12 Photos Show What It's Really Like To Grow Up Trans

Photo: Courtesy of Annie Tritt.
Photographer Annie Tritt started Transcending Self, her ongoing project about transgender youth, with one goal in mind: to create something real and honest. In an interview with Refinery29, she explains why: "When people are authentically themselves, they tend to be happy and we tend to be inspired by them." She wanted to capture a group of people who weren't afraid to be themselves in front of the camera, and children naturally came to mind. "Try to get a five-year-old to do anything they don’t want to do," Tritt says with a laugh. "It’s impossible."

Tritt met her first subjects through the Northern California branch of Gender Spectrum, an organization that provides support for young trans people. Since then, parents have connected her with other families from around the country and overseas, while teens and young adults have started reaching out to her on their own.

In addition to photographing her subjects, Tritt also works with them to craft personal stories to go along with their photos. She'll call or email them first, then go speak with them in person, but nothing is recorded or written down until after that. Tritt gives them (or, for subjects who are still very young, their parents) a list of questions, which they answer when they're alone.

"After we’ve already discussed the project and they write it out, it’s very meaningful, what they’re saying, because they’re really thinking through what they’re saying, how they’re saying it, and what they want people to know," she says. "[The project] as a whole really tells an important story. Some people are choosing to say really positive things. Some people are sharing what’s really hard."

Tritt hopes that presenting her viewers with a wide variety of stories will counteract any preconceived notions they may have about transgender people. She explains that changing people's minds about the transgender experience is a matter of exposure.

"People are often so scared and judgmental [about] what they don’t know. Once they're exposed and open to it, it can change so many things," she says. "Visibility is what [changes] that."

Click through to meet some of the young people who appear in Transcending Self. You can donate to help further Tritt's work here.

Captions have been edited for length and clarity.
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Photographed by Annie Tritt.
Riley Alexis, 20, Agender, North Switzerland.

The following was written by Riley Alexis.

At what age did you first understand that you were not the gender that you were assigned at birth? Do you know how you realized it?
"It took me years. I was aware all the time that something was not right, that something was not working. Only after years of intensive researching online, I found a great online community of queer and gendervariant people who gave me access to all this information. It was a place where I felt wanted and where I felt that I belong. The feeling that I finally [had] a word to describe myself was incredible, empowering even."

At what age did you first express your gender to someone? How did that feel?

"It first started to feel real was when I met my amazing and very supportive queer peer group and friends. Being around people who acknowledged my identity was very helpful for me — I felt accepted. I put more time, thought, and energy into exploring my gender identity and gender expression. And I am still exploring and finding myself. I think this is something many can relate to — we are always reflecting and figuring out who we are and what we want. It’s a lifelong journey and it’s wonderful to understand your self more and more, and to learn more and more about yourself over the years."

What challenges have you faced with respect to your gender or your transition?
"Facing and dealing with depression and dysphoria is quite a struggle on its own. As well as people staring on the streets, or on public transportation — to verbal and even sexual assaults. But I think most frustrating is the feeling of having no self-determination. For everything about you or your body — you have to wait for a doctor’s approval. Document changes, HRT*, etc., take a lot of time, energy, and money for what is mostly just waiting. It feels like some stranger has more rights about your body than you do. I want to be able to make my own decisions for my own life and body without needing approval from several doctors."

Anything else you'd like share?
"Lastly, I want to say something for all the young trans*, inter*, and gender non-conforming people out there — you are valid, your lives matter. You are so beautiful and you are so important. Let no one ever tell you otherwise."

*HRT: hormone replacement therapy
*people who are outside of this gender binary
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Photographed by Annie Tritt.
Ellie, 6, transgender girl, Washington D.C.

The following was written by Ellie's parents.


"Starting well before age 4, Ellie consistently and persistently told us she was a girl in many ways. The most clear was, 'I'm a girl in my heart and my brain.' She drew herself as a stick figure girl, said she was a girl — often many times a day when playing: 'I'm the girl Power Ranger, I'm Wonder Woman, Spider Girl, Bat Girl, etc.'

