In her own words, a transgender teen talks candidly about acceptance and tolerance.
We were shocked by the recent murder of 15-year-old Lawrence King--a young boy who was openly gay and reportedly wore mascara, lipstick and jewelry to school. Transgender teens have been in the spotlight lately and have left a lot of parents at a loss when it comes to talking to their own kids. Rika, pictured, a 17-year-old boy who came out as a girl during her freshman year (pictured), sheds a little light on the world of transgender teenagers.
Mom Logic: How did your parents react when you realized that you were really a girl?
Rika: I was in this depressive state. I didn't know if I was gay. I had good friends I was able to connect with, but I wasn't really sure of myself. At that point it was a taboo thing for me to wear female clothing. I was doing badly in school. And my parents asked me questions to know what was wrong and to help them help me. Finally I came out and told them, "Yes I am transgender." Then we went to Puerto Rico and I wore feminine clothing comfortably. That was my freshman year of high school. At that point, I went to a therapist and she said, "Well, she knows that she is a girl and it would be more polite to refer to her as 'her.'"
Mom Logic: How have you had to endure slurs or insults?
Rika: Honestly, I don't know where people get the balls to come up to a girl and say, "Are you a guy?" That is the most hurtful thing someone has said. When someone says something that is really vile or evil, there is obviously more of a problem with you than with me, because I am confident with who I am. That question is offensive because even if I was born female, why would you come up to me and ask me that question?
Mom Logic: How has your Mom been supportive?
Rika: When it comes down to it, she doesn't hear what I say and say "Ohmigosh!" She has always been the person who has been open about sexuality and people being themselves. A lot of things that I am able to talk to my Mom about are things that people would not be able to talk to their parents about. She is really good at asking questions, and it helps me to be free to explore my sexuality. I think in the beginning she was saddened by the fact that I was her only son, and she felt like she was mourning her son. I was offended by that, because I said, "I was never your son. I was always your daughter." But she got over that really fast. I give a lot of credit to my Mom. There's no real strife between us. Other than that, we've always had our teenage struggles.
Mom Logic: What are your tips for Moms and teens who have friends that are transgender?
Rika: Honestly, one of the main things is that you have to reinforce confidence. No matter what decision your child makes, it is still your child. A lot of parents try to control their kids. It's not up to parents anymore what decision the child has to make. By neglecting giving them love you don't help them develop the confidence to stand up to other people. I am grateful that my parents gave me the confidence to say you can be female! It's a beautiful thing to be transgender, you can take both aspects of male and female and make a new person. For a parent it's about reinforcing what they are naturally. Nurture their natural tendencies and watch him develop. As for other teens, if you're not going to accept me, I'm not going to accept you. If you can't be supportive, you probably need to end the friendship, because the person who isn't transgender will probably be uncomfortable, and the person who is won't feel comfortable to be who they are.