What would you do if your son or daughter, brother or sister announced that through either actions or words they were the wrong gender? Though born a boy they wanted to live as a girl, or vice versa.
It’s a dilemma that confronted two mums who appear in a groundbreaking new Channel 4 documentary that examines the many complex personal, and legal, issues surrounding children who are transgender.
Ashton was born a boy but while still a child identified as a girl. Now aged eight she lives as a girl, is treated by friends and family as a girl and has even changed name by deed poll to Ashley.
Matilda was born a girl but from the age of two said that she was a he. At the age of 11, and now known as Matt, he has undertaken hormone treatment to block puberty and avoid developing as a woman.
It’s an enormously challenging subject, but the mums of each child have spoken to RadioTimes.com ahead of tonight’s documentary in the hope that both it and they can improve public understanding of the issue.
Terri, mum of Ashley, from Ramsgate, Kent
Why did you agree to take part in the documentary?
I am really incredibly proud of Ash. The thought of her not being accepted in society is really heartbreaking to me. It’s just something I’ve got to do for her. I’ll do everything that I can do.
Are you concerned about taunting or bullying after the programme airs?
We have already had all the taunting it’s possible to have. Everyone in her school knows who she is now so hopefully that won’t happen.
Do you feel you’ve lost a son?
I have been asked that question so many times. To me I have never had a son. Obviously, I gave birth to a son but Ash has developed in her own way ever since she was small child. From the minute she could pick up a toy it was a doll rather than a train and when she could pick what she wanted to wear it was a tutu rather then dungarees. She has always been this way so I don’t feel like I have lost anything, because it was never there for me to lose.
Rachel, mum Of Matt, from Llanelli, Carmarthenshire
What’s been the hardest thing for you?
Matt has, since the age of two-and-a-half, said that he was a boy. But it’s really difficult saying ‘he’ when what you’re looking at is the anatomy and physiology of a girl. You’re saying ‘he’ but fundamentally what you’ve got is a girl’s body.
How bad did it get for Matt?
The bullying that Matt encountered was horrific. His life was absolute hell. I sent him to the wolves every single day. I was dragging him out of the house by his legs to take him to school. It was terrible.
He’s in a different school now. Are things better?
His friendship group at school does tend to be boys, but when they are playing contact sports he has to step back – he still finds it hard to mix. Whether that’s his gender or the autism I can’t say. But the children in the school are much more understanding. They just say ‘what’s the big deal’.
Russell Brand announced recently that he would be raising his new baby girl gender neutral. Does that help?
No, not really. This is not a trend. This is how showbiz and Hollywood makes it look, but it’s not all about filters, soft lighting and makeup artists. While the rest of the world is being ‘fashionable’ our kids are being left behind.
What reaction do you think there will be to the documentary?
I know there will be people who don’t like what they see. Matt is only 11 years old in the film – he’s still a child. And you think to yourself, ‘this is a child. How can you be helping make these big decisions or helping this child make these decisions when they are still a child’. And I think that is what people will think when they look at it. They’ll say: ‘They’re kids. Let them be children. They shouldn’t be thinking about this’. All I would say is that you can try to understand it, but you have to live it to understand it.
I certainly haven’t found it easy as a parent. Yes, they are young but children have a right to make decisions about who they are and who they are not. We have to learn to allow them to grow and develop and express themselves in the way that makes them happy.
I hope the documentary will allow people to understand exactly what being gender different or transgender is.