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Saints on the Hill: A Message of Respect and Understanding

Saints on the Hill: A Message of Respect and Understanding

Hayden ’25 is “a lot of things,” he told classmates, faculty, and staff during his recent Saints on the Hill presentation. “I love music…I love backpacking, fishing, and the outdoors in general…I am a Giants, Rangers, and Maple Leafs fan…I am an EMT,” Hayden shared. “I am also trans.”

Hayden went on to explain what that has meant to him and his experiences growing up and, currently, as a junior in high school. “It is a part of me and always will be—but it is not all of who I am,” he explained. “What I said before is who I am as a person and at my core. I also just happen to be a trans guy.”

Much of Hayden’s youth was spent as a gymnast devoting three hours a day, four days a week at the gym since he was around seven years old. “It was my whole life,” he recalled. “I never thought about who I was, including gender-wise, because I was so focused on my athletics. I was just a gymnast.”

When he was 12, Hayden sustained an injury that put him on crutches for nearly four months, plus two additional months to walk without the help of the crutches or a walking boot. He went back to gymnastics, but it wasn’t the same. So he retired from the sport and began to reassess things in his life. “When I quit, I had a bit of an identity crisis; I genuinely had no idea who I was and who I wanted to be to other people,” he said. “As a kid, I knew there was something, not wrong, but different about me. I did not fully feel like one of the girls, but I felt like I wasn’t allowed to be friends with the boys. I felt like an imposter to almost everyone around me.”

Middle school and freshman year of high school proved to be a “road of self-discovery” for Hayden. He had begun figuring out who he was as a person and assessing his hopes and aspirations by the time he enrolled on the hilltop.

“When I first arrived at Canterbury, I thought that some people might make assumptions about me,” Hayden said. “But as the year went on and I made connections with them, they started to understand who I was as a person and a friend and that I was not that different at all.”

He continued: “Everyone's journey is different, not just trans and queer youth. I know almost everyone here—and every adolescent in general—is going through their own thing. There is a word called ‘sonder’ that basically means realizing that everyone around you has their own life and there are so many different aspects to who they are. This is what Saints on the Hill was founded on, as a way for people to tell this community about different parts of themselves that might not be obvious or known.”

And Hayden was happy for the opportunity to share that message with his peers. “Emotional and social development is a difficult process for any teenager. We already have a lot on our plates, so the least we could do is respect each other,” he told them. “I would not have made the friends and connections I have today if I hadn’t opened myself up. We realized our similarities and differences, and we connected. We are all just people, and we have to remember that.”