely. She should start learning how to defend herself from insults, she should start to learn how to not see the world through a completely cautious lens. Things are better now, and there are so many things to look forward to in her future, and things to be happy about and cherish as a younger version of me too.”

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  1. 1
    Dr. Mekah Gordon

    The tumultuality of transitioning should never be taken lightly.
    Developing a confident exterior and mental fortitude takes time, training, and the frequent participation in a TG group setting.
    Amber’s insight as a young woman, has had the opportunity begin her life’s journey at an early age.
    Most of us late bloomers would of course be jealous, but in a kind and meaningful way.
    I wish only the best and brightest for Amber, as she moves forward in a world that still needs to be educated gently.

    Live your life as it was meant to be.

    Doc G

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