Our Cover Story this morning deals with children grappling with a very grown-up issue: gender identity -- boys or girls believing they're the opposite sex, saying they were born this way. Here's Rita Braver:
She could be any 12-year-old girl, hanging out with her mom and sister, but Zoey was biologically born a boy.
"So how did you handle it when people related to you as a boy?" asked Braver.
"Yeah, I always get upset," she replied. "I would be like, 'No, I'm not a boy. I'm a girl. You know, like, I like the color pink, I scream like a girl. I act like a girl. I breathe like a girl. I'm not a boy.""
When asked what she felt when she realized that her child whom she knew as a boy felt she was a girl, Zoey's mother, Ofelia, said her first reaction was fear: "Not because of who she's presenting to be, but of those around us. What are other people going to say? How are they going to treat her? You know, those are the scary things: What kind of life is she going to have?"
But Ofelia (at their request, we won't be using last names of the families in this story) felt she had no choice. A single mom, she accepted Zoey's decision two years ago to live as an openly-transgender girl.
Zoey's family and her childhood friends in her town near Los Angeles have been supportive. But a survey of nearly 300 transgender youth found that 89 percent reported being harassed in school.
- "Harsh Realities: The Experiences of Transgender Youth in Our Nation's Schools" - Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (pdf)
Zoey, too, has endured cruel treatment from her schoolmates:
"Even the kids that do seem like they're good kids, they even make fun of me," said Zoey. "They'll be, like, 'Yeah, we're your friends, tell us more about your stuff and how you're going through life.' And then they'll just turn on you and they'll be talking about what you told them."
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Olson is a specialist in the care of transgendered youth, at Children's Hospital, Los Angeles. She says that her patients have a condition known as "Gender Dysphoria."
Dr. Olson defined it as "persistent unhappiness, discomfort and distress about the incongruence between the gender that you are assigned, based on your anatomy at birth, versus the way you internally experience gender."
Estimates on the number of Transgender Americans range as high as 0.5 percent of the adult population -- about three-quarters of a million people. But more and more young people are emerging as transgender.
"I see between one and five new trans kids a week," said Dr. Olson. "So the growth is tremendous. We've had something like a 330 percent increase over the year of 2013. It's just phenomenal."