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Sometimes I Feel Like I Live in Two Different Worlds

Rebekah Bruesehoff Transgender Teen author activist LGBTQ Pride Parade Trans Rights Signs
Images: Rebekah Bruesehoff Courtesy GLAAD; Shutterstock

On Spirit Day, Rebekah Bruesehoff, a 16-year-old author and activist talks about her history of advocating for the rights and safety of transgender young people since the age of 10.

My alarm goes off most mornings at 6 a.m.

I hit snooze a few more times than I should and then scramble to get dressed, eat breakfast, pack my bags, and get out the door carrying my school supplies, field hockey gear, and enough food to get me through the next twelve hours. Once I get to school, I mostly focus on my classes.

I’m a straight-A honors student, and to be honest, junior year is intense. Besides class, I might have a rehearsal for one of the acapella groups I sing in or a meeting for class government. At the end of the school day, I head to the locker room, eat a protein bar, and get ready for field hockey practice or maybe a game. I show up, play hard, and support my teammates. After that, I head home for dinner, homework, maybe a meeting or an interview, and then bed. It’s a full day, sure, but it’s not newsworthy. I’m a pretty typical high school student.

Of course, that’s not the story I see play out in political debates and social media arguments. Elected officials and those running for office will tell you that I’m a danger to everything this country holds dear. They will tell you I’m destroying women’s sports by playing field hockey with my friends. They will tell you that the parents who love and support me are actually abusive. They will tell you that the top-notch team of medical professionals I see at one of the best children’s hospitals in the country are tricking me into care that these strangers are certain I will regret.

And I live in that world, too. I know what’s being said. I speak at press conferences. I meet with legislators. I miss school for interviews with Good Morning America or to film videos that promote education and understanding. I’ve been educating and advocating on a national scale about what it means to be a transgender young person since I was 10 years old. In 2017, a picture of me holding a sign at a rally that said “I’m the scary transgender person the media warned you about” went viral. I was just this cute little girl in a pink puffy coat with my hair braided into pigtails. I wasn’t scary. The thing is that whether it’s in headlines, campaign speeches, or legislative debates in state houses across the country, people still seem to think that transgender kids like me are scary. Everyday people sit in rooms without us trying to make decisions for us and about us. But we’re here. We have voices, and our voices matter. This is about our lives and our future.

It’s not that my generation has it all figured out, but we are living in this world right now. These aren’t just issues up for debate; I can’t emphasize enough that behind all this rhetoric are real people, real kids like me. Our lived experiences give us information that you all are missing. Before you legislate our existence, maybe talk to us. Before you ban the books that include our stories, maybe actually read them. Before you block me from the athletic field, maybe come watch me play. I’m definitely not the best, but I’m out there working hard for the good of my team and learning how to get better. Before you say that me being me is somehow an attack on your Christianity, come visit my church where my dad is the pastor. When we say God does not make mistakes, we actually mean it. I was created to be me.

So I live my life in these two worlds. I know the fact that I get to live any part of my life in the world where I get to be a pretty typical high school student is an indicator of my privilege as a middle-class white girl who fits mostly into the gender expectations society has for me. I live in New Jersey where we have anti-discrimination laws, proactive educational policy, and a governor who made New Jersey a sanctuary state for gender-affirming care. I have supportive parents and great friends. I’ve had access to gender-affirming healthcare that allows me to feel like me.

And yet, the adults running for school board in my town campaign on promises to eradicate inclusive sexual education and the sharing of pronouns. They say that if left alone LGBTQ+ youth like myself will ‘grow out of it’ ignoring the data that shows supporting us will save our lives. That same rhetoric is rampant across our private and public lives. From family dinner tables to board of education meetings, people want to debate the validity of my existence, my rights, and my humanity.

But queer youth are here, and we are finding joy and possibility alongside our fight to be known and heard. We are living our lives, doing the work, and making a difference in the world. I’ve seen how when people get to know us, their ideas change. I’ve listened as people tearfully explained to me that they had it all wrong and that getting to know me is what transformed their understanding. We are shifting what’s possible.

When I was little I had this purple t-shirt that said “change the world by being you”. That’s what transgender youth today are doing. By showing up fully as ourselves and using our voices, we are creating change in our homes, our communities, our schools, and the world. Today on Spirit Day, and everyday, you can support LGBTQ+ youth by insisting people hear us. We’ve got things to say. Not eventually. Not when we’re all grown up. Right now.

Rebekah Bruesehoff (she/her) is a sixteen-year-old author and activist who is passionate about finding joy and spreading hope. She has been publicly advocating for the rights and safety of transgender young people since she was 10 years old.

Views expressed in The Advocate’s opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, equalpride.

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