the voice and vision of a new generation
Image credit: Owen Logios

Advice to trans youth on self-acceptance, transitioning, and finding your chosen family

March 31, 2019

I am proudly transgender, non-binary, and still exploring the details of my gender identity. For many years, I’ve identified as a transgender woman, but recently I realized that I am in fact non-binary! My story growing up is similar to the feeling of dysphoria that many other trans women have sadly experienced—struggling with my body and the way people perceived me.

As I transitioned and expressed my true self, I began to be correctly seen as female and became much happier with my body. But just as I thought I had come to fully accept my gender identity as a transgender woman, I realized I am non-binary, and becoming who I am in this way was very different. This time around, I only needed euphoria, not dysphoria, to know that I’m non-binary. And instead of being the woman I had wanted to be for so long and comfortably walking through the world without my queerness on display, I now want to be powerfully visible and show off my queerness to the world. Now, I regularly flaunt my they/them pin and trans flag choker, and I even have a non-binary pride flag taped to my door.

Unfortunately, non-binary folks and the transgender community as a whole still lack visibility in media and in everyday society. Because of the lack of role models, many people do not even realize that they are trans until much later in life. Furthermore, the lack of understanding in society makes it difficult and even dangerous for trans people to be visible. This is especially harmful to trans youth, who feel like they are struggling alone with their identity. And that is why Trans Day of Visibility is so important: We need to have trans role models and safe spaces for trans folks to be proud and visible, to let all the trans folks who feel invisible know that they are not alone.

Should you need support, check out the advice below from 12 GLAAD Campus Ambassadors who are transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming identified advocates.

Sawyer Stephenson

University of Oklahoma

The best advice I can give to my fellow trans youth is that your gender identity is valid. Whether you have medically transitioned or not, have come out or not—you are valid. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Ebony Short

Georgia State University

You are valid. No matter what anyone says. Demand respect from people when you’re able. Be bold AND survive.

Trey Shimizu

SUNY Stony Brook University

Advice that I would give to other trans and gender non-conforming youth, is that you don’t owe anyone an explanation for why your gender identity is valid. It’s okay if your own perception of your gender changes over time and if you need to try out different pronouns or names to figure out what feels right. We’re all on our own journey and that journey, for many, doesn’t have a clear path. Don’t worry if it takes some time to figure out who you are because there will always be a community ready to support you on every step of that journey.

Athena Schwartz

University of Utah

My advice to trans* youth would be, don’t listen to anyone who tries to tell you what your identity should look and feel like. Take the time to step away from transphobic people or comments if you are able to. There’s not one way to “look” trans*. Your identity is your own and your gender expression doesn’t have to align with society's standards. You also do not have to feel gender dysphoria to be trans* and your identity can change. It’s ok to not be able to put your identity into words right away. Take time to look at new terms and you can change your label whenever. Reach out to other trans* people you are close with if you feel comfortable. Talk of write or sing about your identity and your understanding of it. Find a way to express yourself even if it’s within yourself. Your feelings are valid. You are not alone, and this community has so much love for you.

Owen Logios

UCONN

Trans youth should be given the space to question their identity, explore their identity, and express their identity however they want to. When I was questioning my identity, I looked to YouTube as a way to educate myself about what it meant to be trans, as well as provide personal narratives to show that trans people can live authentically and not be shamed for it. Social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter are free and accessible ways of obtaining information, and I urge trans youth to look to trans social media influencers who celebrate all identities, not just the ones that are accepted by society and adhere to the binary. Most importantly, to all LGBTQ+ folks, trust yourself and who you are, and don’t let other people extinguish your spirit.

Riley McGrath

Bridgewater State University

Finding your support network (especially allies) that includes other LGBT people is very important, especially when you don’t have a supportive family. Hopefully you’ll find your chosen family in your support network. Finding trans folks (even on social media) like Laverne Cox, Chaz Bono, Jazz Jennings and Jamie Clayton to look up to may help you through the ups and downs of your transition. Transitioning and coming out isn’t easy but don’t forget to be your unique and amazing self and don’t forget who you truly are!

AJ Lawrence

Berkelee College of Music

Go after the people and things you love. Make them your muses and outlets. I feel like not a lot of people do that so it’s important to have that activity or group of friends that respect you as a human being. The activities are creative outlets, and everything else will fall into place.

Briannah Hill

University of Colorado, Boulder

To the youth of the trans community I want you all to stop and love yourself, there is no way to be trans. You are yourself first before anyone else’s definitions. I love you all you are all the future and I am so proud of you.

Daniel Camacho

The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

In this political climate, the best advice I can give to other trans youth is to hold on and take care of yourself. As trans people, we often face incredible amounts of stigma and prejudice. Existing is resistance. Taking care of yourself is resistance.

This one took me a long time to learn—especially once I started becoming a part of activist circles. Self-care fell to a lower spot in my priorities.

Do the things that you need to do to be happy, healthy, and as comfortably here as you can, when you can.

Jayson Bijak

University of Houston

There’s no rulebook on how to be trans. There is no right or wrong way to be trans. You are allowed to be confused, you are allowed to question, to change, to be you. Play with gender. Cut your hair or grow it out. Wear make-up or don’t! Try a different name. Switch your pronouns, change them back, then try new ones. You are in charge of your own sense of gender, you can transition however you want, whenever you want. You will never be too young or too old to figure out your identity. So take the time to get to know yourself. Remember that you are real, that your feelings are valid, and that you are loved. You are loved.

Mason Bernardo

Western Washington University

Keep fighting. Being a human in our time is no cake walk, and being trans certainly doesn’t help. Do whatever you can to keep your chin up. Surround yourself with the things that make you happy, surround yourself with the people who make you happy, and be proud of yourself and however much progress you’ve made. Remember it’s okay to not be okay. Be gentle with yourself when you’re not feeling great and when things aren’t going your way. Do what you can to take care of yourself, and remember that you are loved and cared about.

Ose Areheghan

Ohio State University

My advice to other trans youth is to make progress at your own pace. Not everyone lives in an environment were being out and proud is an option and that’s incredibly valid. Everyone’s journey is going to look different and you shouldn’t feel pressure to match the pace of anyone else.

Aria Tejano is a GLAAD Media Institute Intern. Aria is a second year student at Columbia University studying political science and history.

the voice and vision of a new generation