Dear Gender-Non-Conforming Teen

Dear gender-non-conforming teen,

I see  you struggling. In that way, you remind me a lot of me, a decade ago. I remember being depressed and confused and feeling hopeless and being angry. And I remember the crappiest sentence anyone would ever throw at me...”It gets better.” I hated when people would tell me that. The reason I hated it so much was because they never bothered to tell me how it gets better, and I just couldn't imagine it. I don't know if you're in the same boat, but I'm going to spell it out a bit for you.

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You will learn more about yourself. And you're in the perfect time to start that now. Gender identity is a great place to start, and I wish I had come out about that as young as you have. You will meet people that use your preferred pronouns. Befriend these people. You will even meet people who are cis-gender, straight people who still believe that everyone has the right to be who they are. Encourage these people, because we need more allies. You will come across laws and people suggesting laws that make you furious. Some of them might be in your state or area, others not. Influence those, even if it's as simple as signing a petition. The laws are better than they used to be, and if we work at it, they will hopefully get better still. You will get your name changed if you want to, and your gender changed on all your forms if you want to, and you will settle into your identity. You will figure out if you like hormone replacement therapy, and you will find a good doctor to prescribe it for you. I am still new on this process, so I don't know how much discrimination you will face, and I can't say I have managed all this myself yet. Maybe we can go through this process together. But see, if nothing else, you have new supporters. It gets better.

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But don't just stop learning about yourself with gender identity. One thing you need to know as an adult, and sooner rather than later, is what your boundaries are. I learned this too late and ruined several years of my adulthood trying to figure it out. Now that I know what those boundaries are, I can choose much more carefully who my future romantic interests might end up being, and I can be happier. It also becomes easier to spot the bad ones quicker if you know what your boundaries are. So you can know it's not worth wasting your time on this person after one or two conversations you have guided onto important topics, instead of wasting seven years in an abusive marriage like I did. Make sure that one of your boundaries is that any romantic relationship is with a person who respects your gender identity.  Don't ever go for someone who calls you by the wrong pronouns after the first few times of being corrected, or who blows off your identity as being wrong or not a big deal. I was married to someone who couldn't stand it that I didn't like to shave, and always tried to confine me into the box of my gender assigned at birth. He doesn't yet know that I am genderqueer, but as homophobic as he is, I just hope he that when he finds out that he realizes he wasn't married to a woman. But boundaries aren't just about romantic interests either, and you need to figure out how you are going to deal with all your family and friends. Whether you take my advice and start thinking about it now, or you find out the hard way like I did, you will eventually get to know what your own personal boundaries based on your priorities are, and that will make life much easier for you. It gets better.

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I wish I could say you will never face discrimination, but that would be a lie. I think you even already have. I wish I could say you will never again experience dysphoria, but I don't know if that will be true for you or not. I can't say that I will never again experience dysphoria. At least not yet; maybe someday I'll  get there. But here's the thing. As you center your identity, and surround yourself by people who are good for you, and when your teenage hormones (and possibly your second puberty from HRT) settle down, and you establish your beliefs and values, you will find that you are stronger. You will be able to handle more of what life throws at you. Yes, you will have bad days. Maybe even a few bad weeks. But you will be able to face those weeks without feeling like things are hopeless. You will be able to face your problems with a sense of confidence, because you know who you are. And no one can take that from you. It gets better. 

And if you find that after all this, you are still depressed, then there is help out there if you're just willing to accept help. I happen to have a disorder that would make me depressed if I weren't on medication, but thankfully these medications exist, and I am able to live a happy life. There are plenty of other methods to deal with depression as well. It gets better.

Whatever life throws at you, I have faith in you. And you'll have my support the whole way.

Your friend,

Rain Chamberlain