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Transgender teen celebrates new life at Calhoun prom

Ollie Steil, left, and his friend Jullisa Clark

Ollie Steil, left, and his friend Jullisa Clark were part of a group that attended Calhoun High School's prom at the Sand Castle in Franklin Square on June 22, 2017. Photo Credit: Andrew Coen

Ollie Steil began ninth grade in the fall of 2013 as a depressed female named Olivia, but on Thursday he was full of smiles, sporting a tuxedo at Calhoun High School’s senior prom.

Steil decided in the summer before 10th grade to transition from a female to a male and take a male name, after recognizing a greater identity with the male gender since middle school. The decision sparked a whole new life for Steil, 18, who became active in Calhoun’s Gay-Straight Alliance club and literary magazine while making new friends who embraced his newfound identity.

“Before coming out of the closet, I was horribly depressed and scared,” said Steil, who attended Thursday’s prom at the Sand Castle in Franklin Square. “It's so strange to think of it now due to the fact of how happy I am in the present.”

Steil, of Merrick, recalls the anxiety he felt as a freshman about how friends would react to him coming out as transgender. As a girl, he never participated in any school activities and would rush home at the end of each school day.

He explained that when he first appeared as a boy as a sophomore he lost some friends, but that gradually peers embraced his new identity and teachers were a source of positive reinforcement.

“I had so much support,” said Steil, the youngest of six siblings. “I’ve had so many dedicated friends who have stuck by me.”

Calhoun senior Julissa Clark rode in the limousine with Steil to the prom and has been by his side through the challenging times. Clark, who has been friends with Steil since elementary school, is impressed with how he persevered to forge a new life.

“At times it got stressful, but he pushed through it,” said Clark. “Now he’s at the point where he’s happy, and I’m happy for him.”

Steil will attend college at SUNY Purchase in the fall, and going forward he hopes to serve as a role model for other transgender teens contemplating changes. His outlook on life four years after starting high school has taken a 180-degree turn in the right direction, he said.

“I've progressed so far in my transition and I have so many lovely people supporting me,” he said. “It's almost as if we're two completely different people.”

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