Gender identity is so much more complicated than I realized as a child growing up in post-World War II America. Had anyone told me about intersex babies, I would have been completely flummoxed. So I am grateful to the Romeros and their transgender child, Josie, for sharing their story.
The NBC show Dateline has been following Josie’s transition for several years. The video below introduces the family and Joey’s growing certainty that she was a girl and should be treated and dressed as such. As soon as her parents learned to embrace her identity, some remarkable changes happened. She stopped having tantrums. She was able to sleep. She no longer needed medications.
The Romeros were a military family living in Japan. The hard times started again when they sent Josie to school in a dress. Parents protested. They received death threats.
The military sent the family to Arizona. Vanessa began home schooling Josie and taking her to a supportive psychologist.
Parental support can only do so much. As puberty approached, Josie became anxious. With surgery not an option before her eighteenth birthday and hormonal therapy carrying risks for a child of nine, Vanessa was worried about her child’s mental health over the rocky adolescent years to come. She told Dateline, “I’d rather have a living transgender daughter than a dead son.”
So Vanessa and Josie traveled to Los Angeles Children’s Hospital to see a doctor who would consider her as a patient. Josie was disappointed when the doctor told her she was too far away from puberty to begin the hormone blockers that would keep her from developing as a male, but a few years later, after one episode of uncertainty, she began the process, which continues.
I am in awe of the courage Josie and other transgender children and adults need in order to find and insist on their rightful place in this world. Nothing I have ever faced comes close to demanding this kind of soul searching or bravery.
The least the rest of us can do is to be supportive of whatever identity fits the souls of those around us. The Romeros’ willingness to share their journey may tear down some of the walls transgender children have to punch their way through. They give me hope.
Watch the National Geographic documentary, Sex, Lies and Gender, to understand more about Josie’s story and what it means to be transgender.
My thanks to talented artist/designer Kris Schirmer for the link to this extraordinary story.