Sloan, Age 18, Minneapolis, Minnesota

My mom took me to get my first binder. It’s from a sex shop boutique in Milwaukee that’s really cute. When you first go in there’s this stand of just vibrators. I can’t believe my mom went in with me because she’s kind of weird about sex stuff. Like we went back to the car and she was just giggling, but that was a fun experience. She kinda saw how happy it made me and how much better I felt about everything.

My extended family on one side is conservative Baptist and the other side is Catholic but my parents, they’re both pretty religious, but not crazy religious. I guess I got lucky in that lottery.

When I first started using they/their/them pronouns and going by Sloan, I had a friend who probably says more than he should sometimes, and he started asking my sister how she felt about it and apparently she started crying. When I heard that, it just broke my heart. (more…)


Jacob, Age 20, Minneapolis, Minnesota 

I knew I was gay from a very young age, probably as early as second grade when I knew that I was different from other people. I could not pinpoint it, but I could feel it. And that’s the only way that I can honestly describe it. Just that inkling, you know? Something in the back of your head that would just bug you all day. And unfortunately that didn’t help with my childhood because I was overweight, and I was artistic so that triple-whammy took a toll on me mentally and physically.

When I came out to my dad he did not flinch. He said, “You’re still the same person to me. And I’ll love you always.” And it was the exact words that I needed to hear. He actually offered to tell my mother for me, and I accepted his request, and she took it incredibly hard. Not so much in the fact that, “Oh, my son’s gay.” It’s the fact that she realized how much I was suffering for the entirety of my life and how much I had gone through. And because I was hurting, she was hurting.

It honestly surprised me how accepting my parents were because you go through living the majority of your life thinking that you’re gonna be rejected, and you’re gonna be denied, and all these things. And then hearing it for what it really is was honestly the greatest relief of my life. (more…)


Qwill, Age 20, Northfield, Minnesota

I was kind of weird in high school. Maybe not weird but quirky, I suppose. In high school I felt like I was always on the outside of friend groups trying to get in. I never really felt like I was part of a community where I was really wanted. Then I came to Carleton and I made these really good friends. Now I’m still quirky but everyone else is quirky also.

When I applied to Carleton I went by my old name. I haven’t changed my name legally or anything, but I’ve been going through the process of trying to change my name completely on campus. So when I came here I introduced myself as Qwill. It’s listed as a nickname but sometimes professors don’t print out that roster, so I have to correct them in class when they’re doing attendance, which I don’t really like.

Qwill is actually the name of a character in a murder mystery book series. I read the books a lot in late middle school, and then I think I just picked it for some camp name or something and really liked it and then, yeah. Also, I picked it just because it’s a gender-neutral name and it’s not really a name where anyone has any connotations as to what gender it belongs to. (more…)


Jazz, Age 12

I’m proud to be a girl and proud to be a transgender girl. I wouldn’t change myself at all. Being transgender makes me who I am; a strong person, a confident person. Being transgender gives me my personality.

I’m the youngest of four siblings and the baby of the family. My family just treated me like anyone else growing up. They taught me that everyone has a special and unique trait about them,and that mine is that I have a  girl brain and a boy body. I knew I was a girl from the time I was a toddler, and my family always taught me that being transgender was okay and I should be proud of who I am.

As I got older I learned about how some people treated their transgender children, and I was shocked. I couldn’t understand how someone would leave their child and throw them on the street. I was always taught you give your kid unconditional love and if you don’t, something’s wrong with you, for real. It’s your child and you really have to be there for them all the time.

One of the things my parents did was advocate for me when I was banned from  girls’ soccer team, and I had to play on the boys’ soccer team. My family knew I had the skills for soccer and should be playing. My mom and dad spoke to a lot of people. I don’t know how they did it, but as a result they passed a trans-inclusive policy for all transgender people in America. When you’re 8-years old you’re not talking to the U.S. Soccer Federation.

That changed me a lot, playing with the boys. It lowered my self-esteem and made me feel like I was a boy all over again. I really just didn’t like that. A lot of times I would just be sitting on the field chewing on my nails or twiddling my fingers. Normally I’m better than that.

