The Vibrancy In Cameron’s Smile

Cameron’s smile is contagious. As a young trans man, Cameron has many reasons to smile: he is loved, supported, and thriving. He also received the age-appropriate, medically-backed gender-affirming care he needed.

Words by Jose Soto (he/him/his) Photography by Armando Gallardo (he/him/his)

As he walks down the stairs toward the living room, Cameron smiles from ear to ear. His smile almost goes uninterrupted throughout the day. There are brief and ephemeral pockets where he isn’t smiling—as he sings “Zombie” by the Cranberries while playing the guitar or provides a video game synopsis to his mom. But for the most part, his smile is constant. At 19 years old, Cameron is joyful, talented, and aspiring for great things to come soon, including joining law enforcement.

Cameron and his family reside in Texas, which recently passed a wide-ranging bill that makes it nearly impossible for transgender Texans of any age to access gender-affirming care. And while accessing the right kind of healthcare for himself wasn’t without challenges, Cameron has been “lucky,” as he said, in not experiencing major setbacks when it comes to his gender-affirming care. This has allowed Cameron to flourish and thrive as a young trans man.

The ability to have access to healthcare makes me really happy.

The discriminatory laws in Texas have made it increasingly difficult for many other transgender Texans. Cameron’s medication hasn’t always been easily and safely accessible, nor has it been economically convenient. Cameron’s family originally relocated to Texas from Colorado to begin working with a doctor specializing in care for trans and non-binary people. But Texas lawmakers have gone as far as fear-mongering doctors and health institutions into being liable for not reporting patients who receive gender-affirming care and related medication and products, even while gender-affirming care is backed up by decades of research and by every major medical association in the United States.

Not unscathed, Cameron has made long-lasting friendships, is a proud dog owner, has taught himself to play a few instruments, including guitar, and, most recently, met with a local police officer to discuss his potential entry into law enforcement. This, he said, “wouldn’t be possible if I hadn’t received the care that I did. I needed that to be here, to be me,” smiling as he finished his sentence.

There’s plenty of vibrancy in his smile. It’s inviting, expressive, and enlightening. It’s easy to see how friends and family naturally gravitate toward him. He speaks about his advocacy work, which he reluctantly began after seeing just how unjust and vile Texan right-wing extremists were being toward people like himself. Still, he does so with shimmers of hope and joy, smiling as he begins to talk about how grateful he is to have a supportive network in his family, which was instrumental in connecting him to the right gender-affirming care. He smiles as he describes the ecstatic feeling when someone calls him “dude” or “man.” He smiles dashingly when answering questions about what he likes to do during his downtime and interests.

Texas lawmakers should feel abashed for trying to diminish the vibrancy and happiness of any trans person by enshrining hateful laws. If they spent any time with Cameron, they’d first-handily see how gender-affirming care was an instrumental catalyst for his well-being and happiness as an adult. It has validated his existence and added to the value he brings not just to himself, his family, and loved ones, but to trans people everywhere. He embodies trans beauty and joy.

Sitting at the corner of his bed, Cameron bashfully serenades his mother and his dog, who is comfortably lying down next to him and apparently smiling back at Cameron. In this space, in this room, and in Cameron’s presence, joy is palpable.

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