The World Is Better Because Of The Courage And Power Of Trans Kids
"So this is a love letter, a letter of my adoration and euphoria that trans kids are more and more able to be their true and exuberant selves, a letter saying that I see that, that I see you."
Since I was a trans child, people have asked me a lot of questions about being trans. This is a regular occurrence for any trans person with even the mildest hint of public interaction, but at the time it happened primarily because I was the only trans person known to the people asking.
At this point in my life it’s something I feel able to wear, make space for — and depending on who’s asking, enthusiastically engage in. More often than not the questions I get asked are curious, inquisitive, kind, or even outright interesting, and reflect that the person who has asked them is themselves those things. Asking if I always knew I was a girl is tired, but opening yourself to discussing new ways of thinking or being is wired.
However, there was a time when it felt like the questions (and the expectation of answers that accompanied them) were more than I could handle. When you are first exploring the way you want to exist in the world, figuring out what’s affirming and what’s not, that also happens to coincide with being asked to engaging in dialogues, or helping assuage the many difficulties other people are having with you living your truth.
I see this still happening to trans kids today, facing down an expectation of exceeding clarity about their lives with grace, while still becoming who they are in so many other ways. I remember this experience clearly, of strangers and people close to me alike questioning the one thing I felt sure about, uninterested in the questions I had for them about the world and my place in it.
When we are preoccupied with this one facet of people’s lives, it’s easy to forget or to erase the many other beautiful parts of them — their networks of care and connection, their layers of feeling and experience, their heroes and idols and forces for good. These are the things I am far more interested in holding up to see, understand, and learn from.
I’ve spent the past months reflecting on gender euphoria, on happiness, on heart-brimming goodness, on love, and on how these things are so often spat at or spat out in favour of chewing the cud of bigotry.
I’ve spent the past months reflecting on gender euphoria, on happiness, on heart-brimming goodness, on love, and on how these things are so often spat at or spat out in favour of chewing the cud of bigotry. It’s hard to be in the business of tending and propagating visible trans joy, when that joy is so often a part of our private worlds.
So this is a love letter, a letter of my adoration and euphoria that trans kids are more and more able to be their true and exuberant selves, a letter saying that I see that, that I see you. I see your families, caring and building community. I see your networks of friends, hanging out, holding each other through good and bad, showing up and showing us what allyship should look like. I see your patience and courage with doctors and other medical professionals, that to be yourself might require a bit more work than your cis friends and peers, but that you do it with dignity. I see your futures, as radiant trans adults, whether changing the world or just living your private truth.
When I look back at photos or family videos of myself as a child, I’m filled with a whole range of emotions — lucky and appreciative that I was happy, that I did (and do) have a loving family even when I was a small, weird thing, but also sad for the versions of myself I could have been, or could be with the knowledge and care that I see being given to young people today.
Trans kids have always existed, something you learn when you talk to so many trans people — we grew up as trans kids, even if we didn’t have the language or know what it was we were feeling. It’s just that no one else saw us in that way — but how we’ve existed has been so varied across time and cultures.
Trans kids have always existed, something you learn when you talk to so many trans people — we grew up as trans kids, even if we didn’t have the language or know what it was we were feeling.
Trans young people have also been finding each other (and themselves) online and offline for decades, the biggest difference being that today there are more people with more words for the wonderful ways they can become and be. In this year’s Writing Themselves In 4, in which more than 27% of the respondents were trans or gender diverse, over 90% of young people had disclosed who they were to friends, and over 70% to family, with an overwhelming number of friends responding positively – numbers that even a decade ago felt impossible.
As part of the survey, which also reports a lot of the work that is yet to do to support young LGBTQIA+ people, participants were asked what makes them feel good about themselves, and over 4500 young people took the time to reflect on what they love about themselves, including the value of connection to one another, of romantic connections, the value and joy that comes from creativity and doing well in school and other places, being affirmed and affirming others, and effective positive change in their communities.
While a lot has changed since I was young, this seems almost spot on to my own experiences. I wanted to make things, build things, and show people things, I wanted to love and be loved, and I wanted to make the world a better place, however I could.
The tragedy of the conservative argument to ‘let kids be kids’ is that they are fighting against just that — instead, they’re requiring our most vulnerable communities to prostrate and prove themselves. When I see the years of care and preparation, the lifetimes of consideration that have gone into our fights for rights, resilience, and existence, I am warmed by this long history of trans community work, but simultaneously saddened that we are constantly reduced to this one thing — all that time imagining what is between our legs, rather than the ways we can be, grow, change, and learn from one another.
To meet a gender diverse young person and only ask them about their gender feels like such a waste. Surely we want to know about their favourite book, or band, the art they’re creating or stories they’re concocting, or the strange and fascinating way that they view the world. Maybe before asking these questions of them, we can ask them of ourselves first. What makes us feel like our gender? What makes you feel good about yourself? How can we find more of that in the world?
There is something inherently valuable about asking ourselves questions, and in being able to answer them, to know ourselves better – our inner and outer worlds less murky for having dived in deeper.
When I think of trans kids who are changing the world, I of course think of the Evie Macdonalds and Georgie Stones that make headlines with their charm and courtesy, but I also think of every young trans person I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, hearing about, or simply knowing exists out there — living their authentic, beautiful, brilliant lives on their own terms.
Liz Duck-Chong is a freelance writer, health researcher, filmmaker and peer worker, whose essays and non-fiction have been published widely. You can find her online at @lizduckchong.
Gender Euphoria will be published monthly. If you come across any positive or beautiful trans news we can feature in this column, Liz would love to hear about it and her DMs are open.