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).

There is a moment in the Chilean film "A Fantastic Woman" when a transgender singer stands onstage and lifts her voice, an unwavering mezzo-soprano that rises above the cruelties and prejudices she's encountered in a country that has scorned her identity, ridiculed her love and chipped away at her pride.

Sebastián Lelio's story, which won the Academy Award for foreign-language film, is an unrepentant fable in a time when transgender people and others in the LGBTQ community are demanding wider rights in countries, including Chile, that have treated them as deviants and curiosities. The film follows Marina (played by transgender actress Daniela Vega) in a quiet rebellion for dignity against condescension and relentless humiliation.

"I'm on Jupiter. I can't believe that this happened," Lelio said of his Oscar. "It is a film that has managed to contribute to a necessary and urgent conversation."

"A Fantastic Woman" opens with Marina and her lover Orlando (Francisco Reyes) out on a date in Santiago. Things turn tragic when Orlando falls ill and dies. Marina grieves but also endures the scorn — both pointed and subtle — of a woman who is held in suspicion by Orlando's family and the police. She moves through the story stunned but with the accustomed indignation that comes with being "the other." In one scene, investigators subject her to a strip search, embarrassing her in the glare of florescent light.

Orlando's ex-wife, Sonia (Aline Küppenheim), tells Marina with disdain: "When I look at you. I don't know what I'm seeing."

But she is unbroken; each slight brings a renewed resolve that has made the movie a bellwether for the transgender movement.

The first film from Chile to win an Academy Award in the foreign category, "A Fantastic Woman" is Lelio's latest meditation of those at the edges. His 2013 international hit "Gloria" explored similar themes in the story of a middle-aged divorcee riding the joys, insecurities and indignities of a new romance. But the stakes are higher and the redemption more socially poignant for civil rights and gender equality in "Woman."

"I didn't make a casting decision as a fascist decision but as an act of freedom," said Lelio of his choice of Vega to star. "Casting is an art. The presence of Daniela brought a quality to the story that adds a layer of complexity and beauty that I think a cisgender actor would not have been capable of bringing."

He added: "I never thought that [casting her] was going to be that important, in the sense of how the film is perceived. I've been very surprised and happy that it's become one of the most important artistic gestures of the movie. If it can keep expanding the horizons of our thinking, [it's] so welcomed."

Vega, whose portrayal of Marina, a waitress and a singer, was widely praised, said the film was a lesson against discrimination in an often unaccepting world: "I hope that everybody watches the movie and sees that it's been produced from a place of love and it's been produced to raise a lot of questions. One of them: What is left for the next generation? A better world or not?"

In my twenties, in graduate school, I thought a lot about my daughter. She didn’t exist yet, but when you’re studying fiction for a living, this doesn’t matter as much. I had long observed that being a girl in the world was tricky, but in graduate school for the first time I started to look critically at why and to consider what might be done about it. I started keeping a list of what a girl starting from scratch, my someday infant daughter, would need to know to help navigate and advocate from the get-go. They were things like this:

Being a girl is hard but awesome.

Girls are strong, smart, talented, and capable. You can do anything you want. Worlds sit at your doorstep. Adventure is your birthright. There are no paths barred to you just because you’re not a boy.

You are beautiful. Your body, your face, your hair, your skin: beautiful.

So is everyone else. Variations of shape, shade, size, texture? All beautiful.

It’s not your outside that counts anyway. It’s your intelligence, kindness, generosity, curiosity. It’s your strength, your willingness to fight, your insistence on standing up when standing up is what is called for.

I figured that about covered it. Probably more would come up, but that seemed like a good introductory document as far as imaginary daughters went. I was getting a head start after all. But you know what Robert Burns had to say about the best laid plans of mice, men, and graduate students. Years later when the time came, I had a boy instead.

The list is different for a son. He didn’t need me to tell him any of those things. The whole world was telling him he was awesome. The whole world thought he was beautiful, no matter his shape or size. He never imagined there would be things he couldn’t do just because he was male. And he was right. So I went ahead and worried about all the other, non gender-specific things parents worry about. Look both ways before you cross the street. Don’t swallow marbles or really anything you find on the floor of the playroom. The dog is not a ride-on toy. This sort of thing.

