This feature is part of the ACLU of Florida's "LGBTQ+ Youth Activist Project" commemorating Pride Month during the month of June.

Imagine a world where you have a hard say about how resources are allocated and what policies are prioritized – a world where, ultimately, you are free to be you.
That is the conversation we have with our youth members at Power U Center for Social Change (Power U). To all the inspiring young people I get to work with, and to all the young people I may never meet, I am encouraged watching your generation fight for a more just society. Many of our youth members face adversities and are directly impacted by structural racism, hetero-patriarchy and economic injustice. And in that struggle, they organize their communities, building a foundation for a better day and a better world. If you are one of them, when I see you, I appreciate that we are all connected, all fighting to exist in a world where we can be our full selves.

The teenage years and early 20s are complicated. It is a time when you are trying to figure out who you are and make sense of everything. It is confusing for anyone, especially in 2019 with ubiquitous, conflicting ­digital messages rapidly circling you. And when you are LGBTQ it can be even more complex, especially when no one around you seems to feel your struggle, when every heartbreak goes unseen, or when you are forced to choose between being true to yourself or compromising your dignity just to survive.
You are not alone. From as far back as I can remember, I have struggled with my gender identity. In the 90s and early aughts, terms like “trans” and “gender neutral” were not common. My sexual orientation never fit into the usual boxes. So much of my life has been spent just fighting to be me, without wanting to explain myself, just seeking to be understood. I spent years constructing explanations and tweaking labels for the sake of others’ understanding, exhausting myself in the process, when all along I knew what would complete me. Sound familiar?

There are others of us who never thought they would see the day when they could legally marry their life partner or safely express their gender without wanting to crawl out of their skin. That is progress. Yes, much is still at stake; we are still fighting for our rights. But we are making progress.

You have a right to be here! We are building power, organizing for a better world. It does exist. And you know what? There is a sense of relief in getting older. I know what I need and am comfortable in my body. And after what feels like nine lives, every day that I am here and that you are here — that we are here — is a win. Survival is a victory, when so much of what you see and hear is telling you to be someone else, and when statistically LGBTQ folks, especially trans women of color, are more likely to die by suicide or homicide.

You see? We are out here, making strides, in a world that often feels like it was not meant for us. It may not always be rainbows and unicorns. Shoot. I am 33, single, and trying to get pregnant with a sperm donor. Do I have doubt? Of course. However, despite my trials and tribulations, I also have hope that I will meet my mate when it is meant to be, and I have gratitude for the path that I am on.

You know what gives me that hope? You. It is because of you that I can be me; you are the change agents in this world. So remember that you do have community and don’t compare yourself to everyone else. Your journey is your own; it is unfolding. Hold your head up high and keep fighting for that better day and better world, because it was meant for you… all along.

Brax Tinkler, Operations & Development Director, Power U Center of Social Change