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TransAmerica: How Young is Too Young to Be Trans?

There has been more than one viral video involving the transgendered this week. The first was a disturbing and brutal attack on two trans women on an Atlanta train, but the second is decidedly more heartwarming. A video posted to a YouTube account belonging to the Whittington family depicts the discovery that their first child, Ryland, is transgendered. The video has been view more than five million times, but unsurprisingly has stirred up controversy.

Ryland was born female, but as soon as the child could speak told parents Jeff and Hillary, “I am a boy.” One part of the clip shows the Whittington’s two children in the tub and Ryland says, “This is my sister Brynly, and I am her brother Ryland.” They also say that she felt shame saying things like “When the family dies, I will cut my hair so I can be a boy,” and asking,“Why did God make me like this?”

After consulting a number of medical professionals, who initially called it a “phase,” the Whittington’s decided to allow Ryland to live as he saw himself. They cut his hair and sent a letter to family and friends explaining their decision. At the end of the video, Ryland is shown at an event honoring Harvey Milk saying that he is “the happiest [he has] ever been in [his] life.”

There have been many documented cases of young people expressing their gender identity and the confusion many parents face in these situations (not to mention the confusion going on for the child him/herself). In a lot of cases, these children are born with “ambiguous” genitalia and thus the decision of their “sex” is left up to either the parents or the doctor. In a lot of cases, they get it wrong.

Ultimately, the only choice for parents to make is to let their child be who they believe they are. In many cases for children bullying is inevitable – although the bullying and harassment of LGBTQ children often has more far-reaching consequences than “normal” bullying – but can take solace in the acceptance from their family and friends that can quite literally save their life.


Photo via screen grab

About the author

Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Along with news and current events, he writes about parenting, art, and personal stories. His serial fiction story "The Prophet Hustle" is available at JukePop.com and a forthcoming independent ebook about the cam-modeling industry "Dirty Little Windows" will be available later this summer.