But another thing I was wrong about, another difference between imagined children and the real kind, is I had this notion that they were relatively static. The plans I made for my daughter seemed to me at the time to be for all time because I was imagining a daughter fixed in time. But that is not the way either time or children work. Which is why even after things didn’t go as planned, they didn’t go as planned. It is not surprising that the life I concocted at 23 for a not yet extant human did not turn out to apply. But the plot twists that came later were the ones I never saw coming.

One surprising thing that happened, slowly—another thing you don’t realize in your twenties: that sometimes plot twists happen unhurriedly while you’re not paying attention over the course of months and years rather than suddenly with the crashing of cymbals on penultimate pages—was that my son switched from shorts to skirts. He grew out his hair. He changed his name and pronouns. He became she instead. Another surprising thing that happened—also, probably, slowly—was Donald Trump became president of the country in which I was trying to raise my now-daughter, a small transgender human for whom my list seemed woefully and increasingly and heartbreakingly inadequate. My daughter-list was not designed for this sort of daughter. It was not designed for this sort of country. The game was much harder, far more rigged against us, than I’d even feared. We were gonna need a bigger list.

And so we undertook great change. To the topics I was used to addressing with my kid over breakfast—the advantages of remembering to bring home both gloves, the reasons coffee and cursing are allowed for adults but not for children, red or green grapes: discuss—we added gender issues and transgender issues. These are front and center for her, in the first place because they impact her life day to day, because they demand some decision-making and problem solving, but also because they feature prominently in her emerging sense of her own identity. That is, they are exciting, and she is nine and therefore naturally self-involved. But we talk about these, her issues, while also talking about race, immigration, refugees, class inequities, also her issues, and how all those frameworks overlap and fit together and fail to fit together.

I didn’t study intersectionality until graduate school, and I’d have guessed at the time that nine was too young to do identity politics over breakfast, but when my plans changed, so did my age restrictions. I stopped telling my daughter she was too young to read The Diary of Anne Frank. I took her to see The Breadwinner even though it is scary and upsetting and rated PG-13. The world is scary and upsetting, and it makes less sense to me than it did in the planning stages to try to protect her from that fact by hoping she doesn’t notice. She noticed.

In other ways, the change was much more simple, much more predictable. It was me. I am no longer a childless graduate student in my twenties. I am now a mother in my forties. The fierceness that comes with motherhood is beyond imagining from the other side. My point to my child was no longer be who you are. It was more like be who you are, and I will use my teeth to rip the face off anyone who stands in your way.

So it’s less that the list still applies and more that via hard fought, relentlessly fought, tooth-and-nail every day clawed-out persistence, I’ve insisted on it. No matter who’s in the White House. No matter what’s between her legs. When I tell her her body is beautiful just as it is, it means more than it used to, than it would for other girls. I don’t know what you will look like when you grow up, I now admit to her; for her, this question is both fraught and complicated, but this is also true for all parents of all nine-year-olds. Will you be taller than most of your girlfriends? Will your jaw and your eyebrows look different than theirs? Your shoulders and chest? Your legs and your belly? I don’t know. What I do know is this: Some of your girlfriends will be tall and some short. Some will be fat and some skinny. Some will have frizzy hair and some will have thick eyebrows and some will have giant breasts and some will have tiny ones. All will feel awkward about it. All will be beautiful. You will look different in some ways and the same in others. You will feel awkward about it. You will be beautiful.

And that’s just her outside. It has more layers than I predicted and still does not lay bare what matters most about her. What matters most about her, and matters more than ever, is the intelligence, kindness, generosity, and curiosity I promised in the first place, her strength and her willingness to fight. She has had to stand up earlier than I ever imagined she would and doing so has been made harder even in her short lifetime, but she has done it anyway. If bigotry and hatred have gotten louder of late, if they’ve been condoned, handed down, and indeed legislated by the highest condoning, handing down, and legislating bodies in the land, we must note that we are not alone, that in fact we are legion, that we stand taller, that we do so on the side of goodness and rightness.

