How Do Trans People Come Out? 12 Real Millennials Share Their Stories

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When we set out on this project — interviewing a dozen transgender millennials from a dozen states — we wondered whether it would be difficult to find people to take part. There's no concrete data yet on just how large the U.S. trans community even is; the census doesn't ask.

As it turned out, finding participants was easy. America's trans community is large, diverse, and everywhere — in cities and towns across the country. And, they've been there since long before Hollywood or the national media started paying attention to them.

What you’re about to read are the stories of 12 individuals from across the country, all of whom have only one thing in common: They don't identify with the gender that was assigned to them at birth. Otherwise, they're as diverse a bunch as they come — often disagreeing with each other, and never fitting neatly into stereotypes. When we asked one young man how he'd describe himself in a word, he said, "human."

His story and 11 others are ahead.

Gavin: "I Never Imagined That I Would Grow Up To Be A Woman"

Illustrated By Elliot Salazar.
The 4th Circuit of Appeals decided on January 27, 2016 that it would hear Gavin Grimm's lawsuit. It is the first lawsuit on bathroom access for trans students to go before an appeals court, and it could have wide-reaching implications for trans people around the country. Refinery29 interviewed Grimm last year.

This story was originally published on March 6, 2015.

Gavin Grimm, 15, Gloucester, Virginia

When I was little, I didn’t think of myself as a boy or a girl. I thought of myself as a kid who did what I wanted. When I started school, though, that gender divide became more apparent. I noticed that boys didn’t want to play with me. I had a best friend in elementary school, and one day he just said, “Hey, we can’t hang out any more.” When I asked why, he said, “'Cause you’re a girl.” I was indignant. “What are you talking about?” I asked. “What does that even mean?”

I never, ever, in a million years envisioned myself growing up to be a woman. I don’t think I thought of any alternatives, but I knew for sure that I was not going to grow up and be a woman. When puberty hit, my biggest struggle was not only feeling betrayed by my body, but also the increasing pressure to become a little lady.

It was around this age that my leg hair started growing in — and I did not want to shave it. I loved having leg hair; I thought it was cool! But, my classmates didn’t agree. My mother, of course, put a lot of pressure on me — because I was “blossoming into a young woman” and all that — to conform to feminine archetypes. That caused a lot of conflict in my family relationships. I was a very volatile, angry kid in that time period.
Illustrated By Elliot Salazar.

But, I didn’t give up; I just continued refusing to shave or wear dresses. I gravitated towards boys’ clothes. It started slowly: Oh, here’s one Pokémon shirt because I love Pokémon. Soon, I was only shopping in the boys’ section. My mother (and I want to make it very clear that she has come a very, very long way) is Christian. She had a lot of problems with homosexuality, and she perceived me to be a homosexual female because I was very masculine in how I acted and dressed. At one point, she came to me and said, “You’re so angry, and I know why.” I said, “Wait, you do?” And, she said, “You’re a lesbian.”

I was about 11 or 12 at the time. And, I knew I liked girls, but I’d never, ever, ever identified with the term “lesbian” — calling yourself a lesbian means asserting yourself as a woman, and I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to live in that gray area where I didn’t have to say that I was anything. So, the conflict started again. Apparently, being a lesbian doesn’t excuse you from shaving your legs.

I found out about the word “transgender” when I was watching YouTube. I clicked on somebody’s video, and he looked like a girl. Then, I watched another video from, like, two years later — he was a dude! And, you know, I was 12 and thinking, Holy crap. What did he just do? I want to do it!

By the time I was 13, I started questioning things that the Christian Bible considered “sinful.” My body was betraying me more and more, the older I got. It was a horrifying experience — one that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. There’s nothing that I can think of that compares to the emotional and mental anguish. I was bullied a lot for being masculine and for being perceived as a lesbian. I was chubby and I was different. It was a cacophany of bad.

That’s when I finally revisited the idea that maybe male vs. female wasn’t all there was to it. I actually came across a scientific study showing differences in the brains of cis males and trans females — despite both being born with “male” bodies. I thought, Wow, maybe I’m not crazy.

Just before my 15th birthday, I told my mom. I was going to wait longer, but it just became so much mental trauma to live as two people. It was such constant, extreme dysphoria that I realized if I didn’t tell her, I wasn’t going to survive. She took it pretty well.



On my birthday, I knew that everyone was going to roll in with “birthday girl” cards and things like that, and I knew I couldn’t handle it. I came downstairs that morning, and there was our birthday cake — mine and my twin brother’s — but it had my wrong name on it. That sent me into a catatonic state of anxiety and sadness. I went back up into my room. An hour later, my mom called me downstairs; she had wiped the name off the birthday cake and had written “Gavin.”

From there, we just took off. My mom and I made an appointment with a therapist, and she almost immediately recommended me for hormone intervention. When I returned to school in the fall, I was granted the ability to use the male-sex restrooms — then, that decision was revoked by the school board. Currently, I use the restrooms in the nurse’s office.

The ACLU filed a complaint on my behalf, and while it’s too soon to make predictions, my hope is that I will secure the right to use the correct restroom — not only for myself, but for any other trans youth who ever attend the Gloucester County Public School System.

The biggest change has been being able to be myself. I struggled with depression for a very long time; I was diagnosed when I was eight. My childhood was pretty unhappy: confusing, painful, full of anger and loneliness. But, after coming out, it’s a new experience to finally be authentically happy. It took a lot of getting used to — waking up and wanting to experience the world.

A lot of people have a relationship with their identity where they celebrate it; they really feel like it’s some sort of gift. I don’t fault people for feeling that way. But, I don’t celebrate it. I don’t hate myself for being trans, and I don’t hate my reality. But, if I’m being honest, I don’t love it. It’s a challenge, and it’s painful. I would trade it for a lot of things. I’d rather pretend like I’m a “normal” boy. I don’t want to have to deal with every birthday being a reminder that I was born with this reality — and that parts of that reality will never change.