Naperville Central High School's award-winning newspaper.

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Naperville Central High School's award-winning newspaper.

Central Times

Naperville Central High School's award-winning newspaper.

Central Times

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Trans student ‘getting the hell out’ of Central

Jay Deegan
Senior Teddy Stephens is trudging through his last year in high school. Stephens does not participate in any school activities; and says it’s hard for him to feel welcomed into the school amid transphobia.

Walking through Central’s flat wing, senior Teddy Stephens tries to make the most of his last year in a place he doesn’t feel welcomed.

However, it’s not as simple as a case of senioritis.

Being gay, transgender and disabled puts a target on Stephens’ back.

“The trifecta,” Stephens jokes.

Stephens feels like Central’s environment hasn’t been accepting of his identity. He’s been called names, harassed and disrespected. He says that teachers have been no exception.

“I’ve faced genuine transphobia from both teachers and students,” Stephens said. “I’ve had teachers refuse to use my pronouns. I’ve gotten called slurs in the hallway. I’ve had people come up and sit right next to me in the library to bully me for being gay.”

Stephens came out as transgender when he was 12 and came out as gay two years ago. He also has Ehlers Danlos syndrome, a condition that makes connective tissues looser. This can lead to greater chance of joint dislocation, translucent skin or even dilation and rupturing of major blood vessels. There is no known cure and Stephens will wear different braces to help with symptoms.

While he sometimes uses a cane for better mobility outside of school, Stephens feels using one in school would make the targeting worse.

“I’ve had people who have been really supportive, and I’ve had people who are fake supportive [and] want to treat me like an accessory or like a pet,” Stephens said.

He brought the bullying issue up to Central’s administration. According to Stephens, the problems he reported were never resolved because his bully had an extenuating circumstance that resulted in less severe consequences.

“[Central] prides themselves on being very accepting and I’m like, no, we’re not,” Stephens said. “Let’s be so for real—we’re not.”

Central Dean of Students Jennifer Prerost finds it hard to believe no one gave Stephens the help he needed.

“If we have a student saying or doing inappropriate things, there are people then constantly working with that student creating different modalities of learning [so they can understand] what they said or did was wrong,” Prerost said. “I am really hard pressed to believe that any administrator in this building would turn away any student with the response of ‘go handle it yourself’.”

Because Stephens does not feel welcomed, he doesn’t participate in school activities. Central’s LGBTQ+ club Prism was an option for him at one point, but the club’s environment wasn’t a good fit for him in the end.

Not everything at school is bad, however. He finds solace in his 7th period creative writing class. Writing, along with photography and drawing, is one of Stephen’s passions. With music playing in his headphones, writing whichever fantasy story he’s currently working on provides an escape for Stephens.

Outside of school, Stephens enjoys horseback riding and co-ed boxing.

“I’ve always liked horses because they’re like massive toddlers and they have a lot of personality,” Stephens said. “But again, I am kind of the token gay and their social media people like to take photos of me while I ride.”

Still, Stephens says he generally feels safer outside of school.

“I feel like my trans identity is a lot more [obvious] in school, especially when it comes to changing rooms, my friends or just [my voice],” Stephens said. “But when I’m out in public, I pass [as a man]. People think I’m a 12 year old, but they think I’m a boy.”

“Not passing” limits college options for Stephens because of hostility towards the trans community and because he wants to be a paramedic. Trans-safe territories are often traditionally blue states as well.

“It’s kind of a struggle to find colleges because I’m going into a kind of niche field and I can only go to colleges that are in trans-safe states,” Stephens said. “Personally, I’m not in the mood to get murdered for being trans.”

Still, he looks forward to going to college.

“I’m getting the hell out of [here] as soon as possible,” Stephens said. “I do not want to be here. I do not want to be here for any longer than I need to be legally.”

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About the Contributors
Elaine Zhou, Features Editor
Elaine Zhou is a junior, and this is her second year with Central Times. Elaine is a lover of all types of writing- especially ones telling the stories of people around her. Along with being a student journalist, she is the vice president of Chinese Club, a staff of Literary Magazine, a member of Yearbook and a violinist. She is currently addicted to retail therapy, stationary and is gaslighting herself to like biology for the rest of her life. 
Jay Deegan, Print Managing Editor
Jay Deegan is a Junior at Central and happy to start his third year of journalistic adventures at the Central Times. Jay loves writing features and diving in-depth into issues that plague our community. In his free time Jay runs a freelance videography and photography business and loves to creatively express his interests in sports and filmmaking. If you’d like to join CT or have a tip, reach out!
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    ArtemDec 21, 2023 at 12:14 pm

    As a student who also falls under the transgender umbrella, I can’t believe this happens. I haven’t faced any transphobia or harassment, but I feel for Teddy. I hope these issues get resolved, and that central can be a safe environment for all.