Countless trans people are speaking out about their childhoods by writing letters in an effort to humanise the often cruel “debates” about them.
Under the hashtag “Letters 4 Trans Kids“, trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming Twitter users told their own stories.
As adults, they are thriving – and they want to help young people do the same. In a news cycle so often dominated by stories that dwell on bullying, murder and whether to remove their rights, trans people brought the conversation back to joy.
Among them was Arthur Webber, a 24-year-old writer based in London, England, who recalled nights “praying” that he would “wake up a boy” and now considers being trans a “gift”.
In many nations, from the US to Britain, trans folk are facing fire seemingly from all sides. From a belligerent press and politicians that see them as a “culture war”, to the spectre of rising violence and dwindling healthcare options.
But before then, Webber was a young person wishing he could throw on boy’s school uniform and use the men’s bathroom.
“My nights were spent praying that in the morning I would be a boy. I would wake up disappointed,” he tweeted. “However, I already was a boy – no divine intervention required.”
Webber recounted a Christmas Eve when he was seven spent cutting his hair off and rushing to tell his family about it. “I had been watching The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, so perhaps took the time of children coming out of a closet a bit too literally,” he joked.
“However, I already was a boy – no (terrible) haircut needed.”
Holidays provided a young Webber with a chance to be himself, a feeling so often stripped from trans kids. “I’d avoid giving them my name and say I was born without one,” he said, “which everybody is, really.
“The devastation I felt when my family would fetch me using my deadname and reveal that the outside world believes I was a girl still lingers with me.”
There were many stories from a childhood spent hiding who he was that he could have included in the letter, Webber told PinkNews. Many show how life-saving inclusive education can be.
“Until I had sex ed in year five, I was convinced that I was just a really late starter at being a boy and one day my d**k would just grow,” he said. “I’d be like all the other boys so sometimes I would look at men out in public and wonder at what age theirs showed up.”
For Webber, the bathroom – a space some want to ban people like him from– also offered him a brief moment where he felt at ease with himself.
Visiting a train exhibition at a Doncaster museum with his father and grandfather, the pair let him use the washroom with them “because they weren’t about to leave a five-year-old alone”.
“I was so happy to be there,” Webber recalled, “even though it smells.”
“As a child, I thought that eyelashes were a female thing so I would pull them out,” he added.
“So now they’re very thin because when you pull them out for years they sort of stop growing back.”
The Letters 4 Trans Kids hashtag was first started by Ina Fried, chief technology correspondent for Axios. She sought to “find a way to support” trans and non-binary youth amid an anti-trans legislative onslaught in America.
Fried called on social media users to pen a letter to share their experiences growing up trans or show their emphatic support for the community’s rights.
“I can only imagine what it is like to be a trans kid right now, trying to find your own way while having to have your humanity and basic human rights up for discussion every day,” Fried wrote on Facebook on 10 April.
“And then there is the message that debate sends to their community, to their friends and even to them – that they are not seen or valued for who they are.”
“What if everyone who supports trans kids wrote a letter, or made a short video or posted on social media,” Fried added. “Well, why not? Let’s do it.”
And hundreds of people did just that. Trans actors, filmmakers, drag artists and leading LGBT+ advocates grabbed their pens and wrote about figuring their identities out just like any other kid.
The letters are a testament to just how possible it could be for trans youth to flourish when supported, affirmed and loved.
A question so many of the letters raised was how the adults in trans children’s lives – from parents and caregivers to educators and politicians – can choose to care for them, not abandon them, so they grow up into the people they know they can be.
Despite the obstacles he faced, Webber has persevered as a proud trans man – and so will today’s trans youth, he stressed. Webber now considers being trans a “limited edition gift with no receipt”.
“Sometimes you’d give anything to return it because it’s too hard to look after,” he said, “but most of the time you’re thankful that it’s unique.”