Figures like Laverne Cox, Janet Mock and Caitlyn Jenner have made great strides for transgender visibility, but what has arguably been less visible is the rocky road that brought them to their trans adulthood. That growth is an experience Mashable has attempted to capture in a new video and series of profiles of transgender teens sharing their experiences and hopes for their future selves.
Many of their dreams are those held by teens of all gender identities. For example, 18-year-old Lucy tells her future self to remember to "stay positive," while 19-year-old Quinn hopes in 10 years she'll be doing what makes her happy and 19-year-old Eli wishes to still be "performing, making art, making work that I'm proud of."
But their hopes are also exceedingly practical, grounded in a reality that is probably distinct from that of most cisgender teens.
"I really hope you found a job and a place to stay," 18-year-old Chance, the child of Chinese immigrants, says. "And not be a bum, please," he adds.
Considering an estimated 40% of homeless youth is LGBT-identified, Chance has reason to be concerned. The leading cause of homelessness in this population, according to the same study from the Williams Institute, is family rejection on the basis of these identities — a concern other video participants raised.
"I hope that your father has come around and is very, very supportive of you," 12-year-old Charlie says. Although she's been feminine "for as long as I can remember," in third grade her father shaved her head and told her "God doesn't like what you're doing," she told Mashable.
"Will you ever get there, to the point where you're real in everywhere, within the hearts of your parents, within the hearts of yourself," wonders 19-year-old Katherine, who, although permitted to live with her family since coming out as transgender, has been all but ignored by them since doing so.
Many also say they hope to eventually overcome the emotional struggles they've faced based on their identities as both transgender people and teenagers.
"I struggled with depression and anxiety ever since I was 13 or 14," Morgan says in the video. "The biggest thing for me as a trans person is that I feel like a lot of the depression and anxiety came from how people treated me."
"I was in a very bad physiological state when I came out," 17-year-old Zane recalls. "I actually had a suicide attempt and then I was like, 'I can't take this anymore.'"
"Maybe if I went away, it'd all be better," Katherine told Mashable she has thought because of her family's disapproval.
Transgender youth experience higher rates of mental health issues like depression, anxiety, suicide attempts and self-harm, according to one Journal of Adolescent Health study. But studies also show that when trans youth are allowed to express their gender as they see fit, their mental health improves, indicating the problem is not necessarily their identity, but the marginalization related to it.
This is also apparent in the teens' testimonies, and their recognition that the struggles they do and will continue to face are hardly incompatible with love for themselves.
"I just wanted to let you know that you're awesome and I love you," Morgan concludes. "And just believe in yourself, and you're going to do great."
Morgan's is a sentiment that ideally all trans youth will one day be able to impart to themselves — and one perhaps made more possible as their identity continues to be publicly and visibly embraced in projects like these.