"Around 4 and a half, we purchased a whole 'girl' wardrobe after a tantrum one morning about having to wear 'boy' underwear. Shortly after, we began calling her Ellie and 'she/her,' completing her social transition. It was at this time that our daughter truly emerged. She has blossomed, is happier, and just seems more herself. (Ellie chose her new name by the way. It's the name of her lovey, and it means 'shining light')."
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Photographed by Annie Tritt.
Jay (left) and his twin, 5, Central England.

The following was written by Jay's parent.

How did your child express their gender to you? Can you recount that experience?
"One day, when Jay was almost 4 and a half, he said out of the blue 'Mummy, can you ask people to stop calling me "she" and "her" now? It makes me sad.' This was the real turning point; we had to make a decision to support him and to change pronouns. Up until then, it was ‘just’ clothes and he was ‘just’ a tomboyish girl. At that stage he hadn’t mentioned a name change, so we had an awkward (for me — Jay was overjoyed at us using 'he' and 'him') few months of using his birth name alongside male pronouns. We told him Lily could be a boy’s name because he was a boy, but he decided he would like a name which would be seen as a boys name, and settled on Jay (J for John, like Daddy’s name)."

How do you think your child felt when they were living as their true gender other than the one assigned at birth?
"Jay says he is so happy to be addressed using his male name and pronouns; sometimes, he gets a little sad at being misgendered (he has long hair), but mostly, he is happy to just correct people and carry on. He loves knowing that people who are important to him see him as male, and absolutely beams when those he loves most use male orientated terms of endearment. He will sometimes seek reassurance from me that everyone in our lives definitely knows he’s a boy, and when I confirm again that they do, I can see how happy that makes him."

Have people you know been supportive?
"Almost everyone has been supportive, including some people who admit they don’t understand but want to fully support us anyway. The main area we felt we were lacking in support was from our church. We would have liked to have been given the opportunity to try and educate them, and feel that had we been able to do so, there were people who were open to hearing us out. We gave the leadership an ultimatum — we would leave if Jay couldn’t be supported fully — and so in the end, we had to move to a different church. Our new church community embraced Jay’s chosen name with so much love and acceptance."

What do you want people to know about your child?
"I want people to know my child is a human being, that his existence and his identity are valid. And that other people’s ignorance is not an excuse to mistreat the transgender community. Jay would want you to know that he’s a boy, that his favorite color is orange, and that he loves Spiderman."

Anything else you'd like to share?

"So far, we are lucky that Jay has not experienced any gender dysphoria, I’ve heard of children as young as five or six being desperately unhappy with their bodies and really feel for them and for their families. We have discussed with Jay that although most girls have vaginas and most boys have penises, there absolutely are boys with vaginas and girls with penises. So he is happy enough to be a boy with a vagina for now, and I hope we can help him to navigate the approach to puberty."
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Photographed by Annie Tritt.
Leah*, 4, transgender girl, Northwest California.

The following was written by Leah's parents, Bree and Brandon*.

At what age did your child first express their true gender? How did that feel?
Bree:
"One big sign was around potty training. After months of failing to potty train her, we began to realize that part of her issue was that she didn't want to wear the underwear we gave her. She asked for 'princess' underwear.' Once we switched to pink frilly princess underwear, she was potty-trained within a few days. That was right before she turned 3.

"Then, there was the final moment that led to her transition. She had a hard time using the right pronouns for men and women. She would call her female teachers 'he.' I tried to teach her: 'R__'s a girl, call her 'she,' and she responded, 'I'm a girl, too, call me "she."' We transitioned a few days after that, about a month after she turned 3."

How does your child express their gender?
Brandon:
"The most powerful expression our child gives of her gender is the consistency and the conviction with which she says she's a girl. It is interesting to note that our child doesn't express her gender in every way that is stereotypically female. She prefers female clothing, long hair, and her best friends tend to be girls, but she also often plays with boys and with 'boy' toys. She eschews dolls for trains and trucks. But this would probably be true for many non-transgender girls if there weren't such strong social signals guiding them to certain kinds of behaviors."

