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Growing up as a transgender kid

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Earlier this year AL DÍA covered the annual Transgender Conference in Philadelphia. While looking for people who wanted to be part of  “The many faces of transgender people” series, we found Panda, or she found us. 

With her bright blue eyes, charisma, perspicacity and the courage only a child can have, she approached our reporter and asked:

“Are you going to tell my story?”

My name is Panda. I like long hair because it makes me feel warmer in the winter, I love all the colors but my most favorite is pink, and I think I'm very funny.

Legos, Barbies and my stuffed animals are my favorite things, but nothing is as fun as laying in bed and reading.

If you look at me you will realize I am just like any little girl, but there is one thing. I don't know why, but I was born in a boy's body, when what I really wanted was to be a girl. 

I am only 8 years old, so I don't really remember much of life as a baby, but I remember stealing a dress from pre-school. It was beautiful! Red, velvet, pretty.

We had to return the dress, but my grandma and grandpa got me one just like that — bet that if I try I can still fit in it.

Another thing I remember is being scared of telling anyone I was a girl, because I was afraid they would not believe me and let me be me. 

Can I tell you something?

Sometimes when you transition your parents don't let you be in the family anymore. Which is a really bad part.

I was afraid, and don't even remember how I told my mommy. But she and daddy try to be there as much as possible.

[If you are going through the same situation] just tell your parents when you can and be over with it [going through it alone]. And if they say no, just keep trying because it's your body and who you are, it's not theirs. 

They didn't know if I was going to transition, but they wanted to support me, and now I get to be the girl I have always been inside. 

Sometimes it happens that you can look like a boy on the outside when you are born, but you are a girl in your heart and brain.

And I am really happy people can see me for me now, even at school. Second grade was fun because I love my teacher, she is my favorite part about going to school, but she can be very strict. 

My classmates are very nice too, but they don't know I am transgender. A lot of kids don't know because I don't want to tell anybody. One person will find out and then they will pass it along and then everyone in the world will know.

I don't know, maybe when I'm like about to die, but I don't want them knowing right now. Some people are open about it, but I don't want to be open about it. 

The nurse and the principal are the only ones who know. And I am really happy because they allowed me to go into whichever bathroom I want.

Except for the boy's bathroom, because I don't ever wanna go there, all boys laugh at the girls that are in the boy's bathroom.

Being a boy is not fun because you have to do boy stuff and get in trouble. But being transgender can actually be fun. 

That is why I wanted to tell my story like this because I want to share a little bit about me and mainly I just want to tell other people that are transgender and just transitioned that being transgender isn't so bad.

In her siblings' eyes

To be honest, I barely remember her getting new girl's clothes, to me she has always been my little sister.

But when it was explained to us I thought you couldn't change genders at the time, because we were a lot younger, so we started fighting and arguing about it.

At some point, I realized she was saying the truth and I felt like I was not very smart because I should have known.

But then again, there are adults who don't get that my sister is a girl, to them I say “Go with the flow.”

Life's pretty good with a sister and a brother, I get the best of both worlds.

My brother is always very nice to me and I like to give him piggybacks, while my sister talks to me and makes me understand other things. 

Don't get me wrong, we still fight sometimes, but I know we will grow out of it. Especially when we are all teenagers and I get a driving license.

I'll drive them to school, and everywhere they want every once in a while, as long as they don't have to take the school bus. 

In the end, all I want is for her to be happy, I want her to grow up and have the same joy she has now as a wild girl that runs around the house with my little brother yelling stuff.

As told by her mom

When Panda was just three years old she came into the laundry room and asked, “Mommy, can I get my penis cut off?”

I honestly didn't know what to think, it was the very first time I ever heard anything like that or about the way she felt in regards to that. 

Then she went to preschool, and they have a chest with costumes for the kids to play with. My daughter found her way into it and put on a red velvet dress, completing the outfit with sparkly shoes. She would wear that all day, and then change when it was time to come home.

