Karson Coomes knows the importance of telling his own story.
"It is important for myself to tell my own story instead of someone else telling it for me because I don't want it to be misinterpreted," said the 20-year-old from Pennsylvania.
Getting the story right is paramount because it was a long journey for Coomes, who identifies as a transgender male using he/him pronouns.
"I've always felt that I was Karson. I've never really felt like a gender," he said.
In sixth grade, though, the thought began to occur to him that he may be transgender.
"I remember in middle school, I would steal my brother's boxers and I would wear them to school just so there could be a little piece of boxer [showing] when I would reach to like go get something," he said. "That's something that now thinking back then, I should have been like, 'You are transgender.'"
The thoughts of transitioning stuck with Coomes through his senior year of high school. When he knew he wanted to move forward, part of his process involved raising money to have top surgery. He raised that money by creating a uniquely designed T-shirt that simply said "human."
Coomes got support from schoolmates and teachers alike who bought the shirt.
"It was really surprising how much support I did receive," he said. "I did not think I would receive that much, and it was overwhelmingly beautiful."
Nowadays, Coomes receives a lot of support from his partner, Emmett, who is also transgender. The two just moved into a new home together. It's a step that left Coomes with a range of emotions after such a long journey to self-discovery.
"It makes me feel scared. It makes me feel vulnerable. It makes me feel excited. It makes me feel safe," he said.
Coomes hopes other young people can experience that same feeling of safety when exploring their own identities.
"You can be feminine one day. You can be masculine another day. You can be both at the same time. It does not matter," he said. "And if someone will pick on you and bully you for being true to yourself, they're not being true to they are."
This Pride Month, we're celebrating members of the transgender community as a part of a special series called Our America: Who I'm Meant to Be. Click here for more stories from your city and around the country.
Becoming his true self: Karson Coomes shares his transition journey
WHO I'M MEANT TO BE
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