Over the past several years, more and more young transgender people are coming out and sharing their stories publicly. These brave young people are becoming advocates for change across the country. Young transgender people from all walks of life are making a lasting impact towards achieving full transgender equality in our nation -- even if some of these remarkable trail blazers aren’t old enough to legally drive or vote.
Transgender young people face significant discrimination and bullying. Last year, North Carolina adopted the infamous HB2, legislation that required discrimination against transgender people, including in public schools. Several states, including Texas, are currently considering similar bills. Seventy-five percent of transgender students report feeling unsafe in school, and, tragically, more than 50 percent of transgender youth report attempting suicide at least once in their lifetime.
Despite these odds, transgender young people are making history for all the right reasons using their own unique stories and backgrounds, they all are working the same goal: ensuring that transgender people everywhere are treated with the same rights and protections as everyone else.
1. Gavin Grimm, Virginia
Gavin Grimm, a transgender boy and only a senior in high school, has become a leader in the transgender movement. Grimm filed suit against the school board alleging the district violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 by denying him use of the boy’s restroom. In March, the Supreme Court sent the historic case G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board back to the Fourth Circuit. The decision, which was a direct result of the Trump Administration rescinding school guidance protecting transgender students, leaves thousands of trans students waiting even longer for their basic rights to be affirmed by our nation’s highest court. Despite this setback, it clear that Grimm, along with his lawyers at the ACLU, will continue to fight this case.
2. Jazz Jennings, Florida
One of HRC’s Youth Ambassadors, Jazz Jennings is an openly transgender girl whose activism spans most of her life. At 16, she is a TV personality, spokesmodel and LGBTQ right activist. Her impressive resume includes starring in TLC's GLAAD Award winning docu-series, I Am Jazz; co-author of I am Jazz,released her self-titled memoir, Being Jazz in 2016 and co-founded the TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation, which assists transgender youth. She has also been named one of TIME’s 25 Most Influential Teens of 2014 and 2015.
3. Marci Owens, Washington
Nearly seven years ago, when former President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law -- making healthcare accessible and affordable for millions of Americans, especially for the transgender community -- standing next to him was 11-year-old Marcelas Owens, a “miniature health care activist.” Years later, Owens came out as transgender in her late teens. Now that Owens has publicly come out as transgender, she hopes to share her passion and journey with others.
4. Lucas Segal, Arkansas
For Lucas Segal, growing up in a conservative town in Arkansas was a painful experience, especially knowing that he was transgender. In fact, aside from the taunts and bullying he endured, Segal described those “painful and stressful” moments didn’t compare to the anguish he felt when he needed to use his high school restroom. However, he turned his pain into power and in recognition for his advocacy work, Segal won a trip to San Diego through the Students Taking Action with Recognition competition. Segal is also among HRC Foundation’s Youth Ambassadors.
5. Rebekah Bruesehoff, New Jersey
Rebekah is one of the youngest transgender activists on our list, but her activism for equal rights is already making a big splash on social media. A photo of Rebekah holding up a sign quickly went viral earlier this week. Her mom, Jamie Bruesehoff, told The Huffington Post that her daughter came out publicly when she was 8 years old and has since began using her voice and her story to help others understand the hardships the transgender community faces.
6. Brendan Jordan, Nevada
Social media star and one of HRC’s Youth ambassadors, 16-year-old Brendan Jordan’s stardom began with a viral video of him dancing behind a local reporter during a live news report. Jordan’s coming out video went viral in 2014, and has inspired LGBTQ youth around the world. He has advocated against drug use through SoCrush, appeared in advertisements for American Apparel and participated in Miley Cyrus’s #InstaPride campaign. At HRC’s third annual Time to THRIVE Conference for LGBTQ youth in February 2016, Brendan came out as identifying as both male and female, and using both pronouns “he” and “she.” “I’m still figuring it out. I’m starting to identify as one or as part of the trans community,” Jordan said to the crowd. While Jordan admitted that being a teenager and dealing with bullying can be tough, his shared this advice to young people, “Be true to yourself and don’t care about anything anyone else says about you.”
7. Trinity Neal, Delaware
Trinity Neal was only two-years-old when she started expressing her true self. Now 12, she tells Essence that she wants to help other transgender children in coming out. “They don’t need to hide all the time. I had to tell my parents, and they could do the same thing… I want to change the world by making it much more friendly for trans people.” Trinity isn’t the only one in her family to be a fierce advocate for the transgender community, her mother, DeShanna is a member of HRC’s Parents for Transgender Equality Council. The Council is some of the nation’s leading parent-advocates working for equality and fairness for transgender people.
8. Avery Jackson, Missouri
Avery Jackson made history in 2016, becoming the first transgender girl to appear on the cover of National Geographic and sparking a national conversation about gender identity. “The best thing about being a girl is, now I don’t have to pretend to be a boy,” Avery said in a quote on the cover. Avery’s mother, Debi Jackson, was the subject of one of HRC’s Moms for Transgender Equality videos and is a member of HRC’s groundbreaking Parents for Transgender Equality Council.
9. Grace Dolan-Sandrino, Washington, D.C.
At 16, Grace Dolan-Sandrino’s personal story of overcoming adversity during her transition in high school propelled her to advocate on behalf of other transgender students going through the same hardships. After getting involved in HRC’s Welcoming Schools program, which helps make schools more inclusive for LGBTQ students, she got a call from the White House. In 2015, she attended a meeting of transgender and other nonconforming students that would help inform the office's policy under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. "It was very empowering and amazing to be involved," she told Rolling Stone. "It made me feel like I was not only helping other kids but also that my opinion, my life, and my education mattered."
Most recently, Dolan-Sandrino spoke out against President Trump’s actions to dismantle protections for transgender students during HRC’s Facebook live event last month.
10. Nicole Maines, Maine
Nicole Maines made history in early 2014 when a judge ruled that she had the right to use the restroom of the gender she identified with, marking a major victory for transgender rights and the first time a state court ruled it unlawful to deny transgender students access to the bathroom. Since then, their family’s story has been brought to life on a national scale in the bestselling book Becoming Nicole - The Transformation of An American Family, written by Pulitzer Prize author Amy Ellis Nutt. Maines’ father, Wayne Maines, was the subject of one of HRC’s Dads for Transgender Equality videos and is a member of HRC’s groundbreaking Parents for Transgender Equality Council.
In September, HRC partnered with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians to release Supporting and Caring for Transgender Children, a guide explaining what experts know about supporting our youngest transgender and gender-expansive kids, especially those in elementary school.
In 2015, HRC partnered with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Gender Spectrum, the ACLU and the National Education Association on Schools in Transition, a groundbreaking guide for K-12 administrators, teachers and parents. The guide describes the legal landscape for transgender students, discusses crucial policies that affect students’ daily experiences, and offers advice for working with families who aren’t yet supportive of their child’s identity.
To learn more about how you can support transgender and gender-expansive youth, visit www.hrc.org/trans-youth.
For more information about HRC’s efforts toward transgender equality, go to hrc.org/transgender.
Also check out HRC’s Transgender Visibility Guide here.