It went on for like the whole school year, and when summer arrived she packed that dress up and brought it home.

When my husband and I realized we took it back, but they said Panda could keep it for the summer and bring it back in the fall.

But when the new school year began a lot started happening. She was really unhappy, we didn't know what to do to help her. 

It seemed like the only things that made her happy were dress-up clothes, so we got her a couple of outfits, but they weren't even quality things, just fuzzy things for playing.

We hit a breaking point. She would get up in the morning and want to wear those clothes to school.

We try to convince her to put on regular clothes, but every morning it was harder and more heartbreaking. 

She would get to preschool, put on a dress from the chest, and then change when it was time to go home.

Her dad and I started to wonder a lot about what was going on and the teachers told us it was just a phase and not a big deal at all.

But we worried because they didn't see what was going on at home, and how upset she was feeling. So, I asked one of my friends who is a high school counselor if she could provide any resources. 

She suggested a group. My husband and I thought this was our chance to find out that what we were experiencing with her was totally normal for a kid her age.

It ended up being a transgender parent group. We ended up staying because we wanted to understand what was happening and what was the best way to support our kid. 

There we heard a lot of stories from a lot of other parents who had older kids who were transgender. They gave us advice and shared stories of things their children used to say or do when they were Panda's age.

Since we were struggling so much with clothes, a woman shared with us what she did with her kid. She said we should buy regular clothes Panda would like, so I took her to pick out some outfits and then another kid's mom at preschool gave us a bunch of clothes her daughter had outgrown. 

I was trying to leave work to get home and cook dinner while my husband was at home getting the kids ready for swim lessons. That was a real turning point. 

He called me practically in tears, and I could hear Panda crying in the background because she had found this swimsuit in this bag and he was not ready for her to go into the world in a girl's swimsuit. 

Needless to say, no one went to swim lessons that day, decisions need to be made. We chose to support her no matter what and found a therapist.

Panda was ready, she wanted to grow her hair, wear dresses and just be a girl. I basically was like, I'm not ready for that yet.

Despite being a woman of science and an engineer, I didn't realize kids develop their identity and gender between the ages of two and four. Yet we never ask them how they feel in regards to their gender identity and just assume they are comfortable with it.

It took her dad and I a lot longer. A few months went by and I think we started to realize, well, this is the way life is going to be.

By that time she was starting kindergarten, so we had a conversation with her and she was very adamant about the fact that she really was a girl. We socially transitioned, meaning she was able to be herself outside of the walls of our home.

We settled on a new name and started the process of legally changing it. But the state where she was born is one of the few that require a publication in the press stating the reasons for the name change (to prevent fraud) and requires a physician to say that the person has undergone a physical surgery to change the gender marker. 

We worry about the long term ramifications of essentially having her dead name connected to her name and accessible to the public. She is a child, our child, and we need to protect her. Luckily the judge was amazing and we were able to change her name without needing much. 

When you are the parents of a transgender kid, it's hard to describe how absurd it is to think about how somebody can think that you're forcing this upon them. I have yet to meet a parent of a transgender kid who would choose that for their child, in a world where it is way easier to be cisgender and heterosexual.

But, she is a girl! If she could choose, she would have been born a girl. Yet you hear people say things like, “She must have wanted a girl, that is why she is dressing her kid in these things. She has created a girl.”

I don't know about you but I can't get my kids to do everything I want them to do. If I had that power, I would invest in other things, like make her get straight A's, go to bed on time and brush her teeth.

How could I have subtly influenced and created a girl? She is who she is despite me, and now we have two boys and a daughter. 

Our little girl still has some time to figure herself out. As parents, we need to remember our children are autonomous beings, and I very much would rather have a happy daughter, than a dead son.

I think the world has more to worry about her than Panda has to worry about the world. We will always be there for her and when she grows up, watch out world, she's going to take you over!

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