Hannah, 18: ‘Hey, I’m trans, and that’s okay’
How does it feel to be a transgender teenager? YouTuber and trans activist Hannah talks to The Day about coming out, the media, and changing her school’s gender policy.
Hannah was 14 when she told her parents she was transgender. She had already been out to her parents as non-binary, so she knew that they would accept her.
But “I didn’t know how to word it,” she remembers. “So I wrote a note and — for reasons that I don’t know — I decided to run away, and throw the note behind me. My parents then would find the note, and all would be okay.” Unfortunately, that note went under the dresser, and they did not see it. Instead, thinking she had run away from home, they called the police.
“A little bit embarrassing,” she laughs. “It did not go to plan!” Eventually the police found her, took her home, and left. She gave the note to her parents, and “an hour later, they came up and were like ‘it’s going to be okay’. It’s a happy ending.”
Not long after this, she helped to write a new trans policy for her school. She made sure there was a unisex toilet, cubicles in the changing rooms, that students were allowed to wear their “preferred uniforms”, and that there was a clear procedure for reporting transphobic bullying.
“It was just an action plan for me, really, it wasn’t anything big. But eventually it became the main trans policy for the school… And all these local area schools started picking up on it. And it grew to colleges as well.” Soon, similar policies were being adopted in schools in her area. Now she gives talks at assemblies and pride events.
She is also a YouTuber. On her channel, she records vlogs, support videos and comedy, hoping to show the world that “trans people are no different”. One of her first videos was an MTF make-up tutorial; more recently she filmed herself bouncing through a blizzard on a space hopper.
There are not many role models for young trans girls, she explains. Most are in their 20s or above. For teens, “it’s me and Jazz Jennings, who lives in America, then Corey Maison”.
Are trans people well represented by the mainstream media? “No, not really,” she says. “Especially certain newspapers that we won’t name… BBC, they’re not that bad, they try to cover it in sensitive ways. But sometimes it can be a little bit patronising.”
How important is gender to society?
“I would personally say that it is important,” she says. But once trans people have come out, gender gets less important over time, as “it becomes an everyday thing… I don’t mind if people associate my name with being trans instead of being, like, a YouTuber. It doesn’t bother me.” But she says she is not as “look at me, I’m trans!” as she used to be. “If a trans person’s life is just constantly wound up by gender... it kind of eats you up a little bit. If you go through that stage, it’s fine. But there will be a point where it will end.”
- Does your school have a good trans policy?
- Are there enough trans role models?
- Write down all of the characteristics and stereotypes that you can think of which are associated with trans women. Then discuss: Are they mostly positive or negative traits? If you know any trans women in real life, do you think they fit those stereotypes?
- Research and write your definitions for the following words and phrases: “gender”, “gender identity”, “gender expression”, “sex”, “sexuality”.
Some People Say...
“When a trans woman is called a man, that is an act of violence.”Laverne Cox
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Some people’s gender identity (the way they feel inside) does not match their biological sex (generally determined by their genitalia). Medically, this is known as gender dysphoria, and some people with the condition identify as transgender. According to the latest “School Report” by the charity Stonewall, eight out of 10 transgender pupils in the UK are bullied for their gender, and 45% have attempted suicide.
- What do we not know?
- What, if anything, causes gender dysphoria, or how many people are transgender. One recent study in the US found that around 3% of American teenagers are either transgender or non-binary, more than previously thought. We do not know if this is because more young people are trans, or whether they are simply more likely to come out.
- Someone whose gender identity (what they feel inside) does not match the gender identity they were assigned at birth (based on their biology). In Hannah’s case, that means she was born with a biologically male body, but thinks of herself and lives her life as female. She is also undergoing hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to make her body more feminine.
- Someone who does not identify as a boy or a girl.
- Transphobic bullying
- Although Hannah says she was never bullied about her gender at school, she talks to many trans teenagers who are. “They’re always like, ‘my life would be okay if my classmates didn’t bully me, or tease me, or annoy me for it,’” she says.
- An acronym for the gender transition from “male to female”.
- Jazz Jennings
- An American YouTuber and reality TV star, now aged 17, who came out as transgender at a young age. She was first interviewed on US television at the age of six.
- Corey Maison
- A 16-year-old American YouTuber whose father has now also come out as a transgender man.