Xavier Sayeed: Living Outside the Box


Growing up as a Muslim in Southport Indiana, Xavier Sayeed has never been quite like anyone else. And that’s OK with him.

“It doesn’t bother me to not fit in a box. I’ve always been ok with being a little bit quirky and weird, and I’m still the same way as I always have been”, said Sayeed. “But as you mature thru puberty, and things like that, you are kind of expected to take on specific roles a little bit more, and you’re not just a cute kid running around in this androgynous body with no specific roles or responsibilities. Once you’re hitting puberty, and people are in relationships, it becomes a lot more apparent.”

When Sayeed was a freshman at Perry Meridian High School, he was hit in the face with reality. “I was trying on my orchestra dress, and I looked at myself in the mirror, and I was like ‘I feel like a boy in a dress’. That was my thought. And it was such a weird thing to think. Nothing registered, because I had no clue what that was… what transgender was, or what it really meant.” Sayeed had heard about it, but it wasn’t something people really talked about. At least it wasn’t four years ago.

Shortly after this revelation, Sayeed started binding his chest. He came across a video about binding on YouTube, and decided to give it a try. And the moment he did, all he could think was “This makes me feel really good.”

By the end of his sophomore year, Sayeed worked up the courage to tell his mother. “He probably told me in April, and by July we were starting hormones,” said his mother, Jami Sayeed. “And that’s the truth of it. Once I digested it, I researched, and I knew ‘OK, if I don’t assist him to transition, he’s not going to have a happy life.’”

“I think it was really lucky for me that my mom understood how dire of a need it can be to need the assistance right away,” said Sayeed. “Because a lot of people don’t get that, and they end up having spiraling mental health problems because of it. It’s one of the reasons there’s such a large suicide rate for transgender people, because it really is such a dire need to get to that place where you can feel comfortable just living your life.”

For Sayeed’s mother, it was simply a matter of wanting her happy go lucky child back. There was a period from the time he was 13 till he came out to her that he was obviously unhappy, and she couldn’t stand the thought of watching him suffer any more than he had to.

Prior to this time, there were signs his mother saw that he didn’t fit into a box of what others would characterize as female. He liked to wear men’s clothing, or run outside with no shirt and a baseball hat on backwards. “He never really fit into a box anyway. I mean, he was perpetually outside of the box since birth,” said Sayeed’s mother. “You have these individuals, they tell you to think outside of the box. During his training at school, they would say, ‘Can you get a little bit more IN the box?’”

Shortly after his transition, Sayeed’s life changed for the better. “Once I transitioned, I did theater, I did choir, jazz band, orchestra… I was President of a school club, I was President of a service project, and Vice President of Best Buddies,” said Sayeed. He wanted to do these things before, but was afraid of drawing attention to himself. He didn’t feel comfortable with who he was at the time, so those things remained dormant within him. Afterwards, “it just kind of erupted! It was kind of a good feeling to be able to do that.”

At the end of the day, he had the respect of his peers and his teachers. Even members of the Muslim community respected him, and allowed him to worship with the other men. Sayeed thinks perhaps the best thing he ever could have done for himself was “just live my life and love other people, and try to understand people the best that I could… and hope they would return the favor by trying to understand me a little bit.”

Sayeed’s mother isn’t quite as patient as he is, and admits she still has a lot to learn, “I just want to beat everyone up when they’re mean. My instinct is ‘I just want to get them’. And he’s like ‘You know, I’ve got this, and it’s OK’,” said Jami. “He’s very patient. And he just kind of a works on a person with kindness. ‘Let me greet you… Oh, you’re carrying a box. Let me carry that for you’ He shows them kindness and respect, and he always gets it back in return, ten-fold!”

It’s amazing what you can do with the power of your example, and just treating people by your own standards, and not following theirs.

Photo by Mark A. Lee