At first, Grayson Maxwell, a 2018 DHS graduate, wanted to raise money for his gender transition on his own. But during 2018 Pride, Maxwell found himself fundraising with his friends. Offering one dollar kisses, he was pleasantly surprised to find a community happy to help, especially other transgender people.
“Lots of people were also trans but the likelihood of them transitioning was low, so they wanted to help someone else,” Maxwell said.
A year later, Maxwell and his friends made a fundraiser on the website Gofundme. The goal is set for $8,000, which Maxwell hopes to use for top surgery, as well as mental, physical and hormonal therapy. Hormones come first, and once Maxwell reaches the $1,000 mark, he plans to start taking testosterone, which costs, he estimates, $50 a week. It’s not cheap, so he’s been grateful to the DHS community for their support.
“Parents and friends I don’t even really talk to anymore [have] donated, which is really powerful,” Maxwell said. “I’ve lost a lot of connection with people from Decatur, but to see people I’ve never really talked to before donate or share has been so cool.”
His friends and the wider Decatur community have mostly been supportive of his transition since he came out at 16, Maxwell said.
One of the first major steps in Maxwell’s transition was changing his name from Lily to Grayson. He chose Grayson based off an experience from seventh grade gym class at Renfroe, when some students in his class insisted that he looked like a Grace.
“I was a shy kid, and really goofy, and there were these kids determined to call me Grace, even Coach Jones,” Maxwell said. “So a few years later when I was trying to think of names, people usually choose something close to their old, dead name. Lily didn’t have a good equivalent. But Grace was my second name, and Grayson just seemed to fit. I was so happy with it.”
However, most of Maxwell’s Decatur peers didn’t know about his transition until his senior year, when he joined Rock and Roll Revue. There, he felt empowered to come out more publicly.
Maxwell played the cajon (cah-hon), a box shaped percussion instrument. The musician sits on the instrument and plays it between their legs with their hands and fingers. When he tried out for Rock and Roll Revue, he said he was “terrified” and no self-confidence. But Maxwell made the cut.
Each night of Rock and Roll Revue, the band members are introduced onstage.
“The big question was ‘do we say Grayson, or Lily?’ I decided Grayson, as long as my parents weren’t there, so for the first night I was introduced as Grayson. It felt great. Everyone was really excited because only my friends really knew before. After that, teachers approached me and offered to call me Grayson.”
Maxwell hasn’t felt encouraged by his parents to embrace his transgender identity.
“They spent 16 years together knowing me as someone else,” Maxwell said. “I didn’t expect them to accept me, ever.”
Nevertheless, Maxwell is still in contact with them and thinks their relationship will get better once he starts hormones, and his parents realize he is serious about transitioning.
“My parents ask a lot of questions that are hard to answer, so it feels like one step forward and two steps back, but I think that once I start testosterone it will be different,” Maxwell said.
Not everyone at Decatur was accepting either. Maxwell called the bullying “subtle”, but it included losing friends and hearing slurs.
After graduating Decatur, Maxwell enrolled at Georgia Perimeter College but dropped out and now works at a dog daycare and training center. Working at previous jobs, customers misgendered him daily, and he found himself working out too much or spending lots of time on his looks, Maxwell said. Working with dogs, no one misgenders him.
“I didn’t think it would put mental stress on me but it turned out to be really draining,” Maxwell said.
Despite the difficulties, coming out helped Maxwell gain confidence and it helped other students at Decatur who were questioning their own gender identity.
“In my yearbook, at the end of the year, people who weren’t sure how they fit in left me notes saying that I inspired them, just seeing me walk into class everyday confidently,” Maxwell said.