Or maybe it is just as simple as this: Being a transgirl is being a girl. So it is also hard, and it is also awesome.

Graduate school in my twenties wasn’t trying to teach me how to parent, and it wasn’t trying to teach me how to survive in times of political darkness, but the list I made there and then serves pretty well, in spite of the unexpected and unimagined. Feminist theory and cultural theory and gender theory and queer theory and race theory and, hell, literary theory turn out to be surprisingly good real-life theory. And there’s also this, which even my ever-changing nine-year-old knows: Very little goes as expected, but seldom is that a disaster. Very little stays the same, but we are built to weather change. You cannot keep us down if we will not stay down, and we will not. We guess wrong about so much, but in the end, comparatively speaking, we’re not so wrong after all.

The first openly transgender person has signed up to join the U.S. military since federal courts ruled against President Donald Trump’s ban of trans military personnel last year, CNN reported on Monday.  

“The Department of Defense confirms that as of Feb. 23, 2018, there is one transgender individual under contract for service in the U.S. military,” Pentagon spokesman Maj. David Eastburn told CNN. The recruit has signed a contract but, according to ABC, the recruit won’t begin basic training for another few months. 

The news comes as Trump is still reportedly debating how the Department of Defense will handle the military service of transgender people.  

In July 2017, Trump announced that transgender recruits would no longer be allowed to serve in the military. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming ... victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail,” Trump tweeted. 

The announcement was a shocking reversal of an Obama-era policy that allowed openly transgender people to serve in the military. Trump’s declaration had the potential to affect thousands of transgender troops already serving and came as a surprise to many. It triggered outrage around the country, with many questioning if the ban was legal. The announcement also surprised Defense Secretary James Mattis who was on vacation at the time

Trump issued a memorandum in August detailing his policy change, which was set to take effect by March 23, 2018. The Pentagon was forced to allow openly transgender troops to sign up on Jan. 1 after several federal courts ruled against Trump’s ban

Mattis, who had been instructed to come up with an implementation plan for Trump’s decision, presented his recommendations on transgender recruits to Trump last week. 

“The Secretary of Defense made his recommendation to the White House this morning,” Eastburn told HuffPost on Friday. “The recommendation was a private conversation between the secretary and the White House, and the contents of the conversation will remain private.”

Reports last week suggested Mattis would recommend that Trump allow transgender troops to continue to serve.

A 2016 Rand Corp. study estimated that there are as many as 10,000 transgender troops currently in the military. 

Mack Beggs has captured his second straight state wrestling title.

And once again his state gold medal ceremony included a mix of cheers and jeers from the crowd.

On Saturday at the Berry Center in Cypress, Texas, the transgender male wrestler capped a perfect 36-0 season by claiming his second straight UIL girls Class 6A state title in the 110-pound weight class by decision, 15-3, against Chelsea Sanchez of Katy Morton Ranch High School.

Last season, Beggs also defeated Sanchez, 12-1, in the girls Class 6A championship last year. As a junior. He finished with a perfect 56-0 record.

When he won that title roughly a year ago, his victory was greeted with a smattering of boos, but those were quickly drowned out by cheers. Ones which grew louder when Trinity coach Travis Clark put the gold medal around Beggs’ neck.

A few years ago, Beggs began his transition from female to male. To help with the process, Beggs underwent low-level shots of testosterone. According to the UIL, since the testosterone comes from a physician, it is not considered a banned substance.

Beggs has previously stated he’d prefer to compete in the boys division, but UIL rules mandate participants must compete against the gender that appears on their birth certificate.

Still, Coppell lawyer Jim Baudhuin filed a lawsuit against the UIL, which was eventually dismissed by a Travis County Judge.

Before falling to Beggs in the semifinals, Cypress Ranch High School's Kayla Fits, actuallytold the Dallas Morning News that she was going to take his title.

Beggs dominated the girls Class 6A Region II tournament last weekend at Allen High School.At that tournament, near-dozen opposing wrestlers, coaches, fans or parents refused to share any opinions about Beggs.Once he'd claimed the regional title, the defending state champion discussed his potential plans wrestle at the collegiate level in the men's division.

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