What challenges has your child faced with respect to their gender?
Both:
"We know that there are many unsupportive (or even dangerous) people out there who we haven't met. We are cautious about revealing her status to strangers until she has reached an age where she can decide for herself how and when to reveal. As we move toward starting kindergarten, summer camps, and other situations where we won't always know every adult around her, it's a little frightening. And then there will be the more banal (but still serious) concerns such as how to get school documents to use the right pronouns, and how to keep teachers from 'outing' Leah accidentally when they call roll from the official class list, since we have to enroll her with the name on her birth certificate, Leo."

What are some of you or your child’s hopes and dreams?
Bree:
"I asked Leah if she wants to be a mom. She answered no — she wants to stay a kid. Leah usually evades questions about growing up. I wonder if she knows that she's not a typical girl, and doesn't want to think about it. She's also only 4."

Anything else?
Brandon:
"We didn't always have the level of knowledge and acceptance of transgender issues that we now have, and will no doubt continue to gain. Though we have lived in an open-minded environment, we did not go out of our way to support the transgender cause until it touched us so intimately. I have a certain amount of empathy for the discomfort this issue causes so many people. I hope that the more the skeptics come into personal contact with transgender people, the more this issue will fade into irrelevance."

*Names have been changed.
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Photographed by Annie Tritt.
Glenn*, 14, transgender male, Central Maryland.

The following was written by Glenn.

At what age did you first understand your true gender? How did you know to trust yourself?
"I only completely figured it out a few months ago. In fact, I’d still say I haven’t 100% ever fully figured it out. But the first time I properly questioned my gender was when I was about 6."

How did you first express your true gender? Can you recount that experience for us?
"I expressed it by telling my mom I wanted boy’s underwear instead of girl’s. I ended up getting spiderman underwear. I also would watch a lot of Saturday morning cartoons and always saw the awesome guys and would think 'Wow, they’re a lot like me!'"

How did it feel when you were living as your true gender other than the one assigned at birth?
"It honestly feels like I am just being myself. I’m not living in the shell that I had thought I’d be stuck in. As one of my swim coaches put it, I know who I am."

Have people you know been supportive?
"Yes, when I first came out to my best friend, she immediately took to calling me Glenn. When I came out to another one of my friends, she too liked the name, and began calling me Glenn around others and correcting everyone."

What do you want people to know about you? What is special about you?
"I know that I don’t fit all of society’s gender roles. For example, I have fairly long hair. I do like to paint my nails. I wear makeup to cover up acne and pimples and such. I cry. I like sewing and watching Project Runway with my mom. What’s special about me is that I don’t fit all of the male roles, and that’s okay too."

Anything else you'd like to share?
"I love our dog Ellie, who has actually helped me a lot. My family is known to speak up to each other about certain topics that can be a bit touchy at times. Ellie has calmed down a lot of tension between us. Also, she’s always there for a hug when I have a bad day."

What would help someone better understand what it means to be transgender? What have been some of the greatest challenges of being transgender?
"What would really help someone understand the challenges of being transgender would be for it to be better known that we exist. Transgender people don’t get very much representation in the media. The few big names are good influences, but we need more people who are comfortable speaking out about the challenges we can face. One of the biggest challenges of being transgender is that you are always worrying about if people will accept you if they know you’re trans. For me, I introduce myself as Glenn, but am still often just mistaken for a butch lesbian. If I correct someone, I’m always afraid of a 10-minute rant about how being transgender is a sin, or how we’re all faking it for attention, or that we’re all mentally ill and need help."

*Name has been changed.
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Photographed by Annie Tritt.
Lilly, 12, transgender girl, North Central California.

The following was written by Lilly's parent.

At what age do you think your child first understood their true gender?
"She started presenting as a girl as early as age three (preferring traditional girl toys, clothing, colors, being drawn to and fascinated by princesses). I took her to the high school production of Cinderella, and from the moment she left the theater, she was about all things Cinderella. She was 4 years old then. While Lilly knew exactly who she was, it took me a few years to accept and embrace it completely. All I ever really needed to do was follow her lead, listen to her, embrace what she loved and was passionate about. Lilly, at age 8, told her mom — in no uncertain terms — that she was a girl. Truth is, in my mind, she always has been. "

How do you think your child felt when they were living as their true gender?
"Lilly made the complete transition from home to the public when it was 'make-up' picture day at her school. It was fourth grade. She’d started the year presenting as a boy, was clearly unhappy, but anxious about the change. On the morning of that day before school, she told her mom she was going as a girl. She wanted that picture to represent who she truly was. It was also scary for her, but she had the courage to be who she is."

