These Transgender Teens Are Blowing “Hopeless” Stereotypes Out Of The Water

Photo: Courtesy of Seventeen magazine; Photographed by Andrew Hetherington.
2015 has been a huge year for transgender people. President Obama kicked things off in January by becoming the first president to use the word "transgender" in a State of the Union Address. The world met Caitlyn Jenner for the first time. The incredible Laverne Cox was seemingly everywhere. But as the editors of Seventeen magazine noticed, while successful trans adults were all over the news, trans teens weren’t always part of the coverage — and when they were, they were often portrayed as hopeless and unhappy.

“While it’s true that transgender teenagers have a lot of hurdles to overcome, there are so many trans teens who are thriving and happy and serve as wonderful role models,” says Andrea Stanley, a senior editor at Seventeen. That’s why the magazine decided to introduce readers to five real trans teens who, as Stanley says, are “normal, wonderful, cool people who just want the freedom to be their true selves.”

Stanley spent three weeks traveling around the country to visit these teens in their hometowns, and the resulting story appears in the November 2015 issue of Seventeen. “The teenage years are usually a time of trying to figure out who you are, but these five transgender teenagers are confident and strong in who they are — and I think that’s really saying something," Stanley says.

She hopes the story conveys that gender identity isn’t the dominant topic in these teens' lives: “They’re stressing over grades, friendships, Snapchat — just like any other teenager. And most of their friends don’t even bring it up,” Stanley adds. “In [one teen’s story], her friends ask her about getting her period — that’s how far the fact that their friend is transgender is from their minds. They’re teenagers first.”

Click ahead to meet three teens from the story.
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Photo: Courtesy of Seventeen magazine; Photographed by Andrew Hetherington.
Zoey, 14, California

Zoey (left, pictured with friend Alana, right) says most of her conversations at school revolve around style. “My first style icon was Nicki Minaj, and then it was Ariana Grande, and now it’s Kylie Jenner,” she explains. But the high schooler is happiest being herself. “I actually get a lot of compliments at school,” she says. “People tell me I finally look happy.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Seventeen magazine; Photographed by Andrew Hetherington.
Leo, 19, Michigan

“I’ve gotten to the point where, yeah, I feel attractive,” Leo says. When he posts selfies on Instagram, “People will leave heart-eye emoji,” says the University of Michigan student. “I used to wonder, who would marry a trans person? But now I know these things are possible.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Seventeen magazine; Photographed by Andrew Hetherington.
Brooklyn, 18, Washington

This past spring, Brooklyn (center, pictured with friends Harpinder, left, and Naunkya, right) was voted prom queen at her high school. “It wasn’t the fact I got a lot of votes that made me so happy,” she says. “It was that people reacted in a way that was so accepting. Everyone applauded me and was like, ‘Slay, girl.’ I felt special.”
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Photo: Courtesy of Seventeen magazine.
“I honestly wish everyone could have the opportunity I had, because getting to see these teens in their environment, hanging with friends, interacting with family — there's no way you could feel hatred towards a transgender person,” Stanley says.

To see the full story, pick up the November issue of Seventeen, on newsstands now.