I Am a Transgender Teen With a Mental Illness, and I Am Done Hiding


My name was Abby Mary Stansel. I was a 15-year-old girl from Connecticut. I was autistic. I had anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I was in hiding.

My name is Ashton Maryn Stansel. I am a 15-year-old transgender boy from Connecticut. I am autistic. I have anxiety and PTSD. And I am not afraid anymore.

a selfie of abby This is my story.

I’ve experienced anxiety and PTSD from severe bullying that went on for years. Being transgender isn’t a mental illness. However, I will not deny that the way people treat me because I’m transgender does sometimes exacerbate these conditions.

Being a trans person in this world is hard. For many of us, each day is a struggle, a decision between being who we want to be and who society demands we be. This internal struggle, this constant battle within our soul, can leave us exhausted and broken down. We may struggle with dysphoria, “the condition of feeling one’s emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be opposite to one’s biological sex.” In the mental illness community, dysphoria is often understood as something that only affects people in the sense that they see their bodies differently than they actually are. For example, someone with an eating disorder may experience dysphoria. For me, dysphoria is spending every minute knowing my body prohibits me from being who I am. I see my body as it is. But it’s just not me. And while neither is better or worse, we as a society need to talk more about this. We don’t seem to understand that people don’t always identify with their given bodies. And that’s OK.

Gender dysphoria is not a mental illness.

Public opinion on transgender individuals causes more pain than most cisgender (people who identify as the gender they were assigned at birth) people can imagine. All of the current fighting around issues involving transgender people makes things worse. And the people who are not being heard at all is the community of transgender people who also have mental illnesses.

People who are anti-trans like to insist that being transgender is a mental illness (which again, it is not). People who are pro-trans understand it isn’t. However, sometimes an important part of this is missed: a transgender person can experience mental health issues, especially ones like anxiety or depression caused from trauma.

For me, having anxiety is like being told every single thing in the world that could go wrong will happen. Those thoughts play in my head over and over. And when you are a transgender person, every single thing that can go wrong tends to be pretty bad. In 2013, a majority of victims of hate violence homicides (72 percent) were transgender women, according to the NCAVP. It’s estimated that more than 40 percent of trans people have attempted suicide. This article on The Huffington Post takes a closer look at why this is, listing reasons like rejection from friends and family, discrimination, physical abuse and internalized transphobia. In my case, abuse led to anxiety. That anxiety causes fear — fear that every person on the street will murder me. Fear that leaves me unable to move or even think.

I shouldn’t have to feel this way.

Because I am a person like everyone else. I am not a statistic. I am not a problem. I am not a political agenda or a plaything. I am human. That is the sole thing I am. Human.

So, to every LGBTQ person, male, female or anything else, young or old, and even non-LGBTQ — it doesn’t matter — who struggles with anxiety and fear. I have a request for you.

Take a minute. Tell yourself, “I am worth it. I am not a mistake. I am not what they call me.”

When I am having a day where people at school are treating me badly, I repeat this to myself. Over and over. Because I promise. You are worth it. You are not a mistake. You are not what they call you.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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