What do you want people to know about your child? What is special about your child?
"There is so much that is special about Lilly. She is bright, perceptive, inquisitive, witty. She has a great sense of humor. She loves dance and she loves to sing and is good at both. She loves shopping, make-up, spiked shoes, all things fashion. She is enamored of Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift. She makes videos on her iPad. She is creative and can be very pensive. Lilly understands both genders — she has said so and knows she is in a unique position to do this. She has taught me so much about patience and courage. She feels things very deeply. She has a strong presence."

Anything else you'd like to share?
"In my case, my wife helped me to understand and accept Lilly being transgender much faster than I probably would have on my own. All families, with open hearts and minds, can accept and love each other fully for whatever their choices are. Lilly’s older brother and sister have also loved her unconditionally and deeply. They have had their questions and fears as well, and they have been willing to face those and work through them. We all bring gifts to each other — we often don’t see them as the gifts they are until we have had time to fully understand them."

What would help someone better understand what it means to be transgender?
"Simply to take the time to know a person who is transgender."
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Photographed by Annie Tritt.
Jake*, 8, transgender boy, Central Illinois.

The following was written by Jake's parent.

How did your child express their gender to you? Can you recount that experience for us?
"By 6, my son was seeing a therapist who specialized in gender issues, he presented male (meaning he had short hair, wore all boys' clothes) and had asked us to stop correcting people when they mistook him for a boy. I knew he wanted to transition, but we were following his lead and he had not come to me and my husband to say, 'This is what I want.' Instead, he waited for parent-teacher conferences, second grade. He sat quietly the whole time, until the teacher asked him if he had anything he wanted to add. It was then that he said, 'I want to go by a boy’s name and I want people to start calling me "he" and "him".' I remember feeling totally blindsided and yet, not at all surprised."

How did you know to trust this?

"I didn’t want to trust it. I had no knowledge of the transgender experience, what it meant, how beautiful and unique it was. To me, it was the end of our worlds, and so I didn’t force or oppose him, but I didn’t encourage him. I was very scared and I think that he was scared, too. I think it’s normal to be scared about such a huge step, but it didn’t stop us from taking it."

How do you think your child felt before they were living as their true gender other than the one assigned at birth?
"He often told us how sad he felt, being called a girl. There were many days he’d come home from school crying, because some boys wouldn’t let him play with them, because he 'was a girl' or because the teachers had divided classes up by gender again, and he had been pointed out as going to the 'wrong' side, when he followed the boys."

What challenges has your child faced with respect to your or your child’s gender?
"We chose to withdraw him from public school and homeschool. He was experiencing anxiety, possibly related to his transition or possibly related to math, but either way, I knew he needed a chance to be free of that stress. A year later, and he’s anxiety free. We also moved towns. He transitioned in the middle of second grade, in the middle of a small town, and everyone knew. He wanted a chance to be like any other boy, and not constantly called by the wrong name or pronoun by accident. We are all much happier where we are now."

What do you want people to know about your child? What is special about your child?
"He’s cool, I mean, really cool. He likes Pokémon and Minecraft and making up really stupid jokes. He’s so kind and gentle and generous of spirit. He believes in helping others and protecting the weak and defending those who can’t defend themselves, and I love that about him. His gender doesn’t define him; I won’t let it and he won’t let it."

What are some of your child’s hopes and dreams?
"He wants to help other kids like him, kids that maybe don’t have parents who are supportive. When he hears stories about children who aren’t 'allowed' to express their true genders, he gets very sad about it."

What would help someone better understand what it means to be transgender?
"I’ve always liked the analogy that a friend of ours, Hannah Simpson, made. She compares being transgender to handedness. How do you know you’re right-handed or left-handed? No one tells you. You just know. And when you put something in the wrong hand, you know then, too. You know it feels wrong, not right. That’s how gender is. When a trans person is walking around the world in the gender they’re not, they know it feels wrong. They just know. And when they transition, when they live authentically, it’s like picking up a pencil in the right hand. It feels good — it feels natural and organic and right."

