Tonight NBC nightly news will be hosting the first of a two-part special on transgender kids. The first night features Joe and Mimi Lemay and their five year old son Jacob.
“Jacob is your typical energetic five-year-old little boy who loves to run around, loves to play in the dirt, loves to get his hands into things,” said Mimi.
“He is just like the funnest kid, and a great buddy to have around, he was also born in a girl’s body.” added Joe.
“Jacob is transgender.” Mimi explained.
The symptoms of gender dysphoria are easy to dismiss or put off to a phase, something that a child will grow out of; but a transgender child will not grow out of the symptoms, and they will worsen with time. The earlier their treatment is started, the more normal a life they can live.
The indicators of gender dysphoria in children can include:
- insisting that they are of the opposite sex
- disliking or refusing to wear clothes that are typically worn by their sex and wanting to wear clothes that are typically worn by the opposite sex.
- disliking or refusing to take part in activities and games that are typically associated with their sex, and wanting to take part in activities and games that are typically associated with the opposite sex.
- preferring to play with children of the opposite biological sex
- disliking or refusing to pass urine as other members of their biological sex usually do – for example, a boy may want to sit down to pass urine and a girl may want to stand up.
- Insisting or hoping that their genitals will change – for example, a boy may say he wants to be rid of his penis, and a girl may want to grow a penis.
- feeling extreme distress at the physical changes of puberty
These signs were there in Jacob’s case.
“The doctor said that we had a girl, so we started taking of girl names. Mia was born in 2010.” said Mimi . “Mia really wanted to change her clothes a lot, constantly like 12 times a day,” Joe added.
“But then the doggie sweater came and she became obsessed about wearing this one garment, for six months straight,” said Mimi. “In hindsight, I think what she was trying to do was to dispel a sense of discomfort and the way that her image was being shown to the world.”
“She would take on boy personas, and always wants to play with boy things, and we thought that it seems like we have a tomboy on our hands,” commented Joe. “She didn’t fit in with the boys, and she didn’t fit in with the girls; and it was obvious to her, and the other kids.”
“She always needed to play boy roles, and to be seen or spoken to as a boy at home, became very persistent and very consistent,” said Mimi “Those are the hallmarks of a possibly transgendered child. Consistence, persistence, and insistence; and she was meeting all of those markers.”
She continued, “I was confused and concerned, and I hope that this obsession with being a boy would go away. I remember crying because I imagined her being in the playground and no one playing with her; I imagined her going through high school and not having a date. A mother’s heart knows when her child is suffering.”
“He was talking about hating his body. I even found him kind of poking at himself at some point angrily wanting to be something different. Saying things like, “Why did God make me this way, why did God make me wrong!” Mimi said. “A child shouldn’t have to live like that.”
Everything changed in an instant when the family had a close call according to Mimi.
“I was driving up the street and a car was going really fast and it really made it but we had to slow down really rapidly, and I said to myself (in tears), if this was the moment where I lost her, what would I have done.” Said Mimi. “Would I have wanted to force her to be me for that one last day, or would I want her to have gone happy, being who she really was. And I think at that point my mind was made up.”
“It was April of last year. We haven’t yet transitioned Jacob, but he had short hair and was wearing almost entirely boy clothes. We had a glorious trip!” said Mimi. “We bought him a Prince Charming costume, and he would be stopped everywhere, Oh how handsome! Oh your son, he is so cute! And he just glowed.”
“The look of pride on his face was like, he just, he had a ball,” said Joe. “It was like a light bulb, or something clicked with us.”
“He was really happy in that moment, he was being perceived like he wanted to be.” added Mimi.
The growing acceptance of transgender individuals by society, and the subsequent choice by parents like the LeMay’s to come forward will make a huge difference for so many transgender kids.
Mimi explained, “There had been a video that had gone viral of an adorable little boy out in California, Ryland Whittington. His parents had made a video of him, explaining their process of transitioning him. And clearly this boy is so happy now, so adorable, so full of life and animation! And we were very struck by that and we said what if we showed him the video of this boy.”
She continued, “When the video finished, we asked him what do you think of that boy. Do you think you might like to be like that, do you think you might like to have a new name, and everyone will know that you are a boy.”
Jacob responded “I can’t! I have to be me at school. I can be what I want at home, but I have to be me at school.”
Joe offered him reassurance. “I explained to him, “Look, we can bring you to a new school and everyone will know you as a boy from the beginning,”” Jacob replied, “That’s is what I want! I want to be a boy always! I want to be a boy named Jacob.”
The simple act of recognition and acceptance can make a big difference in the life of a transgender child.
“Before the transition he didn’t smile a lot, I had never seen him throw his head back and laugh like really loudly,” stated Mimi. “He is just a different person who is becoming his self,” added Joe.
It made a big difference in Jacob’s confidence. Explained Mimi. “He started looking people in the eye, he started talking about people “that’s my friend.”” “Striking up conversations,” added Joe.
“And I realized just how much he had come out of his shell, and how much being Jacob suited him.” said Mimi. “And I realized he had never really been Mia, that had just been a figment of my imagination.” Joe added, “I couldn’t ask for better son! He’s amazing!”
I want him to know how proud of him I am, how brave I believe he is, and how no matter what I am in his corner and I love him and I always will because he’s my son! Mom
“Transgender Kids” will air in two parts on NBC Nightly News, Tuesday April 21 and Wednesday, April 22. Part two will feature 8-year-old Malisa Phillips.
Editor’s Note: Quotes in Story from the promotional video created by NBC News