When they met at a support group two years ago, Arin Andrews and Katie Hill were still two teenagers struggling to identify with the genders they had been born into. In fact, at that time, they were still called by their birth names (Katie was called Luke while Arin was known as Emerald). Fast-forward two years and you will find two transgender teenagers from Oklahoma who are finally comfortable with themselves and in love with one another.
Arin and Katie's love story is a testament to the fact that love takes many forms and cannot be defined by traditional gender lines; it is a fact that more Americans are beginning to accept and embrace following the Supreme Court's monumental decision to overturn DOMA and the end of California's Prop 8 amendment.
Throughout their childhoods, both Arin and Katie struggled with their identities and believed they had been born into the wrong gender. Both grew up subjected to the bullying, taunting and ridiculing of their peers. But like many transgender children, they were their own worst enemies; confused and unhappy, Arin and Katie were unable to accept themselves for the people they were born to be. Finally the two teenagers, still strangers to one another, decided to join a trans support group in Tulsa, Oklahoma where they could learn to cope with their gender issues.
Around the time that they met, both Arin and Katie were beginning the transitioning process to become the other's gender. Arin was receiving testosterone shots to give him a more masculine frame while Katie was simultaneously taking estrogen to give herself natural breasts.
Arin and Katie's shared experience drew them closer together and forged a strong emotional connection. The teenagers were able to identify with one another, and they gained confidence and strength to find happiness through each other's support.
"All I saw was a handsome guy. We're perfect for each other because we both had the same troubles growing up," said Katie about meeting Arin.
Katie felt the same connection. "Being transgender myself, I understand Arin better than anybody else — how good he feels and how complete he feels," she said.
For years before Katie recognized that she was a transgender and finally reached out to her mother for help, the young boy trapped in the wrong gender suffered from serious depression. Katie's struggle is not uncommon for transgender individuals who feel confused and trapped inside a body that does not match who they feel they are on the inside. Such children were once misunderstood and their struggles shoved under the rug. But today, guided by the struggle for gay rights and attention by the media, many more people are beginning to recognize transgender as a legitimate lifestyle.
In Katie's story, her father, Randy hill "had been mourning the loss of his firstborn son, Luke" for over two years before he was able to come to terms with his transgender daughter. While self-acceptance is the most crucial part of any transgender child's experience, receiving acceptance from other and parents in particular is also a huge part of finding happiness.
Americans have recently witnessed huge steps in the struggle for gay rights, and the effects are reverberating throughout the transgender community as well. For instance, just last month Coy Mathis, a transgender first-grader boy who was born a boy but identified as a girl, won the rights to use the girls' bathroom at her Colorado elementary school. This decision was the first of its kind in the U.S regarding transgender students' rights.
There are important lessons we can take away from Arin and Katie's story. These teenagers demonstrated that we must be brave, honest and never fall short of finding true happiness. Their stories prove that gender is not a confine and that love takes many forms. Today more than ever before, American society is encouraging individuals to be who they want to be and finally, to love who they want to love.