From the time I was eleven I knew I had X-ray vision. I'd seen it on Saturday morning cartoons; my friends would always giggle about it when we'd talk on the playground: "If I had X-ray vision," they'd say, "I'd be able to see right through Jenny's skirt!" Of course I laughed too—apparently I was expected not to be able to see through Jenny's skirt, and it would have ruined the fun if they knew I could.

In high school I experimented some with normal vision. I wanted to make it fit. After all, my friends all learned to drive at sixteen, and it was hard to admit not being able to tell red lights from green. I drove a bit—even passed my license exam with some creativity and the good fortune of a bad proctor—but after a few weeks I began to feign an affection for riding shotgun. No one caught on; and I realize in retrospect it was because no one really cared.

x-ray-heartThrough some discrete conversation, I made friends as a junior with two other kids who were X-ray: a boy named Jake and a girl named Laura. (Saying "have X-ray vision," we began to think, was a little too medical and sterile. We adopted the phrase "being X-ray" as a better description for what we were. It made sense to us, although it was only mildly popular in certain fringe pop-culture.) By day we faked normal vision (which we started calling "sight"), but at night we'd indulge our instincts. It might come as a surprise to those without X-ray vision, but there's a lot to see and experience when you're X-ray that no one ever tells you about. Just because you've always seen that way doesn't mean you know how amazing it can be. At the time, at least, there was no real education for X-rays (everything in school was taught as though "sight" was the rule, and many things just never made sense); so experimenting with Jake and Laura in secret was the best thing I knew.

Up until college, my parents, family, and closest sighted friends didn't suspect anything unusual. When I returned home for my first Christmas break, though, they realized that something was up. Jake and I had gone to the same school and, naturally, we chose to room together as freshmen. During that first break we spent a lot of time hanging out. Of course, that was no surprise. What was unsettling for my parents, however, was that for the first time Jake and I began to feel comfortable enough to explore as X-rays in front of others. (We'd done a bit of public X-ray playing at college, especially amongst other X-rays and at parties, but never outside of those relatively "safe" or anonymous settings.) It started off pretty slowly, but it escalated quickly: the excitement of teasing others—especially since they were totally unprepared—was too enticing. By the time winter break was over, a good number of our family and friends were looking at us differently. They knew we were different, although they didn't quite know why. And I began to embrace it.

Another semester passed, another break. The following winter, Jake and I decided that we'd had enough of keeping our X-ray vision a secret. It was great to command mystique—to turn a few heads from time to time—but the more we developed our identities at school, the more incomplete we felt when we were home. We were both living a double life, and we'd had enough. Our choice to come out as X-ray to our families that Christmas Eve was liberating. I can honestly say that it wasn't motivated by any sort of desire for approval; I'd already overcome that, and Jake, although a bit more self-conscious, was also pretty self-aware. We told our families together (they had become close over the years). The response was mixed: most had caught onto our strange, private glances and snickering. A few guessed that we had a type of vision that they didn't, but they never knew what it was or how it worked. No one knew anything about the depth of the friendship I'd developed with Jake through our shared fate. It was the best part of being X-ray, and something we could now be open and proud about.

I'll be the first to say that some people come out as X-ray for all the wrong reasons. Being X-ray isn't about using your vision just to use it. The adolescent fascination with Superman tends to distort that fact: everyone thinks of X-ray vision as something you can use or not use when you like. (Since Superman could turn his on and off, the stage for misunderstanding was set early on.) Far from it, being X-ray isn't a choice. Sure, some people are "more" X-ray than others—my friend Laura, for example, was a great driver, and could see certain hues that other X-rays could never detect; but she was still a "total" X-ray. There's no doubt that X-ray is something that's part of who you are, not just a 'power' that you get in addition to everything else.

If I had one piece of advice to offer other X-rays, it's that you should never be ashamed of who or what you are. I was lucky that my friendship with Jake paved the way for a great transition to adulthood, which has been fulfilling and exciting. My family—and especially my wife—love that I'm X-ray, and they encourage me constantly to embrace the gifts that my vision brings with it. I realize that not everyone is as fortunate as I was; some struggle through years of pain and rejection—simple disbelief—that their vision could possibly be different from what's "normal." For those people, I'd suggest that perhaps the single greatest treasure of being X-ray is that it is so unbelievable, and that the responsibility that comes with it—when the occasion inevitably arises—affords one of the most beautiful services to mankind of all: namely, to remind people that vision is bigger than sight, and that sometimes another perspective can make something "normally" obscure very clear.

Note: this story represents something real. The names are changed to respect the privacy of those involved.

Andrew M. Haines is the editor and founder of Ethika Politika, and co-founder and chief operating officer at Fiat Insight.