February 12, 2018 07:34 PM
(ABC 6 News)-- In a tiny production booth, high above the stage at Fillmore Central High School is Ajay Jorgensen.
"Theatre, in general, helps me be who I am," said Ajay.
"Ajay was not always Ajay. No, I first knew Ajay as Anna back when he was younger," said Fillmore Central High School teacher Joni Mehus.
Ajay was born Anna, and used to suffer from gender dysphoria, a condition of feeling one's emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be opposite to one's biological sex.
ABC 6 Rachel Wick asked, "Being Ajay, now, what does that feel like?"
Ajay answered, "Um, scary, but better than what I was. I can cope better with everything that's going on in my head."
Growing up in a small town, Ajay wasn't sure how his friends and family would react to him coming out as a pansexual, pre-t transgender male.
Ajay said, "I come from a traditional kind of family, but they accept me."
Although Ajay's parents still refer to Ajay as a "she", their love and support have never changed.
Ajay's dad Archie said, "I'm proud of her, it takes a lot to do what she wants to do. I'm proud of all my kids."
One of the fears that Ajay's family and Ajay have with his coming out, is society's view.
Ajay said, "It's scary because there's still a lot of hate, a lot of discrimination and there's still not a lot of laws that protect everyone in the LGBTQ community."
But the view from the student body and educators at Fillmore Central High School is already changing, thanks to Ajay.
"I think he's the perfect example of somebody who has made a success at something that's probably really challenging," said Mehus.
Ajay hasn't let his honesty with himself slow him down. In fact, it's only made him stronger.
Mehus said, "This year, our yearbook has many, many pictures that he takes. You can always see him on the sideline of pretty much every event that we have. For the photography club, he does other things like landscapes, flowers, scenery, everything. I've seen photography as an outlet for his transformation."
Ajay said, "It helps me escape, and when I look through the lens I see the world in a completely different way, and I see the beauty in everything."
The beauty can also be found in Ajay's heart.
Ajay's friend Makayla Braatan said, "He's a great friend, and if you're down or just need help on a homework assignment, he's there."
Ajay's friend Annalise Shupe said, "Ajay has pushed me to be more of the person who I am today and just loving all and accepting all and just trying harder to understand."
Even with trying to manage a new "normal" Ajay has managed to maintain straight A's, and will even get to further his education at RCTC thanks in part to the Rochester Area Foundation Beat the Odds Scholarship.
Ajay said, "I absolutely love learning, and it will help me a lot with that."
Some say it takes a lot of courage to do what Ajay has done.
Mehus said, "I hope that it would be encouraging to others who want to beat the odds as well."
For Ajay, this is just the beginning of the many amazing things those around him know he will achieve.
Created: February 12, 2018 07:34 PM
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