I'm transgender, and I've never had a passport. I've spent the week since the election kind of freaking out.

I don't travel much, so I've never had much use for that particular form of identification. In the week after the country elected Donald Trump, however, I've been frantically trying to figure out how to get one with my correct gender on it because, on Jan. 20, the passport process could get a lot harder for me and others like me.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.


Having accurate legal identification is hugely important, especially for trans folks, and passports are one of the strongest forms of ID you can get.

When a trans person doesn't have accurate ID, we're at risk of being outed at every turn, putting us at risk for discrimination. In some states, it's still legal to be fired or evicted from an apartment for being trans. And maybe — scarily — we might even be physically attacked or killed for being trans.

Since 2010, trans people have finally been able to update our gender on passports with a simple doctor's note acknowledging that we are trans. Before the 2010 rule change, getting a passport with accurate name and gender information was a difficult and expensive process. Trans people were required to prove they had undergone sexual reassignment surgery, even though it can cost tens of thousands of dollars (often out-of-pocket) and only about 1 in 4 trans people are estimated to have even undergone it.

While issues surrounding birth certificates and drivers' licenses are left up to the states, the updated passport rule from 2010 (which was put in place by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) provides a lifeline to trans people in search of an internationally-accepted form of ID with information that reflects who they are. It's a huge step forward.

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a speech on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people at the UN in Geneva in 2011. Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AFP/Getty Images.

1 in 3 trans people still lack any form of ID matching their correct gender, and with time running out, allies are stepping up in a big way.

Scrambling to update my documents before Trump's inauguration, I found answers to some of my passport questions in a surprising place: Twitter.

Do I need to get my name changed before I get my gender marker updated? What does the doctor's note have to say? How much does it cost to update my passport? What if I can't afford it?

With just over two months left in President Obama's term, the hashtag #TransLawHelp, started by Twitter user @dtwps, sprung up as a way for trans people who need help updating identifying documents to connect with lawyers, many of whom are offering their services pro bono.

Within a few days, the website translawhelp.org was launched as a directory of resources inspired by the hashtag.

It's hard to know if President-elect Donald Trump will keep the existing 2010 passport rule in place or not. What I do know is that many of us see this as a situation where it's better to be safe than sorry, as Vice President-elect Mike Pence made it clear in an October interview that the Trump administration will take action to roll back President Obama's pro-LGBTQ policies, guidances, and executive orders.

Knowing what we'll be up against makes what people are doing to help get #TransLawHelp up and running so powerful. It's so reassuring to know that where the government might (but hopefully won't) fail us, there are friends and allies ready to step in and do what they can to help.

The election has been rough for a lot of us, especially those of us with a lot at stake, and it can be easy to lose hope. That's why these moments, where people come together to help one another when they're scared and in need, are so important.

Whether it's the #TransLawHelp hashtag, seeing people speaking out against hate, taking part in peaceful protests, or simply connecting with others to let them know you have their backs, the world becomes a less scary place than it can sometimes feel.

A protest outside of Trump Tower takes place. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

For many of us, there's going to be a lot of uncertainty over the next several years. There's going to be a lot of fear. There's probably going to be a lot of pain and sadness. That's why now, maybe more than ever before, it's crucial that we stand together against hate and discrimination. Whether it's hate on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or any other defining feature that makes us the wonderful and diverse country, we need to reject division.

My own personal panic, nearly a week removed from Election Day, has calmed into a focus and determination I didn't even know I had in me before the election.

That's all thanks to the outpouring of love and unity and understanding that I found in unexpected places from unexpected people.

I have the resources I need to update my passport — thanks in part to hashtags like #TransLawHelp. I sincerely hope the incoming administration doesn't attempt to roll back the progress that's been made in the name of LGBTQ rights, but if they do, I feel confident there are good people among us who will stand up for what's right.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

Keep Reading Show less
Pets

Ginger the dog reunited with family 5 years after being stolen

Ginger's family never gave up hope, and it payed off.

Ginger the dog was missing for five years before being reunited with her family.

A sweet pup is finally home with her family where she belongs after way too many years away.

Ginger the dog was stolen from her family back in 2017. Her owner, Barney Lattimore of Janesville, Wisconsin, never gave up the hope that his sweet girl was out there somewhere. Whenever he'd see a dog listed on a rescue website or humane society website that even remotely resembled his Ginger, he would inquire about the dog. Unfortunately, it was never her. You'd think that after a while he would stop, but if he had, he likely wouldn't have gotten the sweetest reunion.

Keep Reading Show less

"Veteran" mom and "new" mom parent differently.

When a couple has their first child, they start out with the greatest of intentions and expectations. The child will only eat organic food. They will never watch TV or have screen time and will always stay clean.

But soon, reality sets in and if they have more kids, they'll probably be raised with a lot less attention. As a result, first-born kids turn out a bit differently than their younger siblings.

"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

Keep Reading Show less