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.