Stephen Acosta

I want to start this off by saying, I love this little guy right here. I remember this exact moment at 6 years old, and in the first grade. The school photographer had just posed me and said, “Smile!,” and I did just what I knew how to do best. The adults probably laughed amongst themselves at my childlike enthusiasm, but I didn’t care. All I knew was, that I was gonna have the best damn school photo, and everyone would get to see how brave and mature I was for pulling out not just one but three of m­y baby teeth—all by myself! I’d gotten more disciplinary notes sent home than my entire schooling combined in first grade alone. I’m sure that, to my teachers and caretakers, I was simply another unruly child who loved to talk too much, had trouble staying on task, didn’t particularly care to follow all the rules, and was always looking for a way around the assignment. In retrospect, they weren’t completely wrong! 

As a teacher now myself, though, I recognize that my unruliness was just a cry for love, attention, and to be seen exactly as I was, not how some of the adult figures in my life wanted to see me. I knew I was fascinated with things like Barbies, playing with long hair, art, Polly Pocket, dresses, high heels, and make-up. Sports? Yawn. Playing rough and wrestling? Ew. Doing regular gross “boy” stuff? Goodbye. Twenty years later, not much has changed, really—I still love long hair, art, dresses, high heels, and make-up. I can do without the Barbies and Polly Pocket toys now, but I’m proud of myself for continually acting against social pressure to conform and be a “normal” boy. 

I’m proud of myself that, in the face of all the mean names, violence, bullying, gossip, and ostracization that kids can sometimes do to each other when one of them is a little different than the rest, I still chose loving, and being true to, myself over wanting to be like everyone else. I’m proud to say, “Here I am!” at 26 years old, still smiling that same goofy smile, except now, I finally have my adult teeth!

Stephen (he/him) 
Gran Varones Fellow
Philadelphia, PA


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