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What It's Like To Be Transgendered

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In her own words, a transgender teen talks candidly about acceptance and tolerance.

Yesterday, Chaz Bono announced his plans to have a sex change. Rika, a 17-year-old boy who came out as a girl during her freshman year, sheds a little light on what it means to be transgendered.

rika navarro and chastity bono transgendered

momlogic: 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.'"

: 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?

ML: 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.

ML: What are your tips for moms and teens who have family and 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.

next: Pregnancy Freakout -- Caught on Tape
18 comments so far | Post a comment now
karen June 12, 2009, 8:56 PM

thank you for this story, when i first heard about chastity i was disgusted and totally didn’t get it. thankfully i have opened my mind and read about what it is like for someone in the wrong gender, and fully support all lgbt people, including transgender which are often looked down upon by both gay and straight people. thanks chaz for opening my eyes…and thank you rika for opening up as well

RP June 12, 2009, 11:38 PM

Out Of The Shadows, a short video about gender different youth.

Please Watch:

No one get’s to choose how we are born. Why would anyone choose this road in life’s journey when it is filled with such difficulty, emotional / physical pain and suffering.

Yet, once this journey of discovery into one’s true self has been traveled, the reward is knowing precisely who one really is and a good understanding of the human nature.

anonymouse June 13, 2009, 2:46 AM

Great story, thanks for sharing!
Rika, you are gorgeous :)

and Karen, I’m so happy to hear that :) Not very many people are willing to open their minds to the subject (or any subject).

Anonymous June 13, 2009, 6:26 PM


GPC June 13, 2009, 10:44 PM

So if I dress up a zombie and “live” like one…does that make me a zombie?

Anonymous June 14, 2009, 12:54 AM

I agree with that last comment.
“A wolf in sheep’s clothing, is still a wolf”! As a parent, I’m really disturbed how EASY it is to change your appearance in today’s world. WHY CAN’T WE JUST TEACH OUR CHILDREN HOW TO ACCEPT THEMSELVES FOR WHO THEY ARE??? I know they may have certain feelings, but for example: when I was a little girl, I used to dream about being a princess (heck I still wish I was a princess)…but does that mean I put on a princess dress and crown?? That I walk around trying to convince everyone that I’m actually a princess when I’m not?? It’s what make us individuals!! God made us the way we are for a reason and altering our looks (and gender) only means we’re working against God!

ginger June 15, 2009, 6:29 AM

Unfortunately a couple of the comments posted are very “surface” and extremely short sighted! From when I was maybe 5 or 6 yrs. of age, I wanted to be a girl. But, like others I suppressed those feelings(as much as I could)in order to survive and live in our culture and society as best I could. But,I was at war within myself everyday of my life. Years later when I finally figured out totally what was going on with me and found the courage, I became Ginger. That was 5 yrs ago and all that inner turmoil disappeared like magic,never to return. Has it been, but for me definitely the correct decision.

RP June 15, 2009, 8:44 PM

“WHY CAN’T WE JUST TEACH OUR CHILDREN HOW TO ACCEPT THEMSELVES FOR WHO THEY ARE???”…….Why can’t parents allow their children to discover and be who they truly are?… There are many parents who pile their expectations upon their children. This includes everything from what school they are to attend, the career they are expected to have, their partners, friends, who they marry, grand children, perpetuation of the family name, family social status and much, much more. Parents must ask themselves if they who own their children like property or a possession and have the right to dictate what journey in life their children are to have. Simply put, parents do NOT own their children and should allow them to discover who they really are and support them in their life’s journey even if the journey they choose is not the one they wished or expected for their children. This is true for a child who must live their live in a different gender or a career choice that runs counter to parental expectation or marrying their soul mate whom parents will never approve. Parents invest a HUGE amount of their resources to grow their children up to adulthood and many times, expect some thing from their children in return for this investment. The core question for parents, do they love their children enough to support them in their life’s journey free of parental expectation or passing on of their parents and family legacy? Children are not about the parents future, it is about their future.

L June 15, 2009, 11:25 PM

Thank you for your story. You’re mom must be so proud to have a beautiful daughter who is wise beyond her years! We could all learn to be more accepting of others.

Zan June 17, 2009, 10:48 AM

“WHY CAN’T WE JUST TEACH OUR CHILDREN HOW TO ACCEPT THEMSELVES FOR WHO THEY ARE???” I agree completely! So when that child we all thought was female comes out and says “But.. I’m a boy..” we teach that child to love itself for who they ARE instead of trying to tell them they are NOT good enough, and that they do indeed have selfworth - no matter what a bigoted world says. And we teach them to accept themselves through showing our own accept and respect. But alas.. that wasn’t really what you meant, was it, Anonymous. Your “acceptance” means stifling that child and telling them that they really aren’t good enough, unless they fit the mould you want.

RP June 17, 2009, 10:16 PM

Zan, Sadly you are wrong. Gender identity is a part of an individuals basic foundation of who they are. For the majority of individuals, their gender identity is never questioned. For a few, their sense of self gender identify simply does not match how they perceive themselves physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially, culturally. This is the core reason why it is nearly impossible for individuals who are born congruent to understand individuals who are born gender differnt. There is a fine line between “Teaching your child’ vs Programming your child. Being born gender differnt is a genetic, hormonal and very much an innate part of an individual. Current scientific and medical studies continue to prove this to be hard scientific fact. If you question this, I’ll post more hard science on this topic than most would be interested in hearing.

Physical genitalia, chromosomal testing, hormonal is not an accurate measure of gender identity or what sense of gender an individual really is. While it is easy and simple to look at that few square inches of anatomy then dictate their life for them. Using this simple minded and ignorant criteria as a basis as who your child is can prove to be very, very wrong and cause a child to be suicidal. Think this is wrong, suicide among gender differnt children is common. Just ask the parents of gender differnt children who are dead from trying to “ACCEPT THEMSELVES FOR WHO THEY ARE”

Being congruent with who you are is a basic requirement for self acceptance. One’s sense of gender is built-in and in recognizing a child’s innate sense of gender, parents can go a long ways to help and support a child’s acceptance of who they are.

Oh. Using “it” for a child is very de-humanizing.

Gail Cooke June 17, 2009, 11:39 PM

Unfortunately biology is manner of surgery will change that.

At the end of the day, you’re a clever fake….nothing more, nothing less.

RP June 18, 2009, 2:12 AM

“Unfortunately biology is manner of surgery will change that. At the end of the day, you’re a clever fake….nothing more, nothing less.
- Gail Cooke”

Better study some hard science and biology before you state this. If you are well educated and properly informed about this specific topic, you would never state this. Only the ignorant and un-educated will say what you wrote.

Zan June 18, 2009, 9:57 AM

-RP, my apologies for being unclear, I was in a rush when writing. To clarify: I meant accepting that child for who they are as in who they REALLY are, NOT what the anatomy they were born with dictates - rather than just wanting to accept what one sees. I am myself trans.

Tina March 12, 2010, 10:06 PM

It’s Really sad that some people don’t realize that God created us all diffrently and not everyone feels comfortable with their gender so to fix what feels wrong, they alter thermslves to do what feels most feel most comfortable for THEM! not you!
God bless them!
they are no less of a person than you!

Meaghan Slomski December 14, 2010, 12:44 AM

Very attention attracting article. I really get thrilled I was more than blissed and delighted when I found it.

Laureen Bohmker December 15, 2010, 8:26 PM

That’s pretty cool would you mind getting in touch with me. I am certain you got support from God.

Ten Tees January 8, 2011, 5:01 PM

Good info! Nice reading. There’s a small opinion to offer about funny t-shirts.

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