6 years old, Olivia knew. She didn’t have the words to describe it — or the
courage it would take to utter those words aloud — but she was certain all the
same: “I’m a boy.” The feeling of alienation between mind and body persisted —
“I don’t know what’s wrong, but something definitely is” — though it would be
another five years before a clue emerged in the most contemporary of places.
Specifically, a video about female-to-male transition that gave this fifth grader
a new insight into these sensations and a new word to replace anxiety with
transgender” was not a statement that Hunter (then still Olivia socially and
biologically) could say to his mom until he had done extensive internet
research to understand what he was going through and how the transition process
then, it took a spark — what may have seemed like the typical flint-to-steel
contact of a strong-willed 8th grader and parent over the length of a haircut
and clothing options — to light the torch for Hunter’s journey.
Roz and Richard, Hunter’s parents, had their own learning curve, along with a
decade and a half of raising a pair of daughters in a world of gender norms.
don’t know that I knew he was struggling with something in particular. There
were a lot of things kind of converging, but we certainly wouldn’t have put it
all together and said, ‘Oh, there must be gender issues.’”
they had many of the same data points to connect the dots with how Hunter had
been feeling for years.
started making sense. All of his game avatars were male figures. And the toys
he preferred to play with were traditionally ‘boy toys.’ My husband initially
was grasping, trying to find maybe some other reasons for why Hunter was
feeling the way he was feeling.”
understand what his lifelong “tomboy” was going through, Richard set out to
educate himself on everything from terminology to therapy, including an
“intense” two-day conference sponsored by Ferndale’s Affirmations.
intrinsically personal and layered as Hunter’s transition was, the loving
community around him scaffolded and supported the true architecture of his
Hunter worked to build his true self — name, voice, body — from blueprints
that had always been present — that scaffolding mitigated the exceptional
risks that transgender individuals face. More than 40% have attempted suicide
— nine times higher than the national average.
with the support, coming out and transitioning was still hard,” Hunter vividly
recalls, but with “a strong support system at home, anyone could say anything
to me and it would just bounce off my back … it was their problem, not mine.”
fought for Hunter at every step of the process — documenting their journey and
engaging other families through callhimhunter.wordpress.com. From the outset
she sensed intuitively what another parent going through the process finally
articulated: “I would rather have a live son than a dead daughter.”
true testament to the love they have for their son and the support they feel
the entire transexual community needs, Roz and Richard run Stand with Trans, an
advocacy and support group that they founded. The group is growing nationwide
and providing vital supports so that no transgender person will ever feel that
suicide is the only option.