*Name has been changed.
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Photographed by Annie Tritt.
Hayley, 14, Liverpool, U.K.

The following was written by Hayley.

At what age did understand your true gender?
"I realized at the age of 6, and from then on was I forever different, acting different, wanting to wear girls’ clothes — makeup and high heels. I didn't know how to tell anyone, since I was so young."

How did you express it? Can you recount that experience?
"I simply just sat down next to my mum and said I want to be a girl, and then we had a conversation about it, but, because I was young, we waited until I got older. She said if I felt the same to go back to her. I waited until I was 11, so I waited five years, and I told her again, and then the journey started when I was 13."

How did it feel when you were living as your true gender other than the one assigned at birth?
"When I started living as a girl, I felt free to express who I really am and was meant to be. To others, I have always been Hayley and female. They sometimes forget that I wasn't born female and that makes me happy, because I just want people to have the thought that I was born female and always have been Hayley."

What are some of you or your child’s hopes and dreams?

"My hopes and dreams are the same as most probably anyone else's: to get the job I want, to get a good house with a good car, to have a great partner to share it all with me, and to have two amazing children who will grow up to be amazing people who don't judge people like this generation seems to do."

What would help someone better understand what it means to be transgender?
"People who think it's any kind of choice are very, very wrong. I don't see why anyone would choose to go down a very difficult road, but that's what makes us such strong people, to be able to be born a way we didn't want to be then have to put up with other people [being] against us. We rise above it because we have bigger problems of our own and don't need their input on our lives."

What have been some of the greatest challenges of being transgender?
"The greatest challenge is seeing other people of the gender you wish to be all happy and then you think to yourself, why couldn't I have been born like that instead of the opposite?"
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Photographed by Annie Tritt.
Kura*, 13, Northern California.

The following was written by Kura and her parents.

Kura, when did you first understand your true gender?
"I have known forever — it wasn’t a decision or anything. I was always a girl. I didn’t wonder about whether I was a girl or boy. I just knew."

When did you first understand your child’s true gender? At what age did your child first express that to you?
"Once Kura was preschool-age – 2-ish — it was clear to us how deeply ingrained her gender identity was. Our house was strewn with Barbies and 'my little ponies,' the bath-tub full of mermaids of every variety. Nightgowns were the only acceptable sleep attire, and her little brother was forced to watch hours of Disney Princess movies.

"Preschool educators and other parents made a point about how young kids experiment with gender and try on different identities. Even though we tried to be balanced in supporting our happy and active preschooler, we knew at a gut level that Kura was not experimenting. It was then that we started our research into gender identity and were fortunate to find like families in our area and a nascent movement of support. Once we connected with these families, things really fell into place for us."

How do you think your child felt when they were living as their true gender other than the one assigned at birth?
"I think when Kura was little, it was a constant stressor for us knowing that her outward presentation, name, and inner self didn’t all align. We tried to avoid labels and were really cautious about looking out for her in every new situation, calling the adults ahead to explain what they would see, hanging out when she played with new friends to help answer questions, etc. We still are always anxious about how the world will treat her, but she passes easily as female and now with her dress, name, pronouns, and social world aligned as female, there is less constant anxiety and we aren’t on high alert."

Have people you know been supportive?
"I suspect that some of our friends and family were disbelieving in the earlier years that Kura’s gender identity was 'true.' Until she was about 9 or 10, I am quite confident that even some of our closest friends disagreed with our open, active, and declarative embrace of her gender identity. I believe the skepticism — or criticism — almost always came from a place of both fear and good will. I think our friends who weren’t 'all in' just didn’t want her (or us) to have pain or struggle."

What challenges have you, or your child, faced with respect to your or your child’s gender?
Kura
: "TOO MANY blood tests!!!"
Parents: "One of the biggest challenges as a parent is that you have no choice but to become a vocal advocate for your child. Every public and social situation requires forethought and advance planning. Wanting a young child to be able to be themselves without scrutiny or criticism means deciding if a new social situation is safe and/or what needs to happen to make it safe."

