Being a teenager can be difficult; at a time when pressure to conform is probably at its strongest, being an outlier can make one especially vulnerable, heaping even more difficulties on top of what is already a typically stressful time in a person’s life. ‘The Trans Teen Survival Guide,’ a newly published book by Fox Fisher and Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir, aims to help. (Update: We’ve been told this book should be on the shelves at Nexus next week, but if you’re outside of Iceland, keep reading to learn how you can buy the book.)
“When we were growing up, we didn’t have any resource like this” they tell us. “If something like this would’ve existed and we had access to it, it would have helped us massively in finding ourselves, and it would’ve saved us many years of confusion, isolation and shame.”
The book was inspired in part by a mutual friend of theirs, Christina L. Bentley, who set up a Tumblr page a few years ago under the same name. They were so impressed with her blog that they penned their book under the same title. Unfortunately, Christina took her own life earlier this year, and was not able to see the book finally come into being, so the book is dedicated to her memory.
“The book is a mix of our own personal knowledge that we have gained over the years as activists and trans people, as well as information from organisations across Europe,” they tell us. “We basically started by piling together all the information that we wish we had access to when we were growing up, and then started doing research on it and entwining it with our own personal experiences.”
In their estimation, the greatest obstacles trans teens in Europe and North America face right now concern social support and medical support, the lack of which stems from ignorance of the trans experience.
“Trans teens in many countries across the world are struggling to be recognised in their identities, and there are a lot of misconceptions around the support that they need, and often people are hesitant to give it,” they tell us. “This can lead to teens feeling massively depressed and distressed about their situation, leading to awful things like being disowned by their families and becoming homeless, to seeing no other way out other than to take their own lives. Giving them access to medical interventions in order to slow down the effects of puberty is also massively important, as they are are perfectly safe and give the teen time to breathe. . We need to be able to listen to them.”
Progress, but a long ways to go
Things have improved for trans teens over the past ten years or so. Countries that have taken steps forward have, for example, made puberty blockers accessible to teens, who might also be getting greater support from their schools and families. However, there is still a long way to go.
“Health care systems need to take it much more seriously and realise that if these kids do not get access to puberty blockers at the right time, their mental health is going to suffer as a result,” they point out. “It also means establishing laws and processes around this, and governments and those in positions of power can make this happen; we need their support more than ever.”
On being a good trans ally
Perhaps you reading this have a trans friend, and want to be a good ally to them. For Ugla and Fox, this means more than just lip service.
“It’s about checking in with your trans friends, and asking them how they are and if they need any help with anything,” they say. This includes running errands for trans friends to places where misgendering is likely, and being vocally in support of trans issues, in public as well as online.
“We need to start recognising that people can tell very early on what their gender is and what is their experience of their own gender, and the sooner we can affirm people and allow them to explore their expression and identity, the happier our kids will be,” they say. “We need to be able to listen to them.”
You can get the Trans Teen Survival Guide on Amazon, both in physical and electronic copies. Ugla and Fox specifically recommend using this link as a part of the money will be donated to Mermaids, an org that supports trans kids and their families in the UK.