I watched 20/20 early this week about a heart wrenching story of transgender kids and the arduous challenges ahead of their yet burgeoning lives. I was so impressed with the way Barbara Walters portrayed the story. I've always thought of Barbara Walters as cold hearted, overly opinionated and hard, physically stoic almost. But she's shown a different side of her when she interviewed a beautiful girl named Riley. It wasn't a portrayal of a JUST-ANOTHER-SCOOP-kinda story. It was human and it was real.
This beautiful girl was actually born, Richard, a boy, with a twin sister, Allie.
Richard is convinced that he is virtually a girl...Sounds common? Not entirely. What makes his case so interesting is the fact that he showed this dilemma at a very tender age of two. Shortly after that, he became unperturbed of the fact that he is definitely a girl with a wrong body. He would even tell his mother, "I'm so mad at God, because God made a mistake. He made me a boy, and I'm not a boy, I'm a girl, Mom. Every night I pray that God gives me a girl body but when I wake up I'm still a boy. God won't take back His mistake. He won't make it right,"
"I want a dress. I'm a girl, Mommy, I'm a girl", she'd tell her mum. In what depth of decision-making-abilities should a two year old have? At two, we might be convinced we will become a Pokemon Master/trainer, or spider man or wonder woman...But who in the world would have such a strong conviction that he is a girl given a wrong body at two??? Feasible at 15 or 16 years of age... Maybe after several years of soul searching...But not at two.
While his sister Allie grew up with a very outgoing personality, Richard became very withdrawn. He exhibited interests in girl toys and dresses. He didn't quite get the same excitement that most children show when Christmas comes. He knew that on Christmas, he'd be getting boy stuffs which does not interest him in anyway. His sister would be getting all the cute girly stuffs he wanted.
All these are far too common for me having known so many gay men in my life. But his strong conviction from the age of two is far too unusual for me.
When he showers, he'd wash his hair with one hand while covering his genitals with a washcloth on the other as if he himself is disgusted with the penis that he shouldn't have. He even tried to cut it with a clipper. Richard eventually developed anxiety attacks and breakdowns. His mum later on allowed him to play dress-ups when hid dad is away. He was in a notion that one day he will give birth and become a mommy himself.
After talking about killing himself and wanting to jump out of the window, His parents were directed to see a gender specialist, who diagnosed Riley with a 'Gender Identity disorder'.
It is actually real...There is in fact a scientific name for it.
At seven years of age, Richard legally became Riley, adapted a female persona and started dressing up as a girl. He finally transitioned to become a girl. Indeed Riley is such a beautiful girl than a boy.
I have nothing but utmost respect for the parents of this child. They love her for who she is, accepted her decisions even at a very young age and supports her in every direction she chooses.
Now, Riley is already ten years old and I feel their pain as Riley is striking the difficult stage of puberty. They have far too much heavy and big big big decisions for Riley's future. A doctor advised that Riley should start taking the female hormones this early to hinder the development of facial hair, Adams apple, etc and to allow her body to develop more as a woman. But this might cause him to have a breast cancer one day. Riley would like to have a sex reassignment surgery in a heartbeat. Obviously with his conviction, this will happen sooner or later. So should the mum and dad instead have that done now and skip all the teasing that's about to come her way?
They are also faced with the fear that hate groups would hurt their daughter as we've known from several infamous transgender murders such as that of Gwen Araujo's. I could just imagine the Bullying coming from all angles. Some nasty kids at school call Riley a 'Girl With A Dick'. No doubt, withdrawal and isolation will come easily for a helpless child exposed constantly to this kind of taunting.
Riley has a pet snake and she is so proud of it. You could see her joy when she's talking about it, but the moment Barbara brought up the topic about her gender, Riley's face changed and started sobbing so bad that Barbara Walters actually became a comforter instead of a reporter.
I honestly cried watching this program not because I feel sorry for Riley because I know she is special, but of the fact that her parents has to decide on her health or lifetime of happiness...
Being a parent, I could only imagine what her parents are going through. I personally would want my son to be healthy...but at the expense of his happiness...I don't know. All the challenges that they are yet to encounter, knowing that there are in fact narrow minded people out there who would never accept reality and knowledge. Knowledge is so powerful it opens up our minds to so many things on different levels. We learn acceptance then we adapt. Unfortunately, part of that is the acceptance of the fact that there are also people out there who would never concede to new ideas.
Jazz is also a transgender
So for Riley's sake and all the other transgender kids around the world...Please open up you hearts and minds.
For the full ABC article click on this link: http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=3072518&page=1
I took these photos out of fun when my son was less than a year old in the hope that one day we will look back on these pictures and laugh at it. Never did I realise that around the same time another boy, thousands of miles away is going through an all too real gender identity crisis.
Sometimes, we tend to think that what we do is funny... But for some people, It is actually a cotemplative part of their whole being.