What are some of you or your child’s hopes and dreams?
Kura:
"To get estrogen and be a full girl — and then be a famous artist."
Parents: "Our hopes and dreams for Kura are that the adult world is a new and different one from the past. Our dream is that she never has a fear-filled moment; that she never experiences discrimination, harassment, or violence of because of her gender identity; that her heartbreaks are of the old-fashioned kind and unrelated to her gender identity. Our hope is that she is right — that the medical intervention she will have will be so successful that she can live without physical or emotional pain in a body that she loves and that matches her expectations."

What would help someone better understand what it means to be transgender?
Kura:
"You don’t choose how you feel. You don’t think about it. You just are."

*Name has been changed.
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Photographed by Annie Tritt.
Nicole* (right) and her twin Hannah*, 8, gender expansive, Northern California.

The following was written by Nicole’s parents.


At what age did your child first understand their gender expansion?
"The twins did a lot of dress up. When Hannah would dress up as a bride, Nicole would dress up as a groom. In addition to all the princess costumes we owned, we had all the male-counterpart costumes as well. Nicole's Halloween costumes included a construction worker, Frankenstein, batman, police officer, sheriff, cowboy. What really drove home how strongly Nicole felt about not having 'girly' things was when the twins would receive matching birthday gifts (toys and clothes). Nicole would politely say thank you, but then turn to her sister and say, 'You can have this'."

How does your child express gender now?
"She still calls herself a girl, because she is very honest and feels she can’t 'lie' about her genitals. She’s a very literal and concrete thinker who can’t deny her physical biology, even though her head and heart conflict with that biology.

"One day, the kids were watching Mrs. Doubtfire. I volunteered that some people really do dress like the opposite sex normally. Then Hannah said you can take medicine to become the opposite sex. THIS is where Nicole really tuned in. Nicole didn’t believe Hannah and asked me if this was true. I told her that, yes, people can take hormones to help them have more feminine or masculine features. She emphatically jumped in, 'I want that!'"

Have people you know been supportive?

"Most people in our lives just love Nicole. Her playmates are 99% boys. She is cordial with girls in her classroom, but they aren’t playmates. As peers, the boys don’t even question how she dresses or how she plays, and they recognize her as an equal when playing sports, nerf-gun wars, or playground games.

"I have been proactive in seeking parents (and school personnel) who will support Nicole as she develops. I try to advocate for open-mindedness with regard to gender-expansive and transgender issues. Some people are naturally very open-minded. Others immediately go to their own tom-boyish experiences with childhood friends like her and assure me that it will work itself out when she grows up. I reiterate that I have no expectation that she needs to ‘grow out of it’ and that Nicole will be who she is and that, as a parent, I’m just along for the ride."

What challenges has your child faced with respect to your or their gender?
"So far, we haven’t had many challenges. I expect that may change at puberty.

"I’ve spoken with teachers at school about finding alternative ways to group students — not just 'girls' and 'boys' categories. All have been very receptive as they see how awkward it is to have Nicole in a group where she is obviously uncomfortable."

What do you want people to know about your child? What is special about you or your child?
"Nicole is a super-awesome person. She is tenacious and is probably one of the hardest working individuals I know. She has a positive attitude about life, is helpful, and tries very hard to be fair and caring to the people around her."

What are some of you or your child’s hopes and dreams?

"I really hope that the positive attitude she has now can carry her through more challenging times that may come in the future. My ultimate hope is that Nicole remains happy with who she is."

*Names have been changed.
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Photographed by Annie Tritt.
Noah, 15, Germany.

The following was written by Noah.

At what age did you first understand your true gender? How did you know to trust yourself?
"I finally understood that something was wrong one year ago — it was a very confusing time due to puberty, school, and everything. I had many problems and challenges in life before, so I thought this problem would be easy to solve. But then in November 2015, the gender dysphoria started. I started to feel very uncomfortable in my own body and I started questioning if it would be more than a simple phase. It took me many times to simply understand that I am not a woman, and I don't feel like one."

How did you tell people? Can you recount that experience for us?
"Very early, I outed myself as bisexual, then lesbian (I didn't know back then what pansexuality meant), and then as transgender FTM. I changed my Instagram biography and used a male name. Some people saw that, so I wrote a message to all my classmates where I explained everything to them. There is no sex education in Germany when it comes to transgender issues or even homosexuality. At school, people would yell 'tranny' or they would spit on the ground when I walked by, but I never got offended face-to-face."

