8 Photos Show What It's Like To Be Young & Trans

Photographed by Charlotte Hadden.
From the moment photographer Charlotte Hadden started her project Between, in which she photographs transgender children in the U.K., she knew exactly how she wanted to approach the subject: on the children's own terms. "With all the misunderstanding surrounding young gender-questioning and trans people, I wanted to give them an opportunity to share their stories," Hadden tells Refinery29.
She sees transgender children as having to live double lives, "not only adjusting to growing and maturing as a person, but [also] battling to become the person they feel inside and to have the freedom to express that." With that in mind, Hadden aimed to give them a chance to be their whole selves in front of the camera.
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By setting up in the children's homes and taking plenty of time to get to know them, Hadden makes her process as unobtrusive as possible — and makes sure that the children are part of it. She only takes a photo when it feels right, when the kids are totally comfortable with her.
Between doesn't make any grand, sweeping generalizations about the transgender experience. Instead, it highlights the regular, everyday lives of its subjects, from how they talk about their gender identity to how they spend time at home. "I want the viewer to look at the portraits and to just see them for the fun, awkward, amazing kids that they are," Hadden says.
Parents can get in direct contact with Hadden (whose project is ongoing) through Mermaids, a U.K.-based organization that provides support for transgender children. She says that their interest in her work — and the kids' willingness to share — has overwhelmed her in the best possible way.
"I’ve been really moved by how open they have been with me," Hadden says. "The courage it takes to talk to a loved one about your gender, and how you might be questioning it, I just can't even imagine. [The children] are all incredibly smart and open."
Ahead, four of the kids Hadden has photographed talk with their parents about coming out.
Gender and sexual orientation are both highly personal and constantly evolving. So, in honor of Transgender Awareness Week, we're talking about the importance of language and raising the voices of the LGBTQIA community. Welcome to Gender Nation, where gender is defined by the people who live it. Want to learn more? Check out our Gender Nation glossary. For more stories on our many paths to, through, or away from parenthood, check out Mothership.
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Photographed by Charlotte Hadden.
Leo

When did the subject of gender identity first come up? Who brought it up? How did that conversation go?
Gemma, Leo's mother: "Leo first brought the topic up. He had always been a ‘tomboy,’ but it was still a bolt out of the blue for us. He had, however, talked to someone at school about how he fancied girls but ‘as a boy’ and had been finding out about it online. He said when he discovered the word and meaning of 'transgender' he suddenly felt like this was a description that matched how he felt. Our first conversation about it was late at night and he was really upset. I’m afraid I didn’t take it seriously or appreciate the thought he had put into it or the courage he took to bring it up. It’s one of my biggest regrets."

Leo: "I was asking my dad of his opinions on transgender people. At the time I really didn’t know much about gender identity or anything. I only told him that later on that night why I asked him that."
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Photographed by Charlotte Hadden.
Leo

Leo, how do you describe your gender identity now?
"I see myself as a boy. But the word for people like me is transgender, this means I was born in the wrong body and have the mind of the opposite sex."

Gemma, what hopes do you have for Leo as he continues to grow up?
"As Leo grows up and becomes more comfortable with himself, it’s clear how much more confident and happy he already is. I think we’re all pretty lucky with how our friends, family, and the school have taken it. Everyone has been almost universally supportive. I hope that as he gets older and starts to be able to make the physical changes he needs to make his body match his image of himself this progresses as well as possible (it’s still a huge worry, as there are several major procedures he’ll have to go through). I also hope he finds a partner that can make him as happy as he deserves to be! I’m so proud of how he has handled everything — he makes my heart burst."
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Photographed by Charlotte Hadden.
Rose

When did the subject of gender identity first come up? Who brought it up? How did that conversation go?
Rose's mother: "The subject of gender identity first came up when Rose was about 12. She was thinking she was different but didn’t know why. She read a book called This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson, which answered some of her questions. Rose brought up the conversation over several months before we all started taking it seriously and we went to the GP as a family to investigate the process and find out more."
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Photographed by Charlotte Hadden.
Rose

What hopes do you have for Rose as she continues to grow up?
"I want Rose to be happy and fulfilled in herself — regardless of gender. I want her to enjoy being herself: a fabulous human being!"
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Photographed by Charlotte Hadden.
Ashlynn

When did the subject of gender identity first come up? Who brought it up? How did that conversation go?
Ashlynn: "I knew when I was 3 that something didn't feel right, but I couldn't put it into words. So I kept it to myself for a long time. Then when I was 8, and in the car with my mum and my sister, I told them. I said, 'Can I ask you a question, is there an operation to make me a girl, because I'm not a boy, I'm a girl?' I didn't even know what transgender was, I just knew I didn't feel right.

"I got really emotional, but my mum and my sister were cool with it. My mum later told me, she always knew there was something, she just wasn't sure what. I wasn't a stereotypical boy."
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Photographed by Charlotte Hadden.
Ashlynn

What hopes do you have for Ashlynn as she continues to grow up?
Ashlynn's mother: "We want what all parents want for their children — we want her to live a happy, healthy, long life, and achieve her full potential. Being transgender, or gender fluid, or non-binary, isn't an illness. It's just a part of who she is. She's a kid, like any other, who doesn't want to eat her vegetables, do her homework, or tidy her room! And she's creative, kind, and loving."
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Photographed by Charlotte Hadden.
Jay

When did the subject of gender identity first come up? Who brought it up? How did that conversation go?
Jay's mother: "When Jay and his twin sister were 2 and a half years old. they were learning to talk more and also starting to sort things — and people, including themselves — into categories; such as having brown or blonde or red hair, having blue or brown eyes, being a boy or a girl, etc.

"Rosie said she was a girl, like mummy and her big sister, Jay said he was a boy like daddy and his big brother. They both said it with exactly the same conviction. We assumed he was just confused, so told him repeatedly he was definitely a girl, although he correctly gendered all of our family and friends without any confusion. But he continued to say he was a boy, and as he got older he became more and more distressed about being misgendered or corrected."
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Photographed by Charlotte Hadden.
Jay

What hopes do you have for Jay as he continues to grow up?
"We hope that he continues to feel as accepted as he does at the moment, that he's comfortable enough to explore his gender identity and gender expression, and that he's able to create a life which brings him joy."
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n/a.
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