TAMPA, Fla. — It’s not easy being a teenager right now, from dealing with a pandemic to growing up with social media, and some groups feel the stress and pressure, even more, especially teens in the LGBTQ community.
Levi Wright lives with his mom and dad in the FishHawk community. Recently, he came out to his family as transgender, and after struggling with his own identity for so long, he hopes to now help other teens in his community who may be going through the same thing, so he’s starting a youth group for teens.
“I am 15 at the time, going on 30,” said Levi, who is certainly mature beyond his years. Levi likes doing the same things as a lot of other teenagers. He likes to play video games, his pet snakes, and he loves to draw and hopes to work for Disney one day as an animator, but Levi has also taken on something that even a lot of adults struggle with — his own identity.
Levi recently came out as a transgender male, meaning he was born female, but now lives as a male. He said he first remembers feeling uncomfortable in his body when he was in second grade.
“I had a deep jealousy of all the boys in my class that they could dress how they wanted to. I wanted to dress like that with basketball shorts and T-shirts. I wasn't necessarily happy when I was wearing dresses, or I was playing around in ballerina skirts and stuff like that, I wasn't happy,” said Levi.
And that feeling of unhappiness didn’t just go away. Over the years, and with the help of the internet, Levi realized he wasn’t alone with those feelings, and there were other people out there like him. When he first came out, though, kids were cruel.
“It was harder in the locker room at my public school. I was bullied quite a bit. I would have frequent panic attacks at school and before school, dreading going to that place where they would ridicule me nonstop,” said Levi.
Since then, Levi started going to school online, and his family moved from Chicago. Even though life is easier for him now, he wants to help other teens who may be going through the same things he did, so he and his mom put it out on Facebook to start an LGBTQ youth group for teens.
“Instantly there were people messaging me saying that, yeah I have a child who would absolutely love to participate in this. I am overwhelmed, I have not had one derogatory comment. It's all been inclusive, it's all about education, and I thought, FishHawk being the bubble everyone talks about, that it was going to be much different,” said Stacey Wright.
With this safe place, Levi hopes to be the help he never had, so other teens don’t have to face this challenge alone.
“I hope we can make it more comfortable for them and slowly ease into this new future where gender is not binary anywhere, and you can wear what you want, clothes are just pieces of clothes and you can just be who you want to be, and yeah, that's what I'm trying to do,” said Levi.
Already, a business in the neighborhood and a local church have offered their space as a place for the group to meet. Levi and his mom are finalizing the plans now.