The Faces of Transgender Youth in South Florida

For Eli and many young people like him, childhood was full of anxiety and depression. Eli was born a girl but he identifies as male. 

"I would look in the mirror and just hate my chest and just try to squish it down," Eli said. "[I'd] sob for hours, like I was a little kid."

People are increasingly vocal about their identities in public, from Caitlyn Jenner to Laverne Cox of the Netflix series "Orange is the New Black" to fictional characters like Dot-Marie Jones' in the television show "Glee." 

"I'm so happy after such a long struggle to be living my true self," Jenner said after her Vogue cover story announcing her public transition was published. 

Here are the stories of a few regular citizens in South Florida who also identify as transgender.

Atticus Ranck

Atticus Ranck, 26, of Sunrise, Florida, first came out as a lesbian at age 17. Once in college, he became more masculine, describing the transformation as relatively easy. Ranck, who is taking hormones and has had surgery on his chest for the transition, just graduated with a master's degree in women, gender and sexuality from Florida Atlantic University.

Kassidy Suarez

Kassidy Suarez, 22, lives in an apartment with her mother in Miami. Suarez first came out at age 15 as a gay young man and then at age 17 as a transgender woman. She dropped out of high school, met rejection by her family and ended up homeless, where she spent several years on the streets. She dabbled with drugs and engaged in survival sex work and with the help of Project SAFE, Suarez found housing, counseling and a support network. She is now focused on getting her GED.

Ro Brown

Ro Brown, 23, waits in a Greyhound bus station in Miami with his wife, not pictured, for a bus to Macon, Georgia, June 18, 2015. Brown, who identifies as a transgender male, has been homeless for six years, and has not yet told his family about his gender identity. He is moving to Georgia to live with his wife's family, where they hope to find work and move into their own place.

Nikki Rose

Nikki Rose, 18, poses for a photo next to a mural at Survivors Pathway, a non-profit that provides support for LGBTQ youth in Miami. Nikki dropped out of high school where she says she was harassed by her teachers and considers herself fortunate to have support from her mother. "The only thing calming me down from depression is my mother," she said. Because she has been in fist fights and verbally abused by men on the street, she carries mace, a Taser and a knife.

Andii Viveros

Andii Viveros, 21, of Davie, Florida, applies makeup as she prepares to host the annual Sun Serve LGBTQA Colors of the Wind youth prom in Fort Lauderdale. Viveros said she was always different from an early age growing up as a boy. Her parents accepted her to be anyway she wanted to be. She fought for her rights in high school, sometimes violating the school's code of conduct by wearing dresses. She was elected prom queen in high school and is now studying sociology in college.

Kassandra Leach, left, and Renee Taylor, her mother.

Kassandra Leach, 17, left, hugs her mother, Renee Taylor, at their home in Miami. Leach says she never felt like one of the boys. In ninth grade she began experimenting with clothing, dressing more like a girl and in high school she lived her life secretly as a girl for over a year. Now out to her family and friends, she is transitioning with the help of counseling and hormones.

Theodore Xander Frey

Theodore Xander Frey, 18, of Cutler Bay, Florida, who identifies as an agender male, began questioning his identity at a young age, facing a tumultuous few years suffering from depression, running away from home and being placed into psychiatric care. He has since been accepted by his parents and is coming to terms with himself. Frey is attending college in the fall to study women and gender studies.

Alex Ramos

Alex Ramos, 13, who lives in Homestead, Florida, realized in sixth grade that he wasn't at peace with his biological female gender. He struggled to come to terms with it, afraid of how people at school would react. Ramos has since come out and has the support of his mother and friends.

Editor's Note: NBC follows guidance from GLAAD when using gender pronounce for transgender people: "Whenever possible, ask transgender people which pronoun they would like you to use. If it is not possible to ask a transgender person which pronoun is preferred, use the pronoun that is consistent with the person's appearance and gender expression." 

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