'It's how I was born': Transgender teen says support is crucial
Posted July 28, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — Imagine bringing home a baby girl and, one day, she announces she is a boy, or bringing home a boy from the hospital, and suddenly, as soon as he can talk, he says he is a girl.
Even for the most loving families, conversations about being transgender can be a struggle, from trying to understand and support their child to keeping them from being bullied.
Cary teenager Vanessa Locklear came into the world as a boy but is living as a girl. The 14-year-old documented her transition and shared information about being transgender in a YouTube video.
“It's how I was born. It may not seem that way, but it is,” she said. “The biggest thing you really need throughout this transition is a good support system.”
Vanessa says she got that support from her mother after sharing her feelings about a year and a half ago.
“At first, honestly, I thought it was a phase,” said Amy Locklear, Vanessa’s mother. “They think they don't belong in their body, but nobody can understand.”
That is exactly what Tony Howard thought when his little girl wanted to play with GI Joe action figures and dress like a boy.
“At that point, I just thought, ‘Oh, my daughter is a tomboy,’” he said.
But eventually, Howard's little girl told him at 10 years old that she was a boy. He's now 14.
“I took it well from the start because my main concern is for my kid to be happy,” Howard said. “I’m definitely OK with it.”
Cary therapist Kimball Sargent works with both of the families. Her youngest transgender patient was four.
“Families have to go through a grieving process. They brought that child home. It looks like a boy, or it looked like a girl, and nobody ever said that gender was something that could change,” Sargent said. “The earlier that the child comes out and says that the gender is wrong, the more likely it is that they are going to transition.”
Amy Locklear says she and her daughter “went through a little rough patch” in the beginning. “After that, she kind of stood up for herself and said, ‘I am who I am. Either you accept it or you don’t,’” Amy Locklear recalled.
Sargent says she helps families process the complexities of raising a transgender child.
In Howard’s case, he says he listened to his child “because that child is speaking the truth about how they feel.”
It’s not just about feelings; it's also about how the children are treated at school.
“Most of the schools that I have been involved with have been very supportive of their trans students, and most students are pretty supportive,” Sargent said.
Vanessa says her school has “been really good.”
“I mean, there are some people who don't like it and they avoid me, but they don't really say anything to me,” she said.
Amy Locklear says she’ll do whatever it takes to make sure her daughter feels supported, loved and safe.
“A lot of people say there's different ways to handle it. Well, this is the only way I know how to make Vanessa happy,” she said.
Sargent says most physicians will wait for a child to go through puberty before determining if he or she is serious about changing genders. Locklear’s and Howard’s children are both undergoing hormone therapy and hope to have surgery someday.