UCLA's Williams Institute estimates there are 1.4 million transgender adults currently living in the United States. Young adults are also more likely than older adults to identify as transgender: “Among adults ages 18 to 24, 0.7% identify as transgender; among adults ages 25 to 64, 0.6% identify as transgender; and among adults ages 65 and older, 0.5% identify as transgender.”
Clearly, the younger generation is becoming more comfortable expressing and exploring their gender identity. We asked six people about what they liked about being transgender. Here’s what they said. Answers have been condensed and edited.
Colin Laurel (he/him)
The best part has been, after a lifetime of questioning, finally gaining the words to articulate who and what I am without hesitation or self-loathing. The best part has been turning features that used to hurt me into tools of resilience. My beard, for instance!! I look at myself and nearly can't believe that for years, this mostly harmless hormonal thing that I used to hide and shave on the daily has become a source of pride. You could say I lucked out?
Embracing your identity feels like liberation: I now know that I am not inherently meant to be ridiculed, that my emotions are as valid as another's, that I'm not off so much as I am on to something. Even if the subject matter is seemingly unrelated, my work has become a vessel with which to examine the person I've become, and this in itself is a dynamic form of therapy.
Lately I've been given the opportunity to be part of a few projects within queer communities of colour, and I can't stress how important it is to feel like you belong somewhere. Find a community! Whether through friends or with an organization, you deserve all the support you need.
Jamie Elizabeth (she/her)
The best part about finally being able to live authentically is the sense of inner peace and the fact that my relationships with people feel more genuine. I used to be so concerned about what other people thought about me, and I’ve finally gotten to the point in my life where I value myself and know that the only opinion that matters is my own. I think that a positive indirect result of being trans or nonbinary means that you do not care what society thinks about you, and it’s such a freeing feeling.
I never thought I would be where I am at today living openly and authentically as a transgender woman serving in the United States Air Force. When I first started making small steps in coming out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, the feeling of living free and open about my identity was so invigorating that my small steps evolved into large strides. Even though I know there is still a lot of work to do, I think that speaks to the progress we have made in society and how technology is being leveraged to benefit our community.
Jared Axelrod (she/her)
When I finally accepted myself as trans, it was much the same way of accepting myself as queer: I no longer had to spend so much time and energy working on being someone who I wasn't and would never be. I used to worry about the way I wore my messenger bag, afraid that it might be seen as a purse. And that would then be a clue to everyone that I was secretly trans. It was such a ridiculous thing to worry about, and it was one of the more benign ways I was constantly policing myself.
The freedom to be oneself, finally and completely, is such a wonderful feeling.
I started my transition at 36, and I wish I could have found the courage and the self-acceptance to begin earlier. Not that there was something I could have done as a woman in my twenties that I can’t do now, but that I spent so long hating myself. Decades spent self-policing when I could have just been me.
Konner Jebb (he/him)
Every day I try to make my younger, closeted self proud. There were a lot of road-blocks (anxiety, guilt, internalized transphobia) that made becoming who I am today difficult. I reflect a lot on what baby Konner would say if he saw how visible I am as a queer agender trans guy. I see the big picture more clearly and how resilient I am. Reflecting on the future allows me to see that I will keep on being resilient. Right now I may not be in a place to go on T or have top surgery, but one day it will happen.
I like to view being transgender as a superpower. I don't let anyone use my identity to harm me. So what? I'm trans. My favourite colour is purple, I love sloths, I have ADHD and Goldenhar Syndrome. My transness doesn't define me but it certainly plays a part in creating the loving, artistic, bubbly, and caring person I am.
Andrea Long Chu (she/her)
It’s OK to want gender. If you spend any time on trans Tumblr or in the woker precincts of social media, you’re likely to have encountered the idea that gender has to be dismantled, ended, canceled, transcended, and that’s it's ethically incumbent upon you, as a queer or trans person, to bring this about through your personal behaviour. Ignore this. It is dumb.
I didn’t transition to “be” a girl; I transitioned because I wanted all the cool shit girls were getting that I wasn’t—like the girls’ sleepover, which in my mind was this exciting, intimate, erotic affair that involved lots of secrets and touching. Sometimes very well-meaning cis women tell me, “Well, those sleepovers weren’t all they were cracked up to be,” and I say, “You’re missing the point: I don’t want the thing you think I think you had but which you actually didn’t have, I want the way in which you didn’t have it."
Jay Zap (he/him)
When you spend most of your life not fully knowing or even understanding your identity, when you finally do it’s like a breath of fresh air. The best part is that I get to wake up everyday and look in the mirror and see what I’ve always seen myself as.
For me, as a trans man, it’s relatively easy to move through the world as just male without people questioning what my gender is. I would say always make sure your in a safe space with people who are supportive and positive. One of the ways I stay so positive is by keeping positive people around me. We all have our rough days but you have to remind yourself that you get what you put out into the world.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.