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Although visibility has come far in the trans and gender non-conforming community, it is important that we keep our youth in mind.

Navigating my gender identity as a transgender woman has been an arduous yet fulfilling journey. I grew up during a time when trans visibility wasn’t gaining the traction that we see today. As a young child, growing up in a Southern Baptist family in North Carolina, I was always seen as the black sheep or “the one who stood out”. I loved to wear my grandmother’s high heels and I would wear towels on my head to mimic long, flowing hair. I was mocked and ridiculed in school when all the boys went through puberty, and I was the kid whose voice remained one octave higher than what was preferred. I was called every kind of homophobic slur you can think of, and often I didn’t feel comfortable expressing myself as I felt too alienated. In 2017, following the backlash behind Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Channel 4 interview, Laverne Cox took to twitter, and had this to say: “I was talking to my twin brother today about whether he believes I had male privilege growing up. I was a very feminine child though I was assigned male at birth. My gender was constantly policed. I was told I acted like a girl and was bullied and shamed for that. My femininity did not make me feel privileged.” Laverne went on to say: “So though I was assigned male at birth I would contend that I did not enjoy male privilege prior to my transition. Patriarchy and cissexism punished my femininity and gender nonconformity.” Many transgender men, women and non binary people alike, can relate to having felt punished growing up for not sticking to the status quo of the gender binary, because we were anything but cisgender, even if we did not have the language to understand it. We all know the challenges that come with childhood, as youth navigate school life, peer pressure and puberty, and growing up to find their place in the world. Adding on the layer of being TGNC (transgender/gender non-conforming), reveals a harsh reality. A survey conducted by GLSEN, reveals 65% of transgender students feel unsafe at school, in addition to facing verbal and physical harassment regarding their gender identity. According to The Williams Institute, an estimated 150,000 youth identify as transgender or gender non-conforming (TGNC), making the highest percentage of individuals in the United States who identify as TGNC. These statistics however, underrepresent the vast majority of youth who are unreported and those who have not come out yet.

We’re here, we’re queer, and we belong.

By Linh Cao My heart was pounding in my chest. My breathing was ragged as I squeezed one of my hands with my sweaty palm. I had just come out to a good friend of mine as bisexual and waited patiently for her response. Odds are she wouldn’t reject me outright—we’re millennials in the Bay Area, both having graduated from UC Berkeley. Surely, she’d be open-minded about the whole thing, right? “Dude, that’s awesome!” Exhaling a sigh of relief, I laughed. “I had a girl friend go down on me once too,” she continued, “It was awesome.” I paused. Her reaction was definitely more positive than what the worst-case scenario could have been, but something about that last comment made my stomach churn. I didn’t know what to say so I responded, “So...are you bi too, then?” “Nah, when she asked me to go down on her, I said no, so I’m pretty sure I’m not bi. Vaginas scare me.” Here was a “straight” woman centering herself in the conversation during what I viewed as a pivotal time in our friendship. More than that, she was diminishing my identity as bisexual by comparing it to one hookup that she’d had in the past yet refused to identify herself as bisexual. My friend’s statement was incredibly rude because — and let’s forget the whole bisexual thing for a second—a friend is telling you incredibly personal and huge news—it might just be big enough to change your perspective on said friend or it might not. Either way, your friend is nervous as heck about telling you because there’s stories about people getting hurt when they tell their loved ones about their sexual orientation. Sure, reacting in a friendly way is a good start, but centering yourself in this? It can make your friend feel like you don’t really care about what they’re telling you and that all you care about is talking about yourself and how their news affects you instead of them.

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