How did it feel when you were living as your true gender?
"This feeling is so fucking awesome. I barely can describe it. When you go shopping and the employees of the mall call you a ‘young man,’ this makes me happier than the best present on earth ever could!"

Have people you know been supportive?
"I'm not fully out to my family, because I feel like many of them wouldn't understand or even tolerate it. My mother still uses female pronouns and my birth name — it hurts, but sometimes she’ll call me with my male name — and these are the happiest seconds in the week. My father said: 'You'll always be my daughter' — no matter if I one day have a beard, short hair, or a penis. I think he'd still call me his 'daughter' then."

What challenges have you faced with respect to your gender?

"Bullying is often a big deal. If I go to the male bathroom I get beaten up, and at the female bathroom I get yelled at. And here in Germany, there are no unisex bathrooms.

"Transitioning isn't easy, especially if your parents don't support you. And it's hard to see your body changing. My breasts are getting bigger and my binders don't work that [well] anymore (and they're hella expensive! Even the shipping to Germany costs around 25€). But I won't give up."

What do you want people to know about you? What is special about you?
"I went through a lot of stuff: chronic depression, cutting, suicidal thoughts and attempts, gaming addiction, but I am still here and fighting for myself. People used to tell me my feelings aren't valid, but you just should be yourself and follow your dreams."

What are your hopes and dreams?

"Hopes for myself: TESTOSTERONE. It's hard to see how my body keeps changing because of the female puberty, but I can't get hormone blockers without my parents. When I'm an adult, I want to help all of the German LGBTQ youth. I don't know how, but I want to and I'm going to do this!"
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Photographed by Annie Tritt.
Justin*, 8, transgender boy, Northern California.

The following was written by Justin's parents.

At what age did you or your child first express that to someone? How did that feel?
Dad:
"He was 7. I was in Philadelphia for my grandmother's funeral. I got a text from my wife saying that Jamie wanted to be a boy and had changed her name to Justin. I thought it was just another one of Jamie's quirky things that she did every once in a while. Weeks went by, months went by. It felt like someone pulled the rug out from under me."
Mom: "He asked me that same day to email his teacher and tell her he was going by Justin and using 'he.' So I did. He was sure and, in my heart, I was sure, too. When your child tells you something like that, you know it's real and you know in your heart they can't live any other way or they would not be able to be true to themselves. I told Justin, 'I will always love you no matter what.'"

How do you think your child felt when they started living as their true gender?
Dad:
"I think he's still figuring that out. But he does seem happy. He seems more natural being a boy."
Mom: "Since Justin has become Justin he lets me hold him and cuddle with him. Before the transition, Justin would barely let me touch him. I think that Justin is happier as a boy."

Have people you know been supportive?
Dad:
"Mostly. I haven't really told anyone aside from immediate family and close friends. My parents are old school, they don't get it."
Mom: "Every once in a while, people have asked me the expected question: 'How can your child know at such a young age?' Justin's grandma told me she would ‘play along with it,’ as if it was some sort of game. I told her this is not a game. For a long time, Justin's grandma would use the wrong pronoun, and I finally told her she was not welcome at my house unless she was able to call Justin by his preferred name and pronouns."

What challenges has your child faced with respect to being transgender?
Dad:
"People who don't know how to handle it. Like Justin's old school. His teacher and principal were not very helpful during the transition. They could have done more. They could have stepped it up a notch. But instead, everything fell apart for Justin. And they just let it happen."

What is special about you or your child?
Dad:
"He came into the world screaming. He still does. He is a ball of fire. A body full of energy. When he focuses that energy into the activities he's into: art, dancing, singing, gymnastics, tae kwon do, skateboarding...he is awesome!"

Anything else?
Dad: "I didn't sign up for this. But I'm in it for the long haul. I'm scared at times. I fear for his future. I want him to be happy. I want him to be accepted. I want him to have friends. I want him to believe that anything is possible. I want him to know that he is loved."

*Name has been changed.
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