Amy smiling at the camera with a backdrop of eclectic objects in a restaurant.
My favorite way to play, over banter and battered chicken.

I’m a happy trans kid!

The United States (and the UK) are still afire with anti-trans legislation, and it’s not the first time. For decades, the religious right has desperately tried to limit our protections, our access to health care, and even our ability to pee safely. Countless youth end up homeless after coming out to their parents, with few places to be safe and affirmed. It always feels hyperbolic to say it, but I really do think the right would rather have us dead than out and ourselves.

But that’s the story told far too often. It’s one I dwell on too much, writing about the difficulty I faced coming out, and the constant whiplash of euphoria from finally being out and the devastating losses in courts. It’s one that dominates headlines, with most stories focusing trans people who have lost their lives or faced adversity. It’s one that parents often tell themselves when their kids come out, convincing themselves that it would be safer for their child to hide than to be out and proud. And it’s even the one that the right uses as a kind of circular proof that being trans must somehow be wrong: why else would trans people’s lives are so miserable?

Here’s the problem: there are a lot of happy trans kids. And I’m one of them. That might sound strange coming from a 41 year old, but in a lot of ways, I feel like I’m just resuming life from when I first realized something was wrong with my name, my pronouns, and my body. I have some of my first memories when I was in 3rd grade, age 8. I always had the sense that I was going to the wrong bathroom, I would play with my (boy) friends, but always be preoccupied with what the girls were doing. I would have fleeting encounters with girls in school or on the bus where they’d every so briefly treat me like I was just another friend. These were all glimpses in to the life I was supposed to be living, but couldn’t, since there are so many forces keeping me in my gendered place. It didn’t even consider it a possibility.

But life at home was closer. For a time, both of my neighbors were girls. Tina and Amanda and I would spend a fair amount of time playing in their rooms while my parents did yard work. Those few hours every weekend were dreamlike. We would tell elaborate stories about the dolls and toys in their rooms, run outside, giggle and roll around in the grass in the hopelessly stereotyped way that many girls do. Beyond the gaze of parents and peers, I was free. Play with my boy friends didn’t exactly feel wrong, but it wasn’t liberating in the way it was Tina and Amanda.

Thirty years and much therapy later, I’ve found my way back to those lost moments of childhood. On weekends I find myself rolling around on the ground with our cat, laughing hysterically at some childish humor, beaming after trying on a new top, trying ridiculous things with my hair, learning how to operate my new body. I am simultaneously 8, 18, 28, and forty something, trying to catch up after a life on pause for three decades. When I am present, I can feel deeply childish, sorting out a new social awareness. I can feel the disorientation of adolescence, trying to make sense of new sexual feelings. And I can feel the ennui of my twenties, trying to navigate my position in the world as a woman while still longing for mystery and adventure. Good or bad, each of those moments replaces three decades of numbness with bursts of punctuated joy.

And while I resume my childhood, happy trans kids across the U.S. live theirs uninterrupted. Their parents love them, they have wonderful friends, they laugh, they play, and they are blissfully ignorant of the hateful world around them, because the people in their lives see them as clearly as they seem themselves. And their trans bodies, just like the bodies of all children, are a footnote to their innocence, as they should be.

Help protect the childhoods of trans youth: give to the Trans Week fundraiser to raise a legal fund to sue the 34 states pursuing legislation that threads to rob millions of children of their childhoods.

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Amy J. Ko

Amy J. Ko

Professor of programming + learning + design + justice at the University of Washington Information School. Trans; she/her. #BlackLivesMatter.