Growing up and trying to figure out who you are and what your passions are in life can be overwhelming, but imagine the turmoil one might experience if who you are on the inside doesn’t match what you see on the outside.
Turmoil and dysphoria is what many transgender individuals experience when they come to this realization, and that was the case for Lilith Balf.
“I think pre-transition everything was the most difficult. For the longest time I didn’t think I’d make it to adulthood pretransition,” says Lilith Balf, a transgender teenager. “There’s irreversible changes that come with puberty, so that’s like body dysphoria. Then there’s social dysphoria where your place in society is very different from where you think it should be. I feel like I experienced both. Growing up was very scary, growing up as an adolescent male, not knowing why I was so afraid and scared of what I’d become if the rest of puberty was completed.”
What made it all even more scary for Lilith is the fact that she did not know transgender individuals existed, making her feel isolated and alone.
That is why she emphasizes the importance of educating our youth about all types of people.
“Parents shouldn’t be afraid of teaching their kids about homosexuality, with the thought that their child would become gay or something. I never knew trans people existed until I was 16 or something,” Lilith states, “so that’s a really big issue. Maybe your child is gay or a lesbian and they don’t know that that’s a thing they can be comfortable as.”
Lilith says her most difficult challenge was relationships during her transition, stating some friends and family did not take too kindly to the news.
Some came around and accepted her, while others did not.
Relationships were also a big challenge during the transition process for Rachel Miller.
It all began during her middle school years, which can be a challenging time in itself for many teens.
“A lot of people didn’t understand when I first came out and it was hard to meet new people and make new friends,” Rachel Miller, a transgender teenager shares. “When everyone knew I was trans it was hard to connect with a lot of people.”
And while it may be difficult to understand, Rachel encourages all adults to consider all of the possibilities when growing a family.
“Just try to understand before you bring kids into this world,” Rachel pleads, “because then if they try to come out to you or try to talk to you and you don’t know anything and you react negatively, that can really, really affect them badly. Just say they were gay, or trans you want to open eyes to how to be supportive of that.”
And as Lilith explains, being transgender is not an attention-seeking phase, it is an identity mismatch.
Lilith says, “I don’t think trans people are trans because they want to be. I think they one-hundred-percent would prefer not being trans.”
And once Rachel opened up to her family, a network of support is what her mother sought out.
Rachel shares, “Mainly when my mother understood, because almost immediately she went to seek help, she sought out therapists that I, and I ended up going to for about five years. And when he explained to her that I didn’t need any fixing, but it’s just how I am and she kind of realized it’s just how I am, I felt that she wasn’t going to try and change me, and that is when I felt most comfortable.”
And the best part of it all?
“I think the free thing is a big part of it,” Lilith says. “I don’t know, it was rough, the earlier parts of adolescence, hiding stuff I guess. So telling people and being more free about the trans thing has been helpful and has been a lot less stressful.”
Reporting for KX News in Bismarck, I’m Alysia Huck.