By Delaney, 23, Nunavut -  UNICEF Canada Youth Advocate 

I remember being a child and first discovering what transgender meant. I was at the tender age of ten years or so, and I had encountered a person who was beginning their trans journey. I went to my mother in confusion. She tried her best to explain the concept in a compassionate and caring way, despite her own confusion and newness to the topic. Being an independent child with a passion for discovering new knowledge, I felt unsatisfied and did what I often did: turned to the internet in search of further information. This led me down a long rabbit hole of discovery and labels, learning what being transgender meant.

It was like the flip of a light switch, bulb flickering above my head as it began to come to life. Transgender. Identifying as a gender different from the one you were born with. A word with a simple definition that felt like it turned my whole world upside down.

A great emotion came over me, as lines began to connect and things began to click into place. There was a word for it. A word for that strange, haunting feeling that had plagued my whole childhood. The dreams I had nightly, where I was born a boy and nothing else was different, began to make so much more sense. I felt shaken to my core, but suddenly whole in a way I had never felt before. I wasn't alone.

Not only were there words to describe the experience that had felt so alien, there were other people all over the world who felt just like me. It was like a whole new world opened before me, a bridge built at my feet to carry me into a brand new world of understanding.

From that moment on, I privately called myself a boy. I began to go by another name in online circles, listing my gender as male and my pronouns as he/him. It was like living a double life, like a secret agent of sorts. I longed to tell the world who I was, but horror stories plagued my mind. Stories of kids whose parents were loving and welcoming to queer identities until the moment their own child identified that way then the world came crumbling down. It was a horror that seeped deep into my bones and kept me firmly in the closet for many years following the world-shaking revelation.

It wasn't until five years later that I felt brave enough to confront the truth, and even then, I had the assistance of my gender therapist. He sat my mother down and explained in the simplest words he could, and it felt like my world truly began to change in the way I wanted.

Now, I live my life as a transgender, nonbinary person, spending my time advocating for change and protecting the rights of other people like me, even as the world slowly becomes a scarier place.

I know in my heart that we cannot give up or let the hatred win. Being transgender is a beautiful experience. Learning to love yourself when raised in a world so built on hate, is a brave movement indeed. I know that hatred will not win and that love, kindness and hope will beat back the walls even as they close in.

Pride in myself and my fellow trans people drives me, as strides are made and as people share their truths. Even as the world grows colder, I will choose to be a beacon of warmth and safety for those like me, acting as a carrier of the torch of hope and pride. I believe that when we stand together, we have the strength to change the world, even if that world is just a little trans kid's world, staring at the first word to ever truly resonate with them.