Now that I play with the girls, I like soccer again. I like to do a lot of things. I play lacrosse. I’m interested in writing and creating and things like that. I like to do charcoal portraits and pencil portraits. I used to act, sing and dance. I like to write.. I don’t really like school; it’s okay. It’s not that I get bullied or anything. I’m just not the most social person.

It’s very overwhelming here at the Philly Trans-Health Conference. But it’s a lot of fun. I get to meet a lot of other kids and interact with them. It’s not something you get to do every day so I definitely take advantage. It’s one of the best times of the year.

I  wish I saw my friends from the conference more. We share the same experience. We can talk about our medications and our bodies without being too uncomfortable.

I just want to let transkids to know not to be afraid to step out of the shadows. I do whatever I can to help other transkids. I speak a lot, at a lot of places, a lot of big events. I was on Oprah’s channel. I didn’t get to meet her, but she tweeted about me. I also did two 20/20 specials with Barbara Walters, Rosie O’Donnell’s show the Dr. Drew Show, and many other TV programs and magazines. It’s a lot of fun and it’s mostly just about sharing my story.

I share my story to help other people. I know people need someone to be a role model and help them along the way.

As told to Diana Scholl.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in Philadelphia, PA, 2013
To share your story, email


Julius, Age 19, Las Vegas, Nevada

I was two years old when I came to the United States. My visa expired, and I didn’t know I was undocumented. I only realized once I saw all my friends had their driver’s license, and I couldn’t get one. I’m working on getting my work permit so I can finally work. I don’t let it bring me down whatsoever.

I’d like to focus my degree on homeless youth and just help them out. I’d do that for five or six years and then learn how to own a hair salon, and do make-up for movies and celebrities. I’ve learned stuff from YouTube. I’ve done females’ nails. It’s something I’d really like to do. Plan B would be to go to school to be a social worker because of everything that’s happened to me.

I come from a really close-minded town in Pennsylvania. It’s a really small town based on tradition and culture. I lived with my mother, and when I finally came out to her it went downhill.  I decided it was time to leave. I came to Las Vegas to meet my dad’s side of the family. I was 18, about to be 19. I wanted a change in my life. (more…)


Emily, Age 20, Minneapolis, Minnesota

I came up here two months ago. I want to become a film major and there are some good schools around here. The plan was to come here, and work a lot to pay for school. Now I’m working at a factory. You’re just assembling and passing on. It’s very boring and there’s no music and it’s just machinery. But you find the nicest, most genuine people there.

I love Minneapolis. I’ve always been kind of a city girl, but I was born and raised in Shakopee, Minnesota, and I lived out in the country. I didn’t wear a shirt until I was seven, and ran with the wolves at night. I’m glad I had the country in me when I was a child because now I’m more of a free spirit as my dad calls me.

My parents are very conservative. My little sister is 12. She asked me, “Who are you voting for?” and asked, “Are you voting yes or no?” She was talking about Amendment 1, to ban gay marriage. I said I’m voting no. She said, “I’m voting yes at kids’ vote.” And she went through a whole bible verse about how God created Adam and Eve. She’s in Catholic school that’s really conservative. (more…)


Zachary, Age 18, Las Vegas, Nevada

The first person I came out to was my mom. The way I came out to her was when I was 11 or 12 she was going through my laptop and brought me into my room. It was porn. She didn’t care I was gay, and she had known for a long time, because of my mannerisms mainly. I was her son either way. When I used to play soccer she said she still has this video where I blocked this goal, and I started waving my arms so flamboyantly. I still haven’t seen that video.

When I first came out to my family, my Aunt Kathy, who is a lesbian, emailed my mom that she knew of this place called The Center in Las Vegas for LGBTQ people that would be good for me. I went kicking and screaming.  I didn’t really want anyone to know I was gay at that time. I still thought it was taboo.

Before I came out to my dad, he would always talk down about gays, lesbians, bisexuals, Mexicans, blacks, “those people,” as he called them. One time I was visiting him in Chicago and “All I want to do” by Sugarland came on the radio. He always called it the gay song since only women and gay men liked it. I said I liked it and said I’m gay. He said, “So you really want to play with another man’s penis.” After interrogation, I said I just know I don’t like women. He said, “Maybe you’re asexual.”



