tv America Tonight Al Jazeera April 7, 2016 9:30pm-10:01pm EDT
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>> we tried to force her to wear more masculine clothes. >> when they people come to see us, they are desperate. >> who will love my child? >> who will protect my child? >> i asked for something and now i'm a happy little boy. >> being a woman it's more than a physical body. it's all about your essence. >> i get to blossom into the beautiful flower i am. >> let's get something straight. are you a boy or a girl? >> boy. >> 100%? >> absolutely. >> 12-year-old evan is like many boys in dallas, texas. he rides scooters and rough-houses with his friends. but unlike most boys he is biologically a girl. >> what age did you begin to realize that you were a boy? >> well, the story's a little odd.
my mom, she's giving me a bath, two years old. she said something like oh you're such a pretty girl. i said no i'm a boy. >> we had a little you know conversation about what being a girl was, being a boy. and we moved on. i didn't think about it again. i didn't think about it again until about a year later. he brought it up again. >> reporter: evan has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria. a condition where one's emotion and psychological identity is different than their sex. doctors believe thousands have gender dysphoria. but it's not recognized especially in children. >> evan is i'm sitting on the toilet running the tub for my children, getting it ready, he comes says, you got to move you got to move. i says go
sit down . and me, he says i'm a boy, boys stand up when they me. i think something is going on. >> evan sumped fro suffered from depression, the feeling of being trapped in the wrong body and no one understanding was almost too much to bear. >> we're trying to pigeonholing him into tomboy and it's not working. and we get him this bike and we are a family of four, one income. and we buy him this like $100 bike from you know whatever sports store. and he doesn't want it. he says i don't want that bike. i say why don't you want that bike? it's a girl bike. it's a great bike. it's a girl bike. he says you never listen to me, i'm always telling you things
and you're never listening. he's screaming and of course we are in the driveway. >> i said i didn't want the bike, it was too girly, it was pink with flames. i said i'm a boy. >> i was like whoa i get it. he's been saying it for five years. in english. but now i get it. because i kept trying to make him not be a boy. >> she says like oh you're not a boy that switch flipped in her head. she was never like oh you can't be trans. >> i said okay, sorry, i get it. so i said, what if we go get your haircut, and buy you some new clothes. he said good. so then he transitioned. that's when we started the transition. i'm so sorry i'm so mushy about this.
>> the hair was cut, the clothes were changed and mom and dad started using the male pronoun. eveie became evan. >> at that moment he was sullen and hostile but the truth is he became a much easier kid to raise. and everything started to soften for evan when we started the transition for him. >> the change in evan's behavior and emotional state was dramatic. but while his family came around, the kids at school were a different story. >> there's no physical violence, but there was huge mental. they hurt my feelings. not just my feelings, like they tried so hard to make me break down or do something. and to make me lose control. and people would always make fun of me. not make fun of me but they
would tease me but i would come home from school my mom would say, how is school today? it was great. >> but it wasn't great. >> it would horrible, i had no one to sit with, talk with, no one to be my partner. it hurt very much. >> school would not be his own challenge. another transition was fast approaching. one evan and his parents deeply feared. the onset of puberty. because evan is biologically female he would look more and more female every day. >> i was panicked. evan had indicated self mutilation was absolutely on the list of possibilities should he develop breasts and stuff like this, he says i'm cutting them off. i said no you're not cutting them off. breasts are coming evan so i don't know what to tell you. so i started looking well what
to do with your kid. >> how many doctors did you call? >> i know i called over 100. >> over 100? >> over 100 doctors. i'm not exaggerating when i'm telling you we called other states, all the other cities in texas we couldn't find anyone. >> at the time, gender dysphoria was rarely studied in medical school. one doctor hesitantly agreed to cal see evan. when she got that frantic phone come. >> can you tell me about your first patient? >> he was nine and started to develop breaths breasts, said he wanted to die. i was willing to learn and it was something very new. hello, hi, how are you. >> convinced that what evan was
feeling wasn't a phase, the doctor gathered information from the dutch protocol, delaying puberty to transgender children until they are old enough to determine their sex. >> they had just published data that said that once these 70 patients who had come through this protocol in their early 20s, their psychological well-being or quality of life was similar or better than the general dutch population. >> reporter: dr. lopez assembled a team at the hospital to help evan with the transition. today it's known as the genesis program, designed for transgender children and their family, one of only a handful in the country. doctors can prescribe medications.
