I experienced my first moment of real longing to be myself in a rue21 with my family, my sister whining about something or other to my mom and my dad waiting for them to be finished.

All while I stared at a gorgeous coat, a feminine, dark gray peacoat, exactly my style and my size. I looked around for a price and just looked at it for a time, before my mother was behind me and said, “What are you looking at?”

Suddenly my thoughts clouded and my mind went blank, anxious to tell her right there in the store. “Just at the peacoats,” I hurriedly said, looking down from them and turning away. “Would you want a jacket like that? I saw them in men’s clearance at WalMart the other day.”

The words burned my soul as she said them, knowing she had good intentions but even so I couldn’t stand to hear the words. “No no, it’s alright, I was just looking. They’re nice, but not really me,” I responded, having collected my thoughts since her jarring question.

After that time, my experience in clothing stores changed, glancing at the women’s section, needing to begrudgingly nod at pants and shirts I hated, all the while wishing I could just go over and be myself for once.

Finally I took matters into my own hands, and did a little shopping myself. Sneakily, I asked my parents for some money, not having a job at the time, and said it was for McDonald’s with my friends, who came and got me and helped me look for clothes at the store.

“Something small and simple, but girly and my style. Something easy to hide, but something I can still use…” Ideas rattled in my head as I flicked through WalMart, rue21 and Kohls websites where I could buy things discreetly and still get something nice.

Finally it struck me, and after some digging I found the perfect thing: thigh high socks, gray and black, exactly what I’d wear, and cheap too for a five-star review.

I ordered them so quickly, I nearly entered the wrong name when putting in my card information, so excited to finally feel right after so long of everything being wrong.

As time went on, I finally got to be myself through and through, and it is very obvious today.

I never got the peacoat, but once in awhile I’ll wear the socks, and remember the time when I finally decided to be me, even just a little.

Back when I only recently knew I was trans, it was so hard for me to really express myself. I didn’t know where to begin or who to ask for help, I was so nervous no one would want to.

If someone you know asks you for some help exploring their gender identity, even if you don’t feel comfortable doing it, be supportive of them and help them find someone who is, it can mean the world to someone.

Vivian Valengavich can be convacted at vvalengavich@kscequinox.com