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  • Girls always casually kind of talk to each other about their crushes, but I was

  • always so afraid to just mention mine.

  • I decided I'd treat myself like I was nothing

  • then I felt like everyone would just leave me. One day I was driving with my

  • dad to the beach

  • and he goes, "Edson, look at those girls in those bikinis," and I just thought to myself

  • look at the guy next to them! And immediately after that, I always thought myself,

  • am I allowed to think that? You really look in the mirror

  • and um... that's not you. I didn't think that for once nobody was going to not

  • like me

  • I felt that I wasn't gonna like myself.

  • *music*

  • It's already challenging enough being a teen, because you're just trying to figure out

  • who you are

  • in the world. So, for a teen trying to figure out Who am I?;

  • Who do I want to be in relation to other people?; How do I like other people?

  • Am I romantically attracted to certain people?; Am I sexually attracted

  • to certain people?

  • Whoa! That's a lot to deal with.

  • Well, I first started to question my sexuality

  • when I was 12 or 13 in seventh grade.

  • My name's Amelia and I've been out as a lesbian

  • for about two years now. Most my friends had already come out

  • as various different things and I just started to wonder

  • kind of about myself. At first I came out as bisexual

  • because I felt that it would be easier.

  • I later came out as a lesbian. I always knew that something was different.

  • I never knew what it was. I'm Edson Montenegro. I identify as gay as of

  • middle school in 2009. I mean I knew I could talk to my parents about absolutely

  • anything and at that point it was like school, people are frustrating me,

  • but that kind of depth of

  • personal issues- I still wasn't necessarily a 100% ready to

  • really

  • say, "You know what? I am gay." I didn't really think that I was ever a lesbian,

  • but I knew that I was attracted to women.

  • So, I guess that's where bisexual comes in for me.

  • My name is Ana Escalante and I identify as a bisexual woman.

  • Up until the 11th grade I was very

  • embarrassed by the idea being gay.

  • As time went on, I knew that it wasn't going to go away.

  • I saw women the same way I saw men. It can be really challenging to talk about the

  • LGBTQ community

  • because as in today there are SO many different

  • gender identities and sexual orientations. It can be really confusing

  • for people.

  • One of the most common questions we'll get asked is, "What is the difference

  • between gender and sexuality?"

  • L, G, and B are sexual orientations. It's about who you're attracted to.

  • Who you might be romantically attracted to or sexually attracted to.

  • Gender is more about who you identify as.

  • You can identify as male, you can identify as female,

  • gender-neutral, genderqueer, or gender fluid.

  • It's empowering because there's all these different identities.

  • But, then it's also overwhelming because there's all these different

  • identities.

  • Where do I fit in all of this?

  • My super specialty has become working with gender non-conforming kids and

  • transgender adolescents and young adults.

  • The gender journey actually starts at birth and sometimes even before birth.

  • "Is it a boy or girl?" That's one of most prominent questions that's asked when somebody

  • is pregnant.

  • Looking at that baby's anatomy, we start making stories about what that child

  • should do as they grow up. I was

  • confused about who I was. I always had like

  • you know, kinda like a little voice in your head saying, "No, if you be this way you're never

  • gonna make it anywhere in life."

  • "Your family will hate you." I'm 13

  • I identify as a transgender girl, or just Zoey.

  • So one day I'm talking to my brother and my brother's like,

  • "You're not a girl." And then he's like, "You have that."

  • And I was like, "I know I have that, but doesn't everyone have that?"

  • I knew that I felt different.

  • I identify as a heterosexual male. And I was

  • walking around dressing like a little boy

  • up until 14-15 once puberty started.

  • I knew that I didn't feel like I was a girl.

  • I didn't have the knowledge

  • or the language to be able to verbalize it

  • to anyone around me. What's fascinating about younger gender non-conforming kids

  • is they don't have a coming-out process. They just

  • like what they like and they tell us. My dad, he used to throw away my mom's

  • high heels cuz I used to walk around in the house with them. They start to understand

  • at 6 or 7 when they get into first grade

  • "Hey, you're a boy. You shouldn't like dolls, that's not okay. I'm not going to be your friend if

  • you like pink and that's your favorite color." And so they start to

  • internalize those messages.

