Conversation has always been easy for Coltynn and Pat— even the day Coltynn came out to Pat as transgender.
“I think it’s important that I don’t remember exactly what happened because that means the conversation went well!” Coltynn laughed.
The Kearney TeamMates match first met when Coltynn was in 6th grade. Pat had just moved to Kearney from Omaha to be closer to family. Coltynn graduated Kearney’s Big Friends program and wanted a TeamMates mentor.
“When I was in TeamMates in Omaha, my young lady wanted to play games,” Pat remembered. “Coltynn wanted to talk, and that’s what we’ve kept doing.”
Now as a 12th grader, Coltynn said he values these weekly conversations with Pat.
“She is really wise,” he explained. “It’s really helpful to know someone who is not part of your family, but then they become a part of your family.”
That’s why Coltynn felt comfortable turning to Pat when he was ready to come out. Coltynn was assigned female at birth and in 9th grade, he said was ready to embrace who he really is. He said even though he felt nervous, he knew Pat would still love him.
“I knew she wouldn’t degrade me,” he said. “I knew she would be there for me and support me.”
For Pat, she remembers the conversation perfectly.
“He told me he had something to tell me, and he didn’t know how I would react to it,” Pat said.
Coltynn said Pat reacted the best way she knew how— by supporting him in his decision.
“I’ve learned what goes into transitioning,” Pat explained. “Everything that I know about it is new to me.”
This is a topic that is new to a lot of people and has sparked several conversations across the U.S. about LGBTQ+ youth and mental health. The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning young people under 25.
In a national survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health in 2021, 42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of the transgender and nonbinary youth. 75% of LGBTQ youth reported that they had experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity at least once in their lifetime.
On the flip side, data found by the Trevor Project indicates that supporting LGBTQ youth can boost mental health. The study shows transgender and nonbinary youth who reported having pronouns respected by all of the people they lived with attempted suicide at half of the rate of those who did not have their pronouns respected by anyone with whom they lived. Transgender and nonbinary youth who were able to legally change their name and/or gender marker on legal documents like a driver’s license or birth certificate also reported lower rates of attempting suicide.
“No one can get it unless you’re going through it,” Coltynn explained. “Some days are good, some days are bad, but most of the time I feel good.”
Within TeamMates, the organization has found that students with a mentor report higher levels of hope as a result of that relationship. During the 2019-2020 school year, more than 80% of mentors and mentees reported feeling more hopeful as a result of their mentoring relationship. For many, building hope just means simply being there for one another.
“I’ve tried to emphasize Coltynn’s many strengths and listen to him when he needed to talk,” Pat explained. “I’ve even learned his favorite candy bar— peanut butter cups!”
Coltynn said he believes Pat has made him feel loved through this whole process. He said his father is also very supportive, and having Pat meet with him once a week at school has been a priority. He said he appreciates most that Pat is trying.
“He understood that I had trouble changing pronouns for a while, and was very gracious with me for doing that,” Pat said.
Since coming out to Pat and starting the transitioning process, Coltynn said he feels more confident in his own skin.
“I have the appearance that I didn’t have before, and people don’t mistake me anymore,” he explained. “I think back to how I felt freshman year, and it’s a dramatic change.”
Pat has also noticed Coltynn’s confidence change. She said when they first met he was kind of a loner. Now, she jokes that he’s too busy for her!
“He’s taken transitioning in stride, made new friends, and came out of himself,” she said.
Coltynn has advice for mentees who are considering transitioning.
“Tell someone you trust,” he said. “It’s not easy, and it’s never going to be easy. The process is slow, but in the long-run, it’ll all be worth it.”
Pat’s advice for mentors— don’t make it about you.
“All you need to do is support and love your mentee,” she explained. “The rest works itself out.”
TeamMates has resources available for mentors and mentees who would like to learn more about diversity, equity, and inclusion. Click here to access our Inclusion toolkit in our Mentor Resource Library.