Wren KauffmanWren Kauffman, right, always felt like a boy, even though he was born a girl. (Photo courtesy Jason Franson / The Canadian Press)

The film Transforming Gender shares stories of what it’s like to be in conflict with the gender you were assigned at birth. That conflict is especially acute in the journeys of young transgender children. Many parents are now changing that conversation and their uplifting stories have gone viral. Meet some inspiring parents who have made it loud and clear that they love and support their transgender children for who they are, and that embracing individuality can pave the way for wider acceptance.

1. Not just a phase: Ryland Whittington’s story


Ryland Whittington, who is now six years old, was assigned female at birth. It was discovered after about a year that Ryland was deaf, but with the help of cochlear implants, the child eventually learned how to communicate. One of Ryland’s first words were “I am a boy.”

By the time Ryland turned five, he started actively rejecting everything that was traditionally feminine and while the Whittingtons thought it was just a phase, Ryland was soon overwhelmed with a sense of shame. “Why did god make me like this?” Ryland asked. Then the Whittingtons learned an alarming statistic from a recent study: 41 per cent of transgender people have attempted suicide due to lack of societal acceptance.

A life of misunderstanding and isolation was not what they wanted for their child. So the Whittingtons fully embraced Ryland’s transgender identity by cutting his hair, using male pronouns, and sharing their story of acceptance in a YouTube video that, to this date, has over seven million views.

Ryland's touching story has also been covered by the media and shared widely on the Internet, from the BBC to Cosmopolitan.

2. Proud mother Debi Jackson gives moving speech


Last year, Debi Jackson gave a beautiful speech about her transgender daughter, AJ, who transitioned from male to female when she was four years old. Debi, who describes herself as a "conservative Southern Baptist Republican from Alabama" hadn’t even heard the word “transgender” until she came across it in Google searches after picking up on some signs from AJ — from constantly asking for dresses, to pushing down on her male genitals and saying she “wanted them gone.” Then Debi recalled, “The day I let her go to school in ‘girl clothes’ she was happier than I had seen in a very long time.”

But the highlight of Debi’s speech may have been when she challenges the “uninformed comments” she constantly hears about having a transgender child, including, “God hates transgender people; they are sinners and are going to hell.” Debi’s response: “My God taught us to love one another. Jesus sought out those who others rejected … My daughter is a girl in her heart. She knows it, God knows it, and that’s good enough for me.”

Debi's speech became a viral hit on YouTube with over half a million views and was also featured on the blog for The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and covered by The Huffington Post. Today, Debi continues to speak out about the fight for transgender rights through her Twitter handle @transgirl_mom.

3. “Oops! Our bad.” A family’s transgender birth announcement


In 1995, an Australian woman Yolanda Bogert gave birth to a daughter named Elizabeth Anne, or Beth. Nearly two decades later, Beth recently came out as transgender and her mother wanted to show support for her teenage son, Kai. So Yolanda took out a classified ad in the birth announcement section of the local Courier-Mail newspaper to issue this heartwarming retraction:

In 1995 we announced the arrival of our sprogget Elizabeth Anne as a daughter. He informs us that we were mistaken. Oops! Our bad. We would like to present our wonderful son – Kai Bogert. Loving you is the easiest thing in the world. Tidy your room.

Yolanda told Courier-Mail, “I needed to show my son I support him 100 per cent and wanted to let the world know that.”

Kai said about his mom, “I am so happy with what she has done. This last week has changed everything for me. I am still me but I am more me than I was a few days ago and feel free.”

The unique birth announcement got widespread attention on the Internet after a Twitter user shared a photo of the newspaper clipping, which has so far collected over 10,000 retweets and favourites combined.

4. “Joey led and I followed.” Josie Romero’s story

Josie Romero, who was assigned a boy at birth, believed she was born in the wrong body. By age six, she was living as a girl. It was a transition that her supportive mother Vanessa summarized so fittingly when she described Josie’s excitement over finally shopping for girls’ clothes: “Joey led and I followed.”

Vanessa’s support during Josie’s transition is unwavering, even when Josie starts to have doubts about how she wants to identify herself. Josie asks her mother, “Would you love me if I’m a boy?” Vanessa responds without hesitation, “Of course. I would love you no matter what. I always have and I always will.”

Josie’s story was featured on Dateline NBC in 2012 and shared in a YouTube video that, to this date, has over eight million views.

5. “We’re not just blue and pink.” Wren Kauffman gets a new birth certificate

Wren Kauffman always felt like a boy, even though he was born a girl. After years of frustration and sadness, he and his Edmonton family decided he should live life the way he wanted — and not keep the change a secret.

Wren, 11, and his mother Wen were successful in their bid to have his name and gender changed on his birth certificate. He was presented with the new document at a Pride festival brunch in Edmonton last June. The family is now in the process of changing his gender on his passport.

Wren’s mother told CBC Radio’s The Current that it’s important for families to listen to their children and for their children to feel safe in their environments.

“If we start having age-appropriate language early on about LGBTQ issues and that people can fall into these categories and that it’s normal, this will be a lot easier moving forward. It really does start early. It starts when we have our babies. They’re their own people and they can come out in any way and they deserve respect and love,” Wen said.

“We’re not just blue and pink. We’re not these binary standards that we’ve come to know over the years."

In April, Wren received an Alberta Great Kid Award for his bravery in sharing his story and inspiring others to live an authentic life. His journey has been followed closely in Canada, especially when the Kauffman family initially filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission over the inability to change the sex on his birth certificate. Alberta law originally stated that transgender persons must have reassignment surgery before they can change the sex on their birth certificates, but Premier Dave Hancock said in April that the surgery requirement will be dropped. Wren's story has also been covered internationally, and is featured in the documentary Transforming Gender.

For more on Wren Kauffman’s journey, you can watch the film Transforming Gender.

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