  • I was extremely self-destructive.

  • I was self-loathing. I wasn't

  • physical with myself. I wasn't hard on anyone else.

  • I just - I didn't like myself. They're sitting

  • on what feels like a huge secret for a really long time

  • and that be really damaging. So I tried hiding who I was from myself.

  • Cuz at the time I didn't know what transgender was or the name of it.

  • And I was telling her, "Mom, I'm a girl. I know I'm a girl. I was born this way."

  • And I was telling her, "I need to be who I am." There's a tremendous

  • process of being ostracized if you're different.

  • People were posting about me, calling me "f**."

  • "Why haven't you come out yet?" One of my friends was really homophobic.

  • She told me I was gonna burn in hell once.

  • That can feel like a tremendous target on their back, especially in middle school.

  • You know, I was called so many things like, "nerd," like

  • "he-she," like they are thought I was gay. I've definitely heard

  • other people like friends make homophobic comments and I'm always that one person

  • that

  • stops them and corrects them. I'm Isabel and I identify as a straight female.

  • And I have two moms and I am an ally

  • to everybody on the LGBTQ spectrum. I feel like I have a responsibility

  • to go out into the world every day and be as

  • kind and

  • sensitive toward the subject of LGBTQ

  • as I possibly can. You never know

  • how much it can mean to have you step up and say

  • "That's not appropriate. What do you even mean by that?" Other teens that might be

  • hearing you that might "be in the closet," that might identify as gay,

  • can just be looking at you very differently thinking, "Wow, there's an ally.

  • There's someone out there."

  • "Raise your hand if you heard someone say the phrase, 'that's so gay.'"

  • LGBTQ outreach is really important for TEEN LINE because people can be

  • really misinformed about the community.

  • "Do you think that teen is going to feel safe? No."

  • Once they can understand what it means and how it hurts and affects other

  • people

  • they will usually stop. "A high percentage of LGBTQ youth

  • in the foster care system"... This is just a topic we don't always talk about.

  • And when we talk about it, we usually hear about suicides

  • or all these other things that can be really negative and heavy and we don't hear

  • about how

  • actually the community can be really awesome and really

  • empowering. Hello, everybody.

  • One of the highlights of our work with TEEN LINE is coming in and training

  • their new TEEN LINE teens. Kind of the most fun ways that we do that is through this

  • vocabulary game.

  • I think that it's really important for people to understand

  • the language and knowing what is okay to say and what's not okay to say.

  • And simply what things mean, because

  • there's a lot of language out there and it's always changing.

  • I think that the way that we've asked people to describe their gender

  • experience in the past is very

  • limiting so, that is why I developed the gender abacus,

  • so that people can have a more complete way to explain what their experience is.

  • So you can see we start with sex - so your assigned sex at birth based on your

  • anatomy.

  • This second rung of the abacus is gender identity - who you are. Do you feel

  • mostly male, do you feel mostly female? Do you feel

  • half of both? Do you feel a little more female than male?

  • Show us. But, the abacus gives people an opportunity to visually represent what

  • that experience is like for them.

  • The third rung the abacus is gender expression. How you want the world to see

  • your gender.

  • And then sexual attraction. But one kid said me, I thought this is great,

  • "Can you just have a randomizer button there so that it goes blpsh." You know?

  • It just goes where, the beads land wherever.

  • Because that's sort of how I feel about my sexual attraction.

  • I think it was probably my sophomore year. I was in a social psychology class

  • and that was the first time I had heard of gender-identity disorder.

  • And it all clicked. From that moment,

  • I did come out to my sister almost immediately.

  • What she said to me what is, "I have no idea what that is,

  • but I love you. I'm always going to support you and I'll help you

  • figure out how to come out to dad."

  • Coming out to my parents was a really gradual process.

  • I had talked to my mom about things I was having

  • questions about or I was confused about and she just kind of slowly picked up on

  • everything.

