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What Transgender Individuals Want You Know – And How You Can Be a Better Ally

Teens and adults share their transgender journeys. Discover their stories and learn how to be an informed ally.

Recent surveys have highlighted a stark reality: 71% of transgender and nonbinary youth say they have faced discrimination due to their gender identity. This statistic underscores the urgent need for more supportive environments and communities where transgender individuals can feel safe and validated.

In response to this need, we wanted to bring the stories of some incredible transgender teens and adults to the forefront. Through their narratives, they share the nuances of their lives, the aspects that are most dear to them, and offer guidance for those on their own journey of self-discovery regarding gender identity.

We hope you read these stories with an open heart. They aim not only to inspire but also to educate teens and their parents about the transgender community. By doing so, we hope to illuminate the paths to becoming an effective and empathetic ally.

‘Joy is Integral’

Tash Oakes-Monger knows it isn’t easy to always find the bright spots as a trans teen in today’s world. They began writing about their experience in the pandemic and focused heavily on the joy to be found within the trans community and individually.

“Joy is integral to my trans experience; it is the part of me that believed my life could be different, the part of me that carries my body into the streets to protest injustice, the part of me that I am most proud of. I do not think that joy is a luxury. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is utterly essential. Trans joy is the transcendent part of us that cannot be taken, for nobody owns it.”

Tash Oakes-Monger

They just wrote a book All The Things They Said We Couldn’t Have: Stories of Trans Joy and said it was specifically for the younger version of themselves “who didn’t know that so much joy was on its way.”

Tash knows so much of the coverage of transgender stories can often feel negative and hopes to encourage other young people to find the joys in their lives. For them, it’s going for a walk in nature, watching the leaves change.

It actually is really lovely, and there are so many examples of transness and being able to dream and change into something else and allow the parts of yourself that you want to exist to exist outside in nature,” they said in an interview. “Finding those little spaces for that can be a saving grace.”

Tash knows they can find joy easier now that they have a community and that it isn’t always easy. But you can look for joy in between any of the tough moments.

“Joy is different from happiness. You can have a really terrible material situation and still find pockets of joy,” they said. “Even when I was a really unhappy, closeted trans person, I still had moments of trans joy, even though I didn’t necessarily understand the full extent of it.”

One of the things that helped Tash, may help you if you’re struggling. They keep a “happy book” and write down three things every day that made them feel happy or joy. It is not always easy, but Tash has found those help them go to bed and focus on those bright spots. And it can be simply. Some days, one entry can just be about the weather.

One of the things that I do is keep what I call a happy book, where I write three things every day that made me happy or made me feel joy. And that’s something I’ve done for a really long time, and that helps me just before I go to bed to focus on three things that stuck out from the day that were good. They’re not always the most exciting things. It can just be “it was sunny”.

‘We Are All Diamonds’

One of the phrases that has guided Landon throughout his life is a phrase he was told at an early age at home: “We are all diamonds.”

It is something that guides the now-college student, and he feels is important to share with people as he tries to educate others about how they look at gender identity.

“We are all Diamonds. We have different sides and different faces and different angles. Each of those different parts make up the whole, beautiful gem. One part of that is being transgender for us. That’s not the entire diamond. We’re singers, photographers, athletes, politicians, musicians. That makes us beautiful. Not being trans – that’s not the only thing that makes us that diamond. We’re so much more.”

Landon, College Student

Landon, who is getting ready to graduate from college, is also a gifted musician and artist. The trumpet, he says, is a way he can help convey emotions and moods. He believes that part of his life should matter just as much to people who seek to label him.

‘You Belong’

Rebekah, 16, loves to play field hockey with her friends. From the time she was young, she was gravitating to more “typically feminine” things she says, dressing up in her mom’s old dance recital costumes.

She stumbled into advocacy when she spoke with her mom at a rally in New Jersey, saying that transgender kids like her deserve support. Rebekah hopes her activism can help every child know they deserve to discover both who they are – and thrive as their true selves without so much judgment or even reaction.

“We don’t have to make it a big deal. We don’t have to question someone’s identity when it’s not even ours and it’s not our business. Your other hobbies and your other pieces of your identity are just as important as you being trans. You belong.”

Rebekah, 16

‘You Can Be Yourself And Do What You Love’

Swimming has been an integral part of Schuyler Bailar’s life since he was a child. He put in hours of practice as a young athlete, eventually becoming a nationally ranked swimmer by the age of 15.

But there soon came a time where Schuyler felt his life break in two. He realized he was transgender and worried about what that meant.

“Do I choose swimming, and being good at swimming, or do I choose myself and my happiness?” he remembers thinking. “This felt like choosing myself and choosing myself, because I’ve been an athlete as long as I’ve been myself.”

Schuyler ended up choosing to be on the men’s swimming team, a difficult choice, but one he said he made thanks to support and coaches at Harvard. Schuyler became the first transgender athlete to compete in any sport on an NCAA Division 1 team. That put Schuyler in the spotlight, but one, he said was deliberate as he continued to speak out as an advocate.

“I made a very conscious decision to be open about my journey to share myself because as a kid I never saw people like me in the media and more importantly in athletics and I wanted kids like me to see somebody like them in media, in athletics.”

Schuyler Bailar explains in a TED talk he gave

Schuyler knows he plays a role different from other trans people because he has continued to compete in his sport. And that’s not by accident.

“It’s so important to me to show that you can be trans and you can be yourself and do what you love,” he explains. “Because I think when I was younger, I always thought that I was going to have to give up my sport or give up being myself in order to do my sport and that was a terrifying thought and I hit myself for a long time because of that and I don’t have to hide myself anymore and I can still do what I love and I’m happy I’m successful and I’m healthy and I think that’s really amazing and I want kids to know that that’s possible.”

How Allies Can Support Transgender Youth

Being an ally to transgender individuals involves respectful and considerate interactions. We dove into many resources from top organizations championing transgender rights and transgender youth and teens to understand the biggest ways allies can help. Here are some important tips to consider.

Understand pronoun usage: If you’re unsure about someone’s pronouns, listen to how others refer to them. If needed, introduce yourself with your pronouns and ask theirs in return. Remember, if you make a mistake, apologize and move on without overemphasizing the error.

If you’re unsure where you start, watch this short film below about the importance of pronouns.

Educate yourself properly: Organizations like PFLAG and The Trevor Project offer resources and guides about being a transgender ally. They provide deeper insights and practical advice for being a supportive ally and help offer good background about transgender history and offer many educational resources.

Respecting someone’s privacy: Avoid making assumptions about a transgender person’s sexual orientation or sharing their story without consent. Transitioning is a personal journey and does not conform to a single narrative. It’s inappropriate to ask invasive questions about a person’s body, medical history, or life prior to transition.

Be aware of microaggressions: Comments like “You don’t look trans!” may seem complimentary but can be hurtful. They imply that being transgender is undesirable. It’s essential to be aware of such microaggressions and be open to learning from feedback.

Respect is fundamental: You don’t have to fully understand someone’s gender identity to respect it. Respect is fundamental in all interactions.

Pay attention to your language: Be aware of gendered language in everyday use. Terms like “ladies and gentlemen” or “guys” can inadvertently exclude or misgender people. Try adopting more inclusive language and encourage others to do the same.

Remember, being an ally is about continuous learning and respect. It’s about supporting individuals in their unique experiences and journeys.

Disclaimer: This website offers general information and is not a substitute for professional advice. We are not clinicians or trained professionals; this information should not replace seeking help from a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult a healthcare provider for personalized guidance.