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I used to think that I wanted to reach an age where the days I had lived as myself outnumbered those of my pre-transitioning self, and thus I would’ve lived more of my life in a way that I wanted. I don’t think that’s true anymore.

Each new day I get to be me is a gift – it’s one more than I thought I would have and it’s one more where I get to be the things I need to be for my younger self and for those young people like me that didn’t know there was any other way. I am one of the lucky ones – today we remember those that don’t get one more day.

I’m not a man. I wasn’t a boy. It feels strange now to think that these thoughts eluded me for so long and had such power over me. I felt different, trapped, and I didn’t possess the tools to understand why. I don’t pretend to have all the answers now (I’m painfully aware of how early on in my personal journey I am), however, once that first wall falls, everything begins to make more sense.

I feel stronger in myself every day but accompanying that is a greater sense of the pain I feel and see in the world around me. I understand my resentment of past events that required formal dress. I understand why the news stories resonate with me. I understand the weight I carry in my chest. But trying to explain all this to the people closest to me is difficult.

The current thought experiment I recommend people try is not to attempt imagining yourself being a different gender, but to stay as the person you currently are and instead consider what it would be like for others in your life to deny to your face that you are the gender that you know that you are. I wonder what emotions that brings up for you? You should also remember that this is not just a singular event, this denial (however intentional) occurs in every interaction you have with another person.

Yet, understanding is not a prerequisite for respect and care. Love the person in front of you and listen to what they tell you – they understand themselves better than you do. That person’s journey also started a long time before they talked to you so don’t judge the speed of the changes they want or the requests that they are making of you. Instead, be there to support them because, from experience, nothing happens fast enough.

Though changes also happen in unexpected ways. I fundamentally think differently now, and the stoicism and disconnect I perfected to stay alive have become the antithesis of the skills I need to move forward. When you’ve taught yourself to police and doubt your own instincts, vulnerability and trust are not the easiest things to draw strength from.

Some of the toughest moments have been realising there are parts of myself I want to abandon which have historically been important to others in my life and the tension this causes (or will cause) in the relationships I cherish. Not everyone wants to change with me, but I can’t wait anymore.

None of this should need to be a brave choice, however, no matter how many people tell me it is. If this was your instinct too, I ask you to reflect on why you think of it as brave for a trans person to live openly in the UK currently? There’s an unfathomable amount of misleading information in circulation, so I encourage you to follow any of the excellent trans content creators out there and look at the resources they create/share/recommend.

I feel that for me, the biggest hurdle was knowledge. I had no way to imagine being anything else, so I would often invent scenarios in the shower akin to tragic superhero origin stories that would lead to me becoming somebody else. Bluntly, my younger self needed more than they got. I was fixated on being the things I thought the people around me needed me to be when all I needed to be was myself.

Providing the tools for young people to question and explore their own gender won’t change that person’s gender. What it does is create a safer space for those that need it, it allows trans youth to grow up unshackled and it provides education to their peers to be understanding allies. There is no trans debate, there is just a great need for wider education and more-inclusive societal structures.

My name is Kara Marie and that’s a promise to myself that I intend to keep.

To any current or future trans allies, language matters (practice in your own time), actions matter more – we need your proactive and public support – but most importantly, just listen. Trust the person in front of you. Challenge your assumptions, change your interactions, and know that every small public action you take helps to alleviate how isolating this struggle can be.

To my trans siblings, thank you. You lift me up with every interaction and I am forever grateful to those that came before me. Today will be a tougher day than most, but it’s one more day.

Kara is an ambassador with Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people’s charity. If you’d like to volunteer to speak in schools on their Ambassador Programme, sign up now.