March 31st is Transgender Day of Visibility. To Celebrate the annual holiday, Grand Rapids Pride Center asked some of our Out and Proud Transgender community members, "What advice would you give to trans and non-binary youth?"
Be true to yourself first and foremost. Sometimes it can be very difficult to be true to yourself, but in the end, I promise, it's worth it.
Second, just as people come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, so does identity. Never let anyone tell you how to look, how to dress, or how to be you. There is no such thing as not being trans enough.
And finally, reach out. There are so many of us in the community - trans, non-binary, even cisgender individuals - who want to help, who are willing to help, and who want to see you succeed. We're here, come talk to us.
I recommend seeking out blog posts, articles, and videos by other trans/non-binary people to experience that representation. Representation for folks like us is incredibly important since our identities and experiences are so often invalidated as confusion or a phase. I'd also encourage you to document your experiences, whether you choose to share them or keep them to yourself. Your journey is important.
I'd also like to take a moment to point out some really, really important things that I wish someone had told me when I was trying to figure things out for myself. Your presentation does not invalidate your identity. Your interest or lack of interest in medical transition does not invalidate your identity. Don't worry about fitting anyone's idea of how you should look, act, or feel. Focus on being comfortable in your own skin and on loving your body and how it works. You know who you are, or if you don't, you'll figure it out. Don't let anybody's interpretation of who you are define you or drag you down. You are valid.
Never be ashamed of who you are! You are beautiful, and capable of anything you put your mind to. Never let anyone bring you down because you do not fit their idea of who you should be. Be you! Love you!
You are real, you are valid, and your instincts are more important than anyone else's opinion. Let yourself be yourself, and know that most people are not going to understand or know what to do, but your love for yourself is the most beautiful and important thing. You will find community. We are out there. I am here, and I do not even have to know you to love you. I believe you, and I trust your intuition. We all need you to be you. Thank you for being you.
Trans youth already know that it's going to be hard. The world isn't ready for us, and most people can't or won't understand us. You may very well not get the acceptance and support that you want and deserve from everyone you love. It's sad and unfair, but it's probably true. Be yourself anyway. Through struggle, through adversity, through heartbreak - be yourself anyway. There is no other choice. I've seen too many late aged adults who say they regret never being honest, never allowing themselves to truly live. Don't waste your life. Don't waste another second. There are people who believe in us and will support us. Find them, and above all else find yourself. Be brave.
I don't know if it's advice or not...try to find ways to show yourself love, self care is important. If your family of origin isn't supportive, look for support from others. embrace the fact that you are a wonderful, glittery unicorn and you don't have to fit into someone else's mold or expectations.
You know yourself better than anyone. It is your body, your transition, your life. Do it your way.
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Become very comfortable and proud of yourself. It takes a pretty big amount of courage to be who YOU are, take self defense classes, also...go buy some good headphones. They help you drown out the idiots
What advice would you give to trans and non-binary youth?
If you would like to contribute your answer to our living document email Jason