Trans Teens Are Sharing Their Inspiring Personal Stories In Hopes Others Will Do The Same

    Meet the first five trans youths featured in the TRUTH storytelling campaign by the Transgender Law Center and GSA Network.

    TRUTH, a national campaign hoping to start a "storytelling movement" for trans and gender nonconforming youth, launched today with the release of five videos featuring trans people and their families.

    15-year-old Danny Reinan is an avid artist. They identify as non-binary and use "they/them" pronouns.

    Danny and their parents, John and Monica, live in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

    What is one thing you hope people take away from your story?

    Monica & John: "We hope both transgender and cisgender people come away struck by how normal -- and, ideally, relatable -- we are. We hope trans people see us as fellow travelers, trying to clear the way toward a happy life for our trans child. We hope cis people see us as their neighbors, too, striving as parents to make good decisions about our child, with an extra challenge thrown in."

    Danny: "What I really want is for all of the people of the world, both transgender and not transgender, to be open and willing to accept and learn about new possibilities. Many of the people I've met who reacted with anger, disbelief, or hostility upon hearing me speak openly about my gender identity seemed to be merely unsure of how to wrap their heads around a very new concept. And, really, it's understandable. For many years, people all across the world have been conditioned to believe that there are only two genders - male and female. When you encounter someone who challenges a universal norm that has been in place since before you were even born, it's perfectly reasonable to be confused."

    What is one piece of advice you would give to young trans kids?

    Monica & John: "Know that you will find your people -- maybe not right away, but in time. Don't give up; you are stronger than you think. Listen to that still, small voice within, and don't let anyone suggest that they know you better than you know yourself."

    Danny: "You're not alone. As cheesy as it may sound, it's the truth. When I first came out as non-binary nearly 3 years ago, resources for people like myself were rather scarce. I grappled with my gender identity for nearly 13 years, feeling lost, alone, and even broken simply because I had no idea that non-binary identities existed. I can say with utmost certainty that if I had known about non-binary identities earlier on in my life, I would undoubtedly feel more confident and secure in who I am. While the world still has a very long way to go before transgender youth can confidently say that they feel completely safe, understood, and accepted, in these 3 short years, I've witnessed lots of changes for the better."

    13-year-old Zoey Luna's favorite part of school is attending drama and acting class. She has identified as transgender for as long as she can remember.

    Her mother, Ofelia, understood Zoey was trans from the time she was about 4 years old.

    What is one thing you hope people take away from your story?

    Ofelia: "One of the most important things I hope someone takes away from hearing our story would be that they can learn to love themselves and others for who they are authentically."

    Zoey: "I hope that when people hear my story they are inspired to be themselves and love themselves. There is too much hate and negativity in this world and I hope I can change that. I want people to know that they are not alone."

    What is one piece of advice you would give to young trans kids?

    Ofelia: "Keep yourself close to people who love and support you, and if you do not have that in your immediate surroundings then search for it, search for a supporting community, seek out community advocates and allies. There are so many LGBTQ centers full of wonderful people that can guide you through your transition. And please above all stay with us and do not give up!"

    Zoey: "You need to know that it's going to be hard before it gets easier. You need to be patient and at the same time proud of every mountain you climb."

    High school senior Ashton Lee realized he was trans in kindergarten when the teacher would split the class up into boys and girls.

    What is one thing you hope people take away from your story?

    Catherine (Ashton's mom): "I want people to understand that transgender children are a little different than most children, but in most ways they are the same. They want to be accepted for who they are, and with love and kindness they can and do thrive."

    Ashton: "At the end of the day everyone is complex and multi-faceted. You can't really know someone until you've heard their story. I want people to walk away knowing that no matter how much someone differs from you, at their core they are human."

    And one piece of advice you would give to young trans kids?

    Catherine: "Acceptance is a process. With patience and a healthy attitude many loved ones will come to a place of accepting you for who you are— and if not, then you have options for getting support through many community resources."

    Ashton: "Allow yourself to ignore what people say. When I was first beginning my transition I thought I had to listen to other people's ideas of what being transgender means, instead of allowing myself to discover what it means to me. I wish someone had told me that it's okay to explore and develop your own understanding."

    16-year-old Crystal, who loves singing and drawing in her spare time, also began identifying as trans at a very early age.

    Her parents often drive her long distances from their home in Kentucky for medical care, a task they take on gladly for their daughter.

    What is one thing you hope people take away from your story?

    Crystal: "I want people to understand I'm just like anyone else. You might not think I am, but I'm being my authentic self. That's the only thing you can do in life — or [else] your life isn't yours, because you're pretending to be something you're not."

    And one piece of advice you would give to young trans kids?

    Crystal: "People who are coming out as trans need to come out when they feel it's the right time for them. To be your authentic self, you need to listen to yourself and your heart – not to somebody else."

    Foster is pursuing a degree in public health at Tulane University.

    The 18-year-old finds being a part of LGBT organizing in Alabama, and throughout the south, to be "healing."

    Foster: "My life in Alabama has been full of love and support, and I want people to understand that trans youth have so many different experiences (good and bad) in the South. I want people who watch my video to be inspired to learn more about the complexities of being trans in the South and about the amazing things that are happening to fight for justice here."

    Foster: "When I was first coming to terms with my gender identity I was so worried about telling people because I didn't feel "trans enough." Who you are will always, always be enough. Exploring labels and ways of looking at your gender is so healthy and even if you change your mind about what fits a thousand times all you are doing is getting to know yourself. Change is ok. Confusion is ok."

    Find out more about the TRUTH campaign here.