The stories and voices of transgender people have been thrust into the limelight over the last couple of years, thanks in part to Caitlyn Jenner’s appearance on the cover of vanity fair.
Love her or hate her, there’s no denying that she shifted the focus onto transgender people, and since then we have seen several strong transgender role models step into the limelight. While there is a lot of (well deserved) love for Laverne Cox, for the young transgender people out there, the limelight belongs to I am Jazz star Jazz Jennings and her amazing story.
With that in mind, let’s focus on some of the unheard voices among the young people in the transgender community. Coming out is tough for young person across the LGBT rainbow, but with a lot of controversy and misinformation floating around about transgender people and their struggles, it’s important to give these young people some time in the sun in the hopes that their stories may help someone who is struggling.
Ryland and His Parents, Hillary and Jeff
Ryland was born deaf, but thanks to a cochlear implant he learned to speak and hear. When Ryland could talk, he would shout “I AM A BOY!” According to his father Jeff, he began to feel shame about his feelings, since he knew he was a boy but was born as a girl.
Apparently, he would say things like: “When the family dies, I will cut my hair so I can be a boy.” Ryland’s family are a happy story though, as when they found out and saw the horribly high suicide rate for transgender children, they did not want to take any chances with their son.
“Relative to the horrific things that people have to endure with their children all over the world, this is nothing. We signed up as parents with no strings attached. This is our family, and this is our amazing son…He is still healthy, handsome, and extremely happy!”<
Ryland confirmed this at the Harvey Milk Diversity Break when he said: “My name is Ryland Michael Whittington. I’m a transgender kid. I am six. I am a cool kid…I am the happiest I have ever been in my whole life.”
Logan Henderson graduated from Santa Monica High School last year and now attends Dartmouth College. He came out as a transgender boy his first year of high school, and he had to walk across campus to the nurse’s office to change for PE, making him regularly late to class. Ultimately, his administrators worked with him so that he could do well, and he’s hopeful that the guidelines provided by AB 1266 will help the school support the younger transgender youth who are still at his high school.
Kai and His Mother, Yolanda Bogert
Kai knew he was trans when he was 10 years old, but wanted to “find the right moment” to tell his family. But when he told his mother, Yolanda, the reaction was underwhelming – but in a good way. His mother’s reaction is probably what people in the closet all over the world dream of – an accepting shrug of the shoulders to say, “Oh ok, that’s cool.”
Kai spoke to the Australia Today and said that it was “extremely boring and dull…She just went, ‘Oh, you’re trans? Oh, cool.’” But Yolanda did welcome her son in a lowkey but very welcoming way – by putting an ad in the paper.
Best Birth Announcement ever. Today’s CM. What a wonderful family. pic.twitter.com/Zz4NkssKHD
— Lisa Dart (@frostyagnes) December 2, 2014
Eli Erlick, a student at Pitzer College, graduated from Willits Charter School in 2013 and is the founder and director of Trans Student Equality Resources. She came out as transgender when she was 8, and passed a policy in line with the Student Success and Opportunity Act in her district.
Sharon on her transgender daughter
We’ve heard lots of stories from the perspective of the family and the transgender person themselves, but our next tale is about a parent. Because of course, the struggle isn’t just on the side of the person coming out. It’s also on the parent. For some people, it might be a struggle to understand, or some people may have trouble expressing their love and acceptance of their child in a difficult situation. So let’s look at some snippets from Sharon’s story.
“When my child Nick was about two, I realised that he wasn’t playing with toys that I expected a boy to play with. He was interested in dolls and girly dressing-up clothes. At that age, it doesn’t really matter. You just think they’re trying lots of different things, so I never made a fuss about it. But when he was four years old, Nick told me that God had made a mistake, and he should have been a girl. I asked my GP what I should do. He told me to wait and see, and that it might just be a phase and go away. But it didn’t. It got stronger.”
“One day, when Nick was six, we were in the car and he asked me when he could have the operation to cut off his ‘willy’ and give him a ‘fanny’. His older cousin had told him about these things.”
“Nicki desperately wanted to be female all the time. When she was 10, we feminised her name from Nick to Nicki at home. The following year, Nicki started secondary school as a girl. The school was very supportive, but because she moved up to secondary school with her peer group, everybody knew.”
“When Nicki started puberty, I wanted her to get the type of treatment that’s offered in the Netherlands, where puberty is blocked before major physical changes take place. I felt that if she was going to change her mind about being a girl, she would have done so by now. The Tavistock Clinic wouldn’t give her hormone blockers.”
“In the end, we went to a doctor in the US. I found him through the WPATH network [The World Professional Association for Transgender Health]. Nicki was 13 when she started taking hormone blockers. It’s put her male puberty on hold and given her time to think. If she hadn’t been given blockers, she would have suffered the psychological agony of going through male puberty. She told me she would have killed herself. Nowadays, you’d never guess that she was born male.”
If you want to read the rest of Sharon’s story, go here.
These are bit a small sampling of stories from transgender people across the world, if you are looking for support you can find even more stories of transition here. You can also find support in the UK here and in the US here. If you are struggling with depression, please do reach out to organisations such as the Samaritans.
Just know that you are not alone. Despite the minor squabbles we might have, we are still a community.