Growing up, I knew nothing about the LGBT community. It wasn’t something we talked about in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. I don’t remember how I heard about “gay marriage.” Maybe on TV? I asked my parents about it and they laughed it off like it was the most ridiculous idea they’d ever heard. “If a man can marry a man, I may as well marry this Pepsi can,” my father said.

In my freshman year of college, I was constantly drawn to LGBT education. It was a subject I didn’t know much about, and wasn’t college the time to learn new things? I joined the gender and sexuality alliance (GSA) and took courses on anatomy and the psychology of human sexuality. I was an art major, by the way. All of these were electives.

One day, I was invited by the GSA to go to a conference. The problem was, it was a weekday. Skipping classes wasn’t a problem for ME, exactly, but I told my parents and my mom was irate. “I just don’t want this effecting your education,” she claimed. “I haven’t missed any classes this semester. I can handle classes and volunteer with the GSA at the same time,” I responded. I was an adult and this was something I wanted to do. It shouldn’t matter than my mother had different opinions.

I went to the conference and fell in love. I felt at home. I was learning so much about the LGBT community and myself. It wasn’t long until I came out to my friends and family as bisexual. I found support on all sides, even from my parents. “You should’ve known I’d be supportive!” my mother exclaimed, “I raised you to be accepting of everyone.”

So I continued my passion for volunteering and researching LGBT issues which eventually lead me to the T portion: transgender. I learned all about transitions, gender dysphoria, and the sex and gender spectrums. The more I learned about the trans community, the more I learned about myself and my relationship with gender.

During my junior year of college, a transgender girl name Leelah Alcorn committed suicide. Her story went viral. She posted a suicide note on Tumblr and it had been saved and shared all over the internet. Her parents didn’t support her gender identity, even after death. She was buried under a tombstone with the wrong name; a boy’s name. Reading that story broke my heart and made me realize how important it was for the trans community to be visible.

A few months later, I came out as genderqueer. I changed my name, and started going by they/them pronouns. I thought I’d get just as much support as I did in my sexuality, but this coming out was much different. My friends and family met me with confusion and outrage. My mother stopped speaking to me… It was hard losing people I loved, but I stood by my decision because I finally accepted myself for who I was. I’m happier every day knowing who I am and living my full truth.

I use this as an opportunity to put my whole self into benefiting the transgender community. I started a petition to help transgender minors get access to healthcare, inspired by Leelah’s story. I continued volunteering with LGBT organizations at pride events and in my local area. Then, in November of last year, I founded Trans Minors Rights.

I’ve gotten negative comments from family, but I let them pass over me, now. Going to pride events and seeing how passionate people are about our mission reminds me how important it is to keep going, no matter what obstacles I face. I’ve found close friends who respect me for me, share the same values, and aren’t afraid to have difficult discussions.

If you’d like to support Trans Minors Rights and sign our petition, you can go to our website