I stand at the door on my way to school, tears rolling down my face. A long skirt grazes my small, thin legs; a knot clenches in my stomach. It’s the first day of school, maybe second or third grade. Every year, my family insists I wear a dress or skirt to school on the first day, presenting myself as the proper female student. I am not.
What I didn’t know then — and what I am just now starting to explore — is that my discomfort on those first days of school was about more than just clothes. It was about who I am, and, as I now suspect, it was likely about my gender identity.
I do not want to write this now. I want to write another story: one that inspires, one that shows strength and clarity instead of confusion and trepidation. Putting my uncertainty into words is terrifying, yet I know the value of this exercise. Others have shared their stories with me so honestly. Now it’s my turn.
I’m a photographer who has spent the past three and a half years photographing and interviewing transgender and nonbinary youth. I believe this project, which I call “Transcending Self,” has saved lives. Young people write to me often. They tell me that reading others’ stories, seeing trans folk portrayed as whole humans, not outsiders, helps them remember that their lives have value. Transgender and nonbinary youth ages 18 to 24 have a suicide attempt rate of 45 percent, according to a 2014 survey. Learning that they are not alone can be the difference that keeps them on the safe side of this terrifying statistic. Read more via Vox