Gia, a 14-year-old transgender student, wanted a fresh start at her new campus as she prepared to move from middle school to high school. To get the process going, she wrote a letter to the entire school announcing her plans to transition to living as a girl.

“I decided to do that because I didn’t want to just go out into my school and surprise everybody, because I didn’t feel like it was prepping enough for what was going on,” Gia says. “And I just felt writing a letter would inform everybody and give everybody time to think and reflect on this before they saw me for the first time as a girl.”

Gia is now raising the visibility of transgender teens through the GenderCoolprogram, co-founded by Jennifer Grosshandler and Gearah Goldstein.

In Coming Out Stories, a new video series from PEOPLE and Entertainment Weekly, 16 LGBTQ people from all walks of life share how they opened up to friends, family and the world — and how their lives changed.

One inspiration for the series: the new movie Love, Simon (in theaters March 16), a moving comedy-drama about a gay teen (Nick Robinson) struggling with how to come out to his friends and parents (played by Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel). Love, Simon director Greg Berlanti (the producer behind TV’s Riverdale and Supergirl) tells his own coming out story in the series, as does costar Keiynan Lonsdale.

Others sharing their stories include Modern Family actor Jesse Tyler FergusonGrey’s Anatomy actress Sara Ramirez, retired NBA player Jason Collins, social media star Tyler Oakley and Brooke Guinan, a New York City firefighter who is transgender.

PEOPLE and EW partnered with GLSEN, a nonprofit that fights to make schools safe for all kids, to create Coming Out Stories. See all the hilarious and heartbreaking tales at or on PeopleTV (download the app on your favorite mobile or connected TV device).

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