Anne, Age 19, Omaha, Nebraska

I think I have one of the most unique RA positions at Lincoln because I am the only RA in a building for grad students. And it’s funny because I’m 19 and most of them are, like, 25 years old. Generally, that’s the age of people I hang out with anyway, but it was just sort of this funny dynamic. I didn’t come out to them about my age, but they just sort of find out. But they have respect for my authority and that I know what I’m talking about. So that’s good. I like being an RA, because it’s sort of setting a positive example for people which I think is also why I’m part of the Queer Nebraska Youth Networks.

I got involved with QNYN because Drew Heckman, who started the Gay Nebraska Youth Network a couple years ago, and I were both speaking on a panel. We were telling our stories and then both started doing these full-body nods about what each other was saying. We both just wanna make sure when no other youth, when they come out, feel discriminated against. Or at least if they do they have a place to deal with it.

It was scary for me to come out. I was a sophomore in high school when I started  come out to friends. I went to an all-girls Catholic high school. Some people would think that that would be a bad experience, but actually it was fantastic. My whole class rallied behind me, everybody seemed to be really on fire for activism and the faculty and staff were really supportive.



Chris, Age 16, Lawrenceville, New Jersey

My friends here are super-great and I love them a lot. But a lot of people here are very privileged, and that’s a huge contrast to my friends at home. And I feel like a lot of us in my group of friends at home have problems, and I think they’re problems that we share.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 last summer so that’s just been really tough coming to terms with the diagnosis and also going on meds and handling all of that. There are people in our group who are depressed; people have anxiety disorders. Everybody has something that they’re dealing with, so being together we don’t have to think about it and we don’t have to think, ‘oh no I might forget to not talk about this thing that I’m hiding’ because we all know it so there’s nothing to be tense about.

 I don’t think any of my friends at home are straight. A lot of them have different gender identities as well, and it’s just a very queer group of people. So coming out to them wasn’t a big deal. (more…)


KiRel, Age 18, Ottumwa, Iowa

How can I say it without sounding racist? I fit in more with the white people than the black. I’m a little white boy honestly. The only time my black comes out is when I’m mad. Not a lot of people see that side of me. With my family, I still kind of feel like I’m a black sheep.

The only judgement I care about is my family’s. That was one of my worries when I came out, how my family was going to react. A trillion things going through my mind at rapid speed. But after I actually did it, nothing really changed. Most of them say as long “as you’re happy, I’m happy.” I know other relatives are gay, but not openly. They’ve come up to me, say “I’m gay.” or “I’m bisexual.”  I’m like, “They don’t treat you any different. They won’t treat me different.”

My one aunt is the family reverend. I’m gay, she’s a pastor, how’s that really going to work? I know she still loves me and everything. (more…)


Jenecis, Age 18, Los Angeles, California

I don’t think my parents know how much it meant for me to get into UCLA. They only went up to primary school. They expected me to go to community college. To them it’s the same thing. You’re going to be farther away and have to pay more. I’m like, “Yeah, but it’s a really, really good school.” They saw how big it was, and how other people’s parents were really, really excited.

When I first started college I was like, “Oh my God, I’m going to fail everything.” My writing was really bad. But it’s not that hard. I’m getting As and Bs. For next year I’m going to try to do more things with the art history association. I was in arts club at school. I’d love to talk about what the art meant and ideology. There weren’t a lot of people you could talk to about art in my high school in a really critical way.

I really want to have a gallery. Not a museum. I don’t think museums really become involved in art until it becomes mainstream or awesome. I’d like to put on a gallery of artists that are working at that time, whose art is going to end up in museums. (more…)


Natasha, Age 15, Iowa City, Iowa

I’m wearing high tops because I just found them again. I’m wearing fishnets because it was cold outside. And I’m wearing the skirt because my friend gave it to me. And I’m wearing a Dead Kennedys shirt because they’re a good band.

I was raised by two people that were part of the punk scene here, so I was raised listening to the Ramones and the Clash and stuff like that. But the first band I got into on my own was the Dead Kennedys so they’re really important to me.

My dad was a drummer in a punk band, and my mom never played many instruments but she was at shows a lot. I think they’re proud of me. My mom works weekends, but my dad is usually at our shows. Sometimes he’s like, “You should do it like this!” And you know, sometimes I get weirded out by the fact that I might be following in my parent’s footsteps. (more…)