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Free To Be All Of Me

Dear Teenage Me,

I wish you could see me (us?) now.

I know sometimes (a lot of times) you get this feeling like everyone got a manual of how to be a person and you didn't. Or even more specifically: every girl got a manual of how to be a girl, except you.

Guess what? You don't have to be a girl just because it was the gender assigned to you at birth, just because everyone thinks you are. The years you're living in, there are two options, and you're born as one of them. Or at least, that's what you know right now.

And that's going to change. Slowly, over the course of years, and it won't be easy. But it will change. You'll learn more. Discover more about yourself. And one day you'll be me.

Hi. I'm trans, and queer, and I live in an amazing house with seven of my best friends, and I have a partner who's the love of my life, and I just got diagnosed with OCD and generalized anxiety (wow, so much about our brain makes sense now), and I'm a writer (!) with an agent (!!) and I have been and will be published (!!!) and life is really, really good.

I know this is sounding like some 'it gets better' platitude right now (except you don't know what "It Gets Better" is, because it hasn't happened yet, so never mind). But I need you to know these things:

1) There is nothing wrong with you.

2) One day, you will feel free to be all of yourself.

3) Writing isn't just a hobby, and you CAN make it your life's work, and anyone who says otherwise is wrong. You'll just have to get other jobs to support it.

4) You don't have to go to college, pick a sensible career, get married, and have children like society says you do. Life isn't linear and you get to create the path you want.

5) That guy who said you were just doing it for attention when you came out as bi in sophomore year is very, very wrong.

Most of all, I want you to know that I love you. Sometimes, from where I'm standing, it's hard to feel connected to you. I look at pictures of our teenage years and feel like I have photographs of someone else's life. And sometimes I feel angry that I didn't get to have certain kinds of experiences, ones you so desperately wanted on a level you couldn't explain or understand or even fully realize. But that wasn't your fault. I am who I am because you were who you were. Everything we've been through has gotten us to where we are today. It's the most cliche of cliches, but damn, it's so real.

You are resilient, caring, passionate. You are driven, focused, and thoughtful. When you want something, you make it happen. You have an inner compass that knows what is right for you, and you have an ability to trust it that will only grow with time. You are a good person. I admire you so much, and I'm so proud of you, and I love you. Which means I feel all of those things for myself, even when it's hard to believe.

I don't know when this letter will be published, but I'm writing it on June 26th. We turn thirty in one month, and I have a feeling it will be our best decade yet. Happy birthday.



The letter above is part of an ongoing weekly series featuring letters from authors to their teen selves. If you're a published author who'd like to participate in this series, we'd love to have you. Just click here and let us know you're interested.


Ray Stoeve is a queer, transgender writer from Seattle, Washington. They received a 2016-2017 Made at Hugo House Fellowship for their young adult fiction, and are on a personal mission to include at least one trans character in every book they write. When they're not writing heartfelt queer stories, they can be found hiking their beloved Pacific Northwest, or on stage in drag. They have a short story in the anthology Take the Mic: Fictional Stories of Everyday Resistance, forthcoming in 2019 from Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine. Their debut novel Between Perfect And Real will be released in the spring of 2021 by Amulet.

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