>> puberty itself is a difficult time, the risk of suicide rises through roof. because all their lives they are expecting that their body was going to be something different. and when you're a child you magically think that maybe one morning you'll wake up and feel you're the gender you are. suddenly, puberty is not only happening but going in the other way. >> reporter: not all doctors are comfortable using puberty blockers and even dr. lopez admits not enough research has pen done on its long term effects still, the alternative can be deadly. over 40% of transgender adults have attempted suicide at some point in their lives. more than 10 times the national average and the rates are even higher among transgender youth. >> when these patients come to see us, they're desperate. and they've tried everything,
any parent would try, any good parent, love, religion if it's there, everything. and when your child wants to die and not live anymore that's what changes parents. >> coming up. >> this is 2011. we are still identifying him as he. >> we meet one of dr. lopez's patients whose transition has even been more difficult for parents. there did you know what trans was? >> we have to add another one in english. i want to make sure i'm doing whatever i can to make her happy and not feel like she has this condition, this bad things about her.
>> 12-year-old roxie castro was born biologically a boy. >> right around the age roxie came in and said she felt like a girl. it was devastating for her. we would force her to wear what we bought her more masculine clothes and she would cry. she would tell us, that's not me, mom. >> reporter: she knew? yes, yes. at the age of 8, roxie's parents allowed her to begin identifying as a girl. because she transitioned so young, roxie hasn't experienced the same situation that other children have but like many, roxie's parents have had to make a transition of their own. >> this is 2011. we are still identifying him as he. and i said compromise on how the
clothing, if you can see the shoes were flowery and stuff. that's how we sort of negotiated. because we found out, and we let her be at an early age. a lot of people might not think, oh, there's a loss there. but there is. you always think about the what if. and you just -- those feelings are not communicated to her. memories that we have. you can't share with other people. because you don't want to make her feel uncomfortable. >> reporter: the castros are originally from el salvador. raising a transgender child was a test of their strict catholic beliefs.
>> the culture does not allow you sometimes to live or to guide especially your sexuality outside the guidelines that it's already settled. mass masculinity, it's very important in our culture. when you come and you tell this to people, that there is, that gender is a spectrum, and that we can all fall in different places, it's they cannot grasp that idea. >> could you grasp it before? >> no. i couldn't. i think they're realize doing a lot of research, a lot of soul-searching. and having an open mind i'm starting to grasp it. >> do you know what trans was?
>> we didn' didn't know what transgender meant. i'm learning so many words in english, now learning another one. to look into the future and make certain what we're going to do is going to be able to help roix roxie and move roxie forward as she become an adult. i want to make sure i do whatever i can to make her happy and not feel like she has this condition or this bad thing in her. >> it was the dorm. >> reporter: roxie shares a room with her brother danny. it is easy to determine whose side is whose. >> my mom and i decided we should divide the room. me and my mom painted my side, that is how the split-side.
me me me and me and my brother. >> lots of selfies. >> yes. >> what do you want people to understand about gender dysphoria? >> we see people from every culture and religion, more monday hispanic, single parents both parents i think it's clear and all the medical society agrees that this is not influenced by society and that psychological therapy to change that, to change your gender identity so it matches what your body is doesn't work and it's even more harmful and it is considered unethical. >> roxie and other patients like 12-year-old evan aat genesis have started puberty blockers to buy them time. blockers help delay their body's development of sex.
>> i'm fearful of developing male features, i want to identify myself easily as a female, if i have beard side burns, chest hair , i would be devastated. ftc. >> if i went through puberty i would probably be one of those kids that slices off my breasts, mom would come in and be like oh my gosh and i'd probably go into a mental institution. but it probably would be really awful. >> it would be bad. >> it would be bad. >> what would you say to people who think that a child isn't old enough to make this kind of decision? >> we're not which is why we're delaying puberty. let's be honest, children make
awful decisions, i'll eat twinkies, i'll go to bed late, i'll delay my homework. when you put a parent and you put a minimal amount of research into this you realize the studies indicate very clearly that these children benefit from pressing pause. what we do with dr. lopez isn't transition. it is pressing pause on body changes that cannot be undone. it just gives everybody a chance to go okay, whoa, