In 2007, when Jeff and Hillary Whittington learned they would be having a baby girl, they painted the nursery gray and decorated with pink accents. Five years later, the decor changed.
The California parents said they thought the hardest challenge with their first child, Ryland, would be overcoming the fact that she was born deaf. The girl was fitted with cochlear implants and eventually learned to hear and speak.
But it wasn’t long until the Whittingtons faced another challenge.
“As soon as Ryland could speak, she would scream, ‘I’m a boy!’” the parents said in a video they dubbed “our coming out” about the child whom they allowed to change her outward appearance to the gender she identifies with on the inside at just 5 years old.
The Whittingtons posted their video about Ryland’s story on YouTube earlier this week, after presenting it at the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast last week, where they received the Inspiration Award at the event dedicated to the first openly gay politician who was elected to public office.
“One of the most inspiring things that Harvey Milk had done as far as our family is concerned was to encourage people to come out; to let their voices be heard; break down the walls, break down the barriers and start allowing people to see them for their authentic selves and be true to themselves, and this is our coming out … this is us making our voices heard,” Jeff Whittington said in accepting the award, according to LGBT Weekly.
In their video, the Whittingtons explained how it was at first easier to consider Ryland a “tomboy.” But what some called a “phase” only grew stronger. Ryland wore boy’s swimming trunks. She dressed in a boy’s shirt and tie. When she drew a picture of herself, it was as a boy.
At one point, the parents wrote that Ryland said, “When the family dies, I will cut my hair so I can be a boy,” and asked, “Why did God make me like this?” When Ryland’s younger sister was born, her parents, as many do, filmed them at bath time, at which point, the older sibling introduced the younger to the camera saying she was her older brother.
The Whittingtons sought professional help, and afterward ultimately concluded that while Ryland’s body was that of a girl, her brain was that of a boy.
Finding the statistics regarding suicide rates of transgender individuals who feel they are not accepted by society, the Whittingtons decided to allow Ryland to express herself the way she wanted. They cut her hair, changed her room and began referring to their child as a him and he.
Watch Ryland’s story:
Ryland is not the first transgender child to gain attention because of their gender identification change at such a young age. Last year, the parents of a transgender 6-year-old went to bat for their child, who was born a boy but living as a girl, and who wished to use the girls’ restroom at school. The family later won the right for the child to use the girls’ bathroom, calling it a “triumph for fairness.”
The debate about whether sexual orientation is innate in a person or influenced by environmental factors is still very much active. Just this week, a Gallup poll revealed that nearly 40 percent of Americans think environment and upbringing is the cause.
Scientific studies have shown that genes influence gender preference and differences in the brains of homosexuals and heterosexuals have been noted as well.
(H/T: Daily Mail)