  • Well, my mom was totally cool with it- was kind of like our little secret.

  • And she said, "Nothing's changed, I still see you as my son."

  • After that is when I told my Dad and he said, "If anyone breaks your heart then I'm

  • gonna break them."

  • And that- that's the thing that really just made me feel good, because I just

  • realized that

  • you know, he cares.

  • If you're coming out, it's really, really important to

  • make sure you're safe and if it's not a safe environment,

  • it might not be the right time to come out. Sometimes, unfortunately, there's still

  • those families out there that

  • don't support. It's important to identify those people in our life

  • that are safe and that could be a teacher, that can be someone else's parent,

  • that can be your friend. To have my mother and my father

  • just be by my side... all I can say is that I was incredibly blessed.

  • I can only hope that in the future that other people

  • are as blessed as I am. 5th grade year,

  • you know, it all broke out. I finally became myself.

  • The reaction I got from my mom was really good. I was so happy.

  • My mom's like, "Alright. We're going shopping for your clothes." And then that was

  • the day that I got my clothes. At the time it felt like, "Wow. That's who I am."

  • Like,

  • finally I'm complete now. I have a close friend at my school

  • who this past year came out as a lesbian and she just like

  • came into the room and stood up and she was like, "Everybody!

  • I'm coming out. I'm lesbian." And we all

  • just like started clapping and we were all so happy for her.

  • What's important to remember is that everyone

  • is going to have their own coming-out process. Everyone's going to have their own

  • journey

  • and all of those are okay.

  • If you've made this decision to come out, there's a lot of things out there to

  • support you.

  • There are a lot of books out there that you can read.

  • There are so many opportunities to find support. So maybe

  • you can't find someone in your school, let's say, who identifies as asexual...

  • but there's a thriving community on the Internet that you can turn to

  • and that can be really empowering. You can turn to social media, you can turn to

  • Instagram, you can turn to Tumblr and Facebook

  • and youth groups and community centers and there's always TEEN LINE.

  • If a teen calls in from anywhere in the world,

  • they're going another teen who understands. Who's trained to just

  • actively listen, provide empathy, and link them with resources based on anything

  • they're going through.

  • If you have a Gay-Straight Alliance at your school,

  • to reach out to the advisor- let them know what's going on with you.

  • GSA stands for Gay Straight Alliance, but it's pretty much an..... A GSA is a safe

  • place for students to go

  • and be heard and to feel validated.

  • We try to introduce ourselves

  • at each meeting and share our gender pronouns. Hi guys, I'm Nicole or Charlie.

  • My PGP's are she/her or he/him. It's

  • kinda fluid. You don't need to stress about getting it right.

  • It's important that all students are involved.

  • It is called a Gay-Straight Alliance, so all students are welcome to attend

  • meetings. I love going to the GSA.

  • It's really great just being out at school and

  • not worrying so much about other people judging me for who I am.

  • It's really important for teens who think they may identify anywhere

  • within the LGBTQ community to have safe spaces

  • to bounce ideas. They need to

  • be able to communicate that they're not sure if they identify

  • as gay or bisexual. Or they need to communicate with someone, anyone, safely

  • I'm not sure where I am, but, you know, this journey

  • is unraveling before me. My dad, when I did come out to him,

  • you know, he had no idea about gender or identity, but once he

  • saw how happy I was, he was on board with me.

  • When I transitioned, I had a lot of acceptance from school kids.

  • They gave me hugs, they listen, they cry.

  • And they're like, "Oh my god, you're so beautiful because you overcame this"

  • I'm just like, I'm just being who I am, man. Like, it's nothing big.

  • When I entered my current high school in 9th grade,

  • I really felt like I could be myself. So, it was just so liberating knowing that

  • whoever gravitated towards me, would gravitate towards me.

  • And I dunno, it just felt like my wings were spreading.

  • People on the spectrum can live successful lives and be happy

  • and accepted where they are and for who they are.

  • We say acceptance isn't enough,

  • to tolerate someone isn't enough. We need to embrace

  • different communities, including LGBTQ. Sometimes I get people say,