'But most of all I'm human': These 3 transgender teens prove identity stretches beyond one label

Chazzie is a sunny 17-year-old who greets each morning with an affirmation and a session on a yoga mat. She has a zeal for volunteering; painting brings joy.

Max, 15, who lives by an unofficial motto of taking risks and fueling his creative appetite, can play just about any string instrument and is 45 pages into a book he is writing.  

Gia, 19, a rising college sophomore with an array of interests from acting to advocacy, ranks 2023 as her happiest year yet.  

The three are embracing passions and mapping futures – accomplished teens who just happen to be transgender.

Their identity “is really the least interesting thing about us,” Chazzie says.

In a year that has seen an unprecedented torrent of bills in legislatures targeting the LGBTQ community, particularly those who are transgender, advocates say people such as Chazzie, Max and Gia are thriving despite the backlash.

“Transgender and nonbinary kids are here − hundreds of thousands of them in every corner of every community. They are being raised by everyday parents who have good values and give back to their communities,” says Jen Grosshandler, co-founder of the GenderCool Project, a youth-led group that works to replace misinformed opinions with real experiences of young people who are transgender and nonbinary.

Chazzie, Gia and Max – who are not being fully identified because of safety concerns − are among GenderCool’s “champions.” On Thursday, some of the champions will share their stories and outlooks on life in an ABC special as Pride Month kicks off.

Trans and nonbinary kids “are kind, they are ambitious, they are resourceful – and they are just like other kids,” Grosshandler says. “They are your neighbors, they are your kids’ friends, and by the way, they are your friends’ kids.”

The GenderCool Project champions were in New York City recently filming an ABC special that will air June 1, 2023. From left, Adelyn, Chazzie, Max, Jonathan, Amir, Eve.

Support growing despite legislative backlash, advocates say

Grosshandler co-founded GenderCool with Gearah Goldstein five years ago to show the world how transgender and nonbinary young people are flourishing and to counter misleading narratives.

What started as a small storytelling campaign has exploded in growth, Grosshandler said. The champions have written books, advocated in statehouses, addressed corporations, spoken at the White House.  

The young people “not only help demystify ‘transgender’ and ‘nonbinary’ to the world but provide role models,” Goldstein said. “We all know that people who personally know transgender and nonbinary young people don’t fight against them, they fight for them.”

This year may be providing the biggest challenge yet. The Movement Advancement Project, an independent, nonprofit think tank focused on equality and opportunity, has been tracking the rise in legislation: More than 700 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in dozens of states this year, and at least half target transgender young people.

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But Grosshandler says support for the young transgender community is skyrocketing in defiance of the legislation.

“The truth is most people in our country have no clue why politicians are even talking about transgender kids and their families. They don’t believe politicians have any place in the way families are raising their kids,” she said.    

'We are more than just the label'

Chazzie is an on-air anchor for her high school’s television network, delivering programming in English and Spanish.

She hopes to pursue broadcast journalism in college and has a dedicated goal: “to be one of the first publicly transgender news reporters ever.”

Volunteering is a vital part of Chazzie’s life, whether it's tutoring young people in lower-income communities or serving meals to those experiencing food insecurity.


The high school junior has been addressing conferences and beyond from a young age.

“For me to speak for other people in the LGBTQ community who don’t have a voice and don’t feel accepted − I want to be that voice that they can look up to,” she says. “We are more than just the label. We are human. All of our passions and interests, that is what shapes us.”

A crucial part of those speeches, she says: encouraging people to be better allies, such as supporting a work colleague by using their preferred name or sharing pronouns at a meeting. “All these little things are actually big things.”  

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'I'm a big brother, a son, an athlete, a friend'

Max started Tae Kwon Do when he was 4; by 9 he earned a black belt. He then found an affinity for gymnastics and was soon named an Academic All-American by USA Gymnastics.

His newest sport is bouldering, and he loves teaching friends how to climb. “I really like pushing myself to my limit and seeing all these cool things I can do,” he says.

Max, who plays everything from the cello to the ukulele, can often be found jamming to Beatles tunes with his dad on guitar. He also is indulging a passion for writing. “I hope to be an author one day,” he says.  


He acknowledges that by speaking out for transgender young people, he is “carving a path” for others.

But mostly what Max wants people to know is simple: “I’m a big brother, a son, an athlete, a friend. I love ice cream (chocolate chip cookie dough is #1). And my favorite subject is orchestra. I’m transgender, but most of all I’m human.”

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'One story can be such a powerful tool'

Gia was one of GenderCool’s founding champions and now serves on its board. She was a co-author with two other champions two years ago of kids’ books about being transgender, nonbinary and inclusive.

Gia says words uplift and teach. “Sharing stories of positivity is an extremely effective educational tool,” she says. “People come up to me at events and say, 'I’m so inspired by your book.' One story can be such a powerful tool.”


In the past few years, Gia has dabbled in modeling and acting and served as a Human Rights Campaign youth ambassador. 

Now she is lapping up the college experience and looking to a future that could include everything from fashion to business – one in which diversity, inclusion and advocacy would play a top role.

Gia encourages young transgender people to find one or two people in their lives who could be a rock of support, especially during challenging times like 2023.

Above all: Keep sharing personal stories, she says. “It shows who we are, not what we are, and it has a really big impact.”

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