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A Transformative Experience: Daniel Ginn finds a home at NKU

Timothy D. Sofranko
Photos by Timothy D. Sofranko, NKU

'No one looks at me like I’m different. These people recognize me for who I am. They respect me ...'

By Daniel Ginn and Ryan Clark
NKU Marketing + Communications

I took out my pen and looked at the summer internship application. It was littered with all those so-called simple questions.

Name. Age. Hometown.

Sex …. You just check a box, Male or Female.

It was no exaggeration to say I had waited my entire life for this moment.

I put pen to paper.

Name: Daniel Ginn.

Age: 20.        

Hometown: Vanceburg, Ky.

Sex: You just check a box.

Male or Female?

You know you’re a girl, right?

I always knew something wasn’t quite right. I could feel it, a bitter uncertainty, from just underneath my skin down to my very core.

Like when I was little, playing outside, and the boys in the family would take off their sweaty shirts, and I would want to do the same.

My dad would look at me and ask, “You know you’re a girl, right?”

I would just walk away, confused.

I spent my childhood in a state of confusion. Growing up in Vanceburg, Ky., a river town in northeastern Kentucky, population 1,460, I found myself attracted to girls.

I was raised in a church, and I felt guilt about liking the same sex.

“Something’s wrong with me,” I thought. “I can’t be like this.”

Throughout middle and into high school I was the model child, never getting into trouble. I consistently made the honor roll and learned that being involved in school helped distract me from the guilt and confusion. I never really dated, and I never really had a lot of friends.

At home, dad worked at a Vanceburg hardware store. Mom was an elementary and middle school teacher with high academic expectations for me.

Then on Christmas day, 2008, mom decided to leave my father. After years of struggle, the marriage just wasn’t working.

My sister, Amanda, who was 11 years older, stepped in to serve as my fill-in mom. Our bond became so strong that I chose Amanda as the first person who would know the truth: I told her I was gay—or at least I thought I might be.

She didn’t flinch.

“It doesn't matter how a person identifies,” Amanda said to me. “All that matters is what is in their heart and soul.”

My “confession” to my sister marked the trailhead of a new path. It had flipped a switch that enlightened me to the world beyond Vanceburg. By the time I was a senior I was ready to leave. I cut my hair short and began packing.

That October I toured NKU and realized it was the place for me—close enough to be with my sister, but far enough from the confusion of my hometown. There were people at NKU who looked very different from what I was used to. I liked that. It felt like a new home.

Do you want to be a boy?

During my first year on campus I roomed with three other young women—one from Cincinnati, one from rural Kentucky, and one from New York City. Together we formed a cultural mosaic of backgrounds and ideals.

What hadn’t changed for me was the impulse to be involved at school. I flung myself into the college experience and before long became an NKU Presidential Ambassador and orientation leader—all the while harboring a secret that even my packed schedule couldn’t mask.

Eventually my roommates caught on that something was wrong. They had already asked me if I was gay, and I told them I was.

Then, one day, one of my roommates raised another question.

“Do you want to be a boy?”

I retreated to my room, alone. I looked in the mirror, something I tended to avoid doing.

I didn’t identify with the person staring back at me. I even resented the person staring back at me. In fact, I never wanted to reference that part of my life—or that person—again.

That is when I made my decision: I did not want the world to see me as a girl anymore.

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NKU Homecoming 2015:

NKU Homecoming, 2015

“In February, I stood among my peers in the NKU basketball arena as students and friends cheered and clapped. As one of five finalists nominated for the 2015 Homecoming Court, I waited alongside my fellow nominees. For so long I’d worried about being accepted, but on that day I was voted by my peers as NKU Prince 2015.

"Never did I ever think in high school that I would win something like this."