Not many high school seniors are excited about essays in the Sunday New York Times.
But Black Hills High School senior Ara Halstead couldn’t wait to open the paper last weekend.
"I was like, 'Hey! That’s me,'" said Halstead, who identifies as gender-fluid, and wrote an essay about their experience going to the prom.
"One day I will maybe lean towards the masculine side," said Halstead of Tumwater, Washington. "The next day, I’ll lean towards the feminine side. There are some days gender is non-existent."
Halstead, who prefers the pronouns they/them/their, wasn’t sure if they were going to attend prom, what Halstead considers "the most hetero-normative environments in the school essentially."
But instead of worrying about going as a boy or a girl, Halstead just decided to go to prom.
Feeling welcome and dancing with classmates left Halstead both exhausted and energized at the end of the dance.
"Acceptance might not have been completely there, 100 percent,” said Halstead, “But it was mostly there. And that's been a big step for me because in the past I haven't been able to do that.”
Halstead hopes the essay will educate the public about those who identify as gender-fluid, and might inspire other teens to feel like they’re not alone.
Halstead said while it would have been easier to skip prom, and to never write the essay that took lots of time and rewrites, they have no regrets.
"Of course that'd be easier, but the easy way is not always the best route. And that's not how change happens.”