MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — In a lot of ways, Hildie Edwards is a typical 11-year-old child.
However, there’s a lot about Hildie that stands.
"It's been a long journey, but I'm here now and I am happy," said Hildie.
Hildie identifies as trans nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, which means that they don’t feel like they belong in either the male or female binary box.
"I always kind of knew I was different from my male peers," Hildie said, "and that didn't go well with school. People often bullied me because of my appearance, my personality."
That bullying was also channeled toward the Edwards family.
"To hear people threatening our family or threatening towards our child or being bullying, it was one of the hardest times in our life," said Hannah, who is Hildie's mothe.
Identifying as nonbinary is more than just waking up and deciding they don't fall into the male or female box. The DSM-5 defines gender dysphoria as “clinically significant distress or impairment related to a strong desire to be of another gender”.
While not all trans and nonbinary people have gender dysphoria, many people who identify as such feel a mismatch between what one was born as and what they feel inside.
"That took us through a evolution to different pronouns and then we've arrived at this place of being nonbinary and saying that makes the most sense. So we're just kind of realizing that we're not in control of any of aspects of their identity," said Hildie's father, David. "There's nothing we can do to change it either way, but we can love the amazing kid that we have and support them in who they are."
The support that Hildie experiences at home is crucial for kids who are questioning their assigned identity. More than 40% of LGBTQ youth, and 52% of trans youth, seriously thought about taking their own life last year. Attempted suicide rates were disproportionately higher for Black and Indigenous trans youth.
"The most important thing is to show your child unconditional love and when you have a transgender child that looks like stepping outside of your own comfort zone," Hannah said. "It looks like doing the work to learn about your child and their identity."
Hannah and David had to take Hildie out of school because of bullying. They also won a lawsuit against their former school district for discrimination toward their child. Even in today’s world, it’s can be an uphill battle as a kid who feels different.
Just this year, lawmakers have proposed a record 238 bills restricting LGBTQ rights, half targeting trans rights. This follows a year where 191 bills were proposed in what the Human Rights Campaign dubbed the worst year for the community in recent history.
The National Education Association says the language in the bills further alienates LGBTQ youth, intensifying their mental health issues.
"I felt so sad that big people who are supposed to change the world and serve and protect their people, want to squash out certain communities like bugs and exterminate them," said Hildie.
"There's a lot of casual discrimination and misinformation that goes on that is really unhelpful. I just would like people to kind of pause and stop for a second and think about all of the work and collaborative teams that have helped advise our family and to doing what we need to do and really if you're privately held beliefs make it so you can't follow those recommendations then at least leave us alone," said David.
Hildie is holding out hope that it will get better.
"I know that it seems like everything isn't going to be all right, but you are going to have a great community ahead of you and it may be outside your house and you may not get to see them just yet, but you're going to see them and you're going to feel loved and you're going to have an amazing life," they said.