When Willa Wilson went to the doctor, her partner was not pleased.
She wanted a tubal ligation.
He said no.
When Wanda told her partner that her body would be changing for him to see, the doctor said no, too.
“He was just shocked,” Wanda said.
“I didn’t know what to do.”
That’s when Wanda decided to get tested.
She found out that the doctor had told her her body was “willing to change.”
And, she says, she felt a sense of empowerment, because “it was my body changing.”
Wilson’s partner has been through a similar ordeal.
After undergoing a hysterectomy in 2014, her doctor told her that her breasts would “continue to grow” and that she was “in need of surgery.”
That didn’t sound like a positive message to send, and Wilson says she didn’t feel confident in her body, either.
She felt trapped, trapped in her own body, stuck in a box.
She decided to change her mind and seek out a medical professional.
“The thought of being transgender was really distressing,” Wilson said.
And, it made her feel like she was not ready for the world.
“If I wanted to have a family and I wanted someone to love me and be my partner and to care for me, I was going to have to take a lot of risks,” she said.
Wanda, now 21, says that feeling she was trapped made her think about the transgender community.
“It was really shocking to me,” she says.
“There are so many transgender people in our society that are still struggling.
It really affected me and I couldn’t believe I was alone.”
Wanda is one of a growing number of transgender people who seek medical help.
In the U.S., transgender people make up about 1.4% of the population.
But the number of such patients is expected to increase, as more states legalize same-sex marriage and transgender people are granted equal rights in state and federal law.
“A lot of people are finding that the only way they can be comfortable is to go to a therapist,” said Lauren Brown, an associate professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and the author of the book Transgender Dysphoria Blues: How Our Lives Can Be Made More Transgender.
In addition to medical professionals, transgender people also rely on their peers for support.
“For transgender people, the most challenging thing for me is finding friends,” said Heather, who asked that her last name not be used because she is not currently a medical resident.
“And, I have friends that are supportive of me, but there are so few.
And I don’t know how to go out without a lot more support.”
The number of LGBTQ people in the U, S. and around the world who are living with gender dysphoria is growing.
The World Health Organization estimates that at least 30 million people worldwide have gender dysphoric disorder.
A recent study from the University at Buffalo found that nearly half of transgender youth experience bullying.
That’s an increase of about 50% in the past decade, according to the study.
But it’s not just LGBTQ people who face the stigma of their gender identity.
In fact, there’s a long history of discrimination and violence against trans people in society.
Transgender people often face discrimination in schools, employment, housing, and in public accommodations.
Transgender women face physical and verbal violence in the workplace, while trans men are the targets of sexual harassment and bullying in bathrooms.
And trans men, even those who are gender-conforming, face significant discrimination when it comes to access to health care.
“Transgender people have experienced significant societal discrimination,” Brown said.
For many, this experience has left them with the belief that they can’t be who they are, or that their gender expression does not conform to the “norm.”
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told I’m not a man because of my genitals, and I’ve had that conversation with people all the time,” said Emily, who did not want her last names used for fear of being fired from her job as a cashier at a hospital in Arizona.
“Even when you tell people you’re transgender, that’s still not acceptable.”
The trans community has a long way to go before it’s accepted as a legitimate identity.
There’s a growing push to change the gender identity of children, and a recent survey by the Williams Institute found that 75% of Americans believe that transgender people should be able to transition to the gender they identify with.
But that’s not enough.
It’s not acceptable to think of yourself as the “wrong” gender, Brown said, adding that “you can be transgender and still have an authentic life.”
To combat these negative attitudes, transgender activists and advocates are working to change perceptions of gender