Imagine a boy who one day woke up and found himself in a girl’s body. Think about how disorienting that would be. Now imagine the boy trapped in that girl’s body for all his life. For one PV freshman, this is a reality.
Kax Petkovich is a freshman at Pascack Valley who participates in PV’s choir and theatre programs and plays the drums and guitar. He is also transgender.
The Pascack Valley Board of Education passed a transgender policy last night that will allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their self-identified gender and be listed by their preferred genders and names inside the school system for unofficial purposes such as classroom attendance.
“I’ve always kind of felt different, but I never really knew what it meant,” Petkovich said. “I always associated myself more with guys. I’d want to play male roles [rather than] female roles. It felt more natural.”
“Eventually,” Petkovich continued, “I found out what being transgender was and I realized what it meant.”
Petkovich’s birth name is Karoline, but his sister gave him the nickname “Kax” when they were younger. Eventually, Petkovich began to go by Kax on social media, where many people assumed he was male.
“A lot of people say that people can be fake on the internet, but the internet was the only place that I was really being myself,” Petkovich said.
He decided that since many people online had known him as Kax for years, it was a name that would work in real life as well.
Petkovich’s friends found out that he was transgender this school year. However, he never officially “came out” to his friends, or even to his family.
“I just kind of came in this year and said ‘I’m just gonna be open about everything and live my life how I want to,’” he said.
However, Petkovich was nervous about what certain individuals might think, especially concerning the way he presented himself.
“For the [PV Choir winter] concert, I was wearing the guys’ uniform,” Petkovich said. “I was texting one of my friends the night before and I was like ‘Oh my god. I’m really nervous. I don’t know what people are gonna think when I’m wearing the guys’ uniform. People are gonna ask why I’m doing it.’”
He eventually realized that he didn’t always need to be concerned with what other people think. He realized it was important to live his life the way he wanted to.
Petkovich is excited about the different opportunities he has in the arts. He plays male roles in the school’s plays and musicals and is a tenor in choir.
“I can [sing] pretty low and that’s just how my voice is, which has always been something that I’ve been made fun of until now. It’s kind of a gift, almost,” Petkovich said.
He has found that his friends are supportive. Though most of his friends have had trouble adjusting and calling him by his preferred name and pronouns, he is aware that they are trying.
His family supports him as well. Petkovich hinted at his parents that he was transgender starting last year, bringing it up more frequently.
“[Kax’s mom and I] came to the full realization over the summer,” said Petkovich’s father, Bo Petkovich. “We were surprised [Kax] didn’t tell us earlier. We didn’t know [that he was transgender at first], but we were very accepting of it all.”
“They were never really against it,” Petkovich said. “They just didn’t really understand it at first. They still don’t really understand it but they support me.”
Petkovich hasn’t had trouble inside the school with peers being intolerant of his identity. He said that he ignores whatever intolerance there might be, to the point where he can’t name even a single incident of it happening in the school.
Despite the acceptance of his identity from the people around him and the new transgender policy, Petkovich is reluctant to use the bathroom of his preferred gender, but it is not because he is afraid of how people will see him. In fact, he already uses the guy’s bathroom everywhere outside of school.
“I just feel like I wanna wait until I’m further along in my transition so it’s less weird to people,” he said. “Maybe next year.”
Petkovich is excited about the transgender policy that the Pascack Valley Regional High School District has now officially adopted. He and his family believe that it will help to reduce prejudice if a policy legitimizing transgender people is passed. Mr. Bo Petkovich said that having a policy that is anti-transgender would “open the door for people to judge [these students].”
“If I didn’t have to deal with this, it’d be a lot easier,” Petkovich admitted. “Even when I wake up in the morning, I think, ‘Is what I’m wearing going to make me look too feminine?’ or something like that.”
However, Petkovich seems to be embracing the journey.
“It’s been better than I thought it would be,” Petkovich said. “I’m a lot happier now that I’m open about everything.”