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The Crucial Role Young Advocates Are Playing in Raising Transgender Visibility

This Friday, LGBTQ and allied communities around the globe will mark International Transgender Day of Visibility. This year poses new challenges for the rights of transgender people as President Trump and states across the country are aiming to roll back their rights. It’s critical — now more than ever — that we recognize the advocates and allies who are working tirelessly to bring trans issues to the forefront.

Ahead of the annual event, HRC wanted to highlight a growing group of visible trans and gender fluid youth advocates, as well as their families, who are helping change the hearts and minds of millions. Several on our list have already helped spark a national conversation around what it means to be transgender.

Last year, at just nine years old, Avery Jackson made history by becoming the first transgender person to appear on the cover of National Geographic, spurring conversations around gender identity in living rooms across the country. Throughout her journey, Avery has been supported by her mom Debi Jackson, a fierce advocate in her own right who made waves when a video of her speech advocating for her daughter before a mother’s association meeting went viral in 2014.

As more trans youth continue to live authentic lives, it’s more important than ever for their families to become vocal advocates as well. Parents like JR — who is also a member of HRC’s Trans Equality Council — became a staunch public ally for his daughter Ellie after she came out as transgender at four years old.

Trans youth need allies not only at home but in all areas of life, including school. HRC understands how crucial it is for trans students to have a safe and inclusive learning environment, which is why we initiated our Welcoming Schools program, so that transgender and gender-expansive youth know they’re supported in and outside of the classroom.

These types of programs are critical to LGBTQ young people as many lack crucial support from their families, and instead are rejected, leaving them at greater risk for homelessness, substance abuse, depression, and suicide. Up to 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ.

Thanks in large part to social media, the culture has begun to shift regarding issues of gender. Social platforms like Facebook and Tinder have dozens of options for users’ gender, a reality featured in the latest issue of TIME on the diversity of gender identities. Moreover, young people remain far more open minded to gender fluidity, with 20 percent of millennials compared to seven percent of baby boomers who say they are something other than cisgender, according to TIME.

Those changing attitudes have helped other notable trans youth like Gavin Grimm and Jazz Jennings to embrace their truest selves in the most public way possible.  

Jennings, 16, has captivated viewers by documenting her life on TLC’s GLAAD Award winning docu-series, I Am Jazz and appearing in TIME’s 25 Most Influential Teens — twice. She is also an author of a self-title memoir, Being Jazz, and co-founded the TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation, which helps assists trans youth.

Just a high school senior, Grimm’s fight to be respected and protected at school, including by using the restroom that corresponds with his gender identity, has catapulted his story across the national headlines. Grimm’s case was slated for the Supreme Court before it was sent back to the Fourth Circuit for further review — it would’ve been the first time the nation’s highest court heard a case regarding transgender rights.

Even though the decision to vacate Grimm’s case to a lower court is a disappointing setback, his story has already resonated with millions about what’s at stake for transgender rights.  

To learn more about the resources available to transgender children and families, please visit, our coming out guide; Schools in Transition, a best practices guide for supporting transgender youth at school; or additional resources at hrc.org/trans-youth.