“How are you gay? You’re too young to know.” “You can’t be trans, you’re only 13!” “I’m sure you’ll pick a gender when you’re older,” and “It’s probably a phase you’ll grow out of in a few years,” are all things that have been said to kids and teens across the U.S. and around the world.
Minors everywhere are being told daily that they can’t be who they are because they’re ‘too young to decide.’
Though many young people are being accepted by their families and peers, a majority aren’t. Many kids are often taught that they can’t be themselves because they aren’t old or educated enough to decide. A lot of people’s arguments are, “how can you know your sexuality if you haven’t had any experience?” which could easily be argued in many ways. I know millions of kids have heard these expressions, so I spoke to a few of the teens who have experienced and been affected by these prejudice phrases.
Lou, a 14-year-old non-binary trans boy told me, “I’ve had a lot of people be like ‘you’re only 14’ when I try to tell them my pronouns. I’ve had so much internal conflict that I’ve just given up on trying to conform to what people think.” Lou later told me, “I identified as genderfluid for a while because I knew people would tell me I was too young to know I was trans. People still don’t understand that I’m trans because I wear makeup. I didn’t know if my sexuality had anything to do with my gender when I first discovered it.
I’ve since learned that I have to be proud. I can’t be ashamed. And it’s hard. But every little trans kid needs to be proud.”
Eliza, a 14-year-old non-binary panromantic asexual, told me, “Oh, I’ve absolutely been told that I shouldn’t think about my future in regards to my gender because my feelings might change. People all the time tell me that I should be patient with others who misgender me, and shouldn’t correct people since I pass as female.” I then asked Eliza if they had any advice for people who may be afraid to explore their gender and sexuality based on their age and their response was honestly beautiful: “It’s so important to find your labels. For me, finding labels for my gender and sexuality gave me so much confidence, especially since me and so many other teens just want to find out who they are.
It’s important to remember that your experiences don’t define whether you’re allowed to identify as something, and nobody can tell you that you’re not valid. You are valid in every way possible, always.”
Now, in my experience, I’ve been told multiple different things; whether it be about me being in the drag community at 14 “isn’t normal” for someone at my age, or being told, “you shouldn’t be able to decide your sexuality or anything right now, you’re way too young to be thinking about that,” and what I have to say is that: yes. Being in the drag community at 14 may not be “normal,” but I love it so much and it makes me so happy. I’ve made more friends and connections through the LGBT+ community than I ever would’ve if who I am and what I love was considered “normal.” If what makes me confident to be who I am and if isn’t right because of my age, so be it!
My advice to anyone afraid to explore gender and sexuality because they’re younger would be, if it makes you happy, do it. There will always be people who will say you’re not normal and it’s a phase, but they can’t control how you feel and what you love.
If wearing makeup makes you happy, do it! If wearing a certain type of clothing makes you feel confident, wear it! And if wearing a certain type of hairstyle makes you positive about yourself, rock it! I know it may sound cheesy, but always remember that even if you feel alone, there are always people who are going through similar situations and someone will always accept and love you no matter what gender or sexuality you are. I guarantee that if you stay true to yourself, everything will turn out alright.
(Special thanks to Lou and Eliza for taking time to partake in my interview!)