LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — For Lucas Mogerley, life wasn’t always as certain as it is now.
“If I made it to 18, I would have graduated high school so that at least my parents could have a daughter that they could be proud of. Or have a child that they could show photos of and be like, ‘She was a great kid.’ Because I felt like that’s what I owed them, and I thought that was the best thing to do.”
Then end your life?
Now at 19, Lucas is a theater major studying at Occidental College who was born a girl into a loving family in New Jersey.
“I had three older brothers growing up so it was never like they could do something and I couldn’t do it,” he said in an interview with CBS2’s Paul Magers.
But back then, he was the little sister of the family who happened to love hockey like her brothers, but when middle school rolled around, she came to the honest conclusion that she was meant to be a he.
“And that was when it kind of lined up, like all my friends are guys. I don’t want to wear what all the girls in the class are wearing,” Lucas said. “I don’t want to do what they’re doing. And that’s kind of when I kind of started to realize like maybe this isn’t like what everyone’s thinking. Like maybe I am different in a way.”
But he never felt like he could speak to anyone about how he felt.
“I very quickly decided that if I wanted to survive or live at all, I couldn’t ever talk about it to anyone, that I had to just kind of never tell anyone and go through life being the child that I thought my parents deserved or wanted,” he said. “I thought that I was something to be ashamed of, so I went through life hiding for a really long time.”
And what did he do?
“Well, that’s why like I feel it’s so important for me to speak up now, because as any kid of my generation, when I was confused or scared about something, I turned to the Internet,” he said. “I was looking up stuff, and it was from there that I kind of stumbled upon the idea of being transgender.”
When Lucas was 16, he spent the summer away from home studying at UCLA.
“I was sitting in the airport and they were calling my name over the speaker over and over … and I remember just sitting there and hearing my birth name and knowing if I didn’t go home and if I ended things then, that that name would be what everyone remembered, and it was probably the hardest thing I did. But I got on that plane, and I went home,” he said.
Initially, talking about it was difficult.
“When I was about … 17, I ended up coming out to my mom, and I couldn’t say it,” Lucas recalls. “And she just kept asking me: ‘Just be honest with me.’ And eventually I said, ‘I think I was supposed to be a boy.’ I couldn’t even say the word transgender.”
He said his mother was supportive right from the start.
“You’ve got snot pouring down your face and it feels almost like you can’t breathe ’cause you’re crying so hard, and I just kept telling her ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I tried, I tried to be your daughter’ and she was like, ‘You don’t have to be.’ That was really a turning point for us,” Lucas said.
He said both his parents were on board right away, even helping with documents and ideas for a new name.
Even his brothers were immediately helpful.
“All three of them were just like, ‘OK, like tell me what name I should use. Tell how I should treat you now,’ ” Lucas remembered. “I came down like sobbing to my mom and I was like, ‘They all know. … Everything’s OK.’ ”
At 17, Lucas began hormone therapy and “top surgery,” which is reconstruction of the chest.
“Right after I got top surgery after I healed up, I went to visit my brother in Israel, and we went to the beach together and it was kind of an amazing feeling to take my shirt off and go swimming,” Lucas said. “It was … something I’ll remember for a long time.”
Lucas said the recent coming out and very public comments by Caitlyn Jenner have been helpful for those in the transgender community but that everyone’s journey is their own.
“Caitlyn Jenner can’t speak for the entire transgender community. I can’t speak for the whole transgender community,” Lucas said. “Every story is different, but it’s important to have stories.”
And while more in the transgender community are speaking of their experiences, Lucas says there are still some personal things they don’t like to discuss. Birth names, surgeries, dating and relationships, and choices of restrooms to use often are taboo.
“So, typically in the transgender community … some people are comfortable sharing their birth names but others are not because it can often be used as an attack on transgender people, like a lot of people would go, ‘Oh, your name is Lucas, but what’s your real name?’ or stuff like that,” he said.
And it’s happened to him, he said.
“Sometimes there are people who are like, ‘Oh, I’m just going to call you that name anyway because like that’s your real name.’ And that’s a very, very invalidating thing to a transgender person.”
And while Lucas has had “top surgery,” he’s not willing to discuss other operations.
“I’m usually pretty candid about surgery because I don’t mind educating people, but a lot of people will try to invalidate trans people. ‘Oh, you haven’t had surgery yet, so you’re not fully male or you’re not fully female yet,’ ” he said.
As for restrooms, Lucas said those can present problems.
“I don’t mind answering that. I just use the men’s room, because if I walked into the women’s room people would think, ‘Why is that guy in the women’s room?’ I had a phase where I was only a few months into hormone therapy where I’d walk down the street and half the people would say that’s a girl and half the people would be like, that’s a boy, so there was a lot of confusion where finding gender-neutral bathrooms was a very relieving thing!” he said.
“Bathrooms are a terrifying thing for transgender people because ultimately you just want to go to the bathroom. It’s already a vulnerable position. Yu just want to go to the bathroom, I have been chased out of many bathrooms, been yelled at in many bathrooms along the way,” Lucas said. “Thankfully now I don’t have that issue.”
Misconceptions about transgender people can present challenges over restrooms.
“I assure you no transgender person goes into a bathroom with the intent to peep on other people,” he said. “It’s literally ‘I just need to go to the bathroom.’ But people can get very hostile at times and very confrontational.”
As for dating, Lucas said relationships for the transgender community are the same as they are for anyone else.
“It hasn’t really hindered how I’ve connected with people or my own personal life because it’s just another aspect of who I am,” Lucas said. “Typically, if I’m interested in someone and it’s not one-sided and they’re interested as well, it’s not just a physical thing. It’s a very emotional thing and a connection between two people, so it’s just another aspect of my life. If someone likes me, then they like me, and if they don’t, they don’t.”
And like anyone else, he has had bouts with self-doubt and self-esteem.
“There was definitely a phase where I felt like I was like I don’t think anyone will ever be interested in me or I don’t think that anyone will ever love me because it’s so hard for me to even love myself or just see myself in a positive light,” he said. “But I think growing as a person and just learning to love myself and see the good in myself has made me realize that other people see the good in me.”
Lucas says he was lucky to have been embraced by an understanding family but says that’s not always the case for many transgender kids. He hopes his story inspires those who are struggling to speak to someone. For more information, visit the Los Angeles LGBT Center.