Nicole Maines – a transgender actress who has starred in “Supergirl,” “Yellowjackets,” and more – never intended to become an activist.
But when she and her family won a groundbreaking case against her school district in 2014, arguing that the school could not deny her access to the girl’s bathroom because she was transgender, the role came naturally.
Years later, Maines would go on to make history again as the first live action transgender superhero on television as Dreamer in “Supergirl."
Maines spoke with ABC News in 2015, sharing the excitement she felt about preparing to undergo gender affirming surgery.
“I just knew in my head and in my heart that I was supposed to be a girl,” she said in the 2015 interview. “It was just the voice in my head telling me, ‘No, this is who you are, you need to be a girl.’”
Gender-affirming care can include puberty blockers, hormone medications and surgery.
“I had just graduated high school,” Maines, now 26, said in a recent interview, after watching the old footage of herself. “I was on my way to get my surgery that I'd been looking forward to my entire life, that I'd been talking about my entire life.”
Maines’ story is part of "The Freedom to Exist - A Soul of a Nation Presentation," airing June 6 on ABC.
As bills restricting transgender youth health care and trans bathroom bans pop up across the country, Maines says “there's so much work to be done…we all need to decide what kind of country that we want to live in.”
At least 18 states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and Utah -- have passed laws or policies that restrict gender-affirming care for people under the age of legal adulthood.
In several of these states, adults, too, face restrictions and red-tape toward receiving such care.
Leading medical groups and pediatric experts say gender-affirming care improves the mental well-being of transgender youth, who are more likely to face mental health conditions due to discrimination and gender dysphoria – or not being able to express oneself in the gender they identify with.
Despite this, youth continue to face barriers to care.
The next generation of trans youth
Hobbes Chukumba, a junior in high school, came out as transgender to his father when he was 11 years old.
People would call Hobbes a “young boy,” a “brother,” a “son,” and it would never bother him – “It wasn't several years later until I realized it's because that's really how I identify. That's how I felt,” he said.
“I was so relieved to finally have this weight put off my chest because it had been something that I was harboring for... I don't know how long,” Hobbes told ABC News in an interview.
His father told him he loved him, gave him a hug, left the room and immediately went to search for answers. He had no frame of reference on how to support his son.
“For the next two years, I was doing all the research I could to figure out what it was that I was dealing with, and how to best help my child realize who he was, and how he could become his best self,” Hobbe's father, Stephen, told ABC News.
Hobbes said he knew he wanted to medically transition to feel more aligned with his body.
Stephen, Hobbes’ father, describes the process as “a whole battery of appointments and meetings and doctors and clinicians and psychiatrists.”
“For me, I felt really good,” he continued, “because I didn't want my son taking something, doing something to alter his body that he didn't understand, that I didn't understand.”
Hobbes said that when he began taking testosterone, he felt the change from within immediately.
“It felt like, on the first day, I was like, ‘Oh, look at me, I already have a huge mustache and awesome beard,’ even though, obviously, that wasn't true. But it was just the feeling, the thought, that one day I will.”
Hobbes was one of several trans youth organizers who helped to plan the Trans Youth Prom to celebrate trans youth and show people that "trans kids are kids."
"We're people, we can have fun, we can enjoy ourselves and we have pride to be who we are," he said.
Hobbes continued, “When I go on to college and into the rest of my life, I want people to look at me as I currently am, and not as I was. I don't want them to see me as Hobbes, who used to be whoever. I want them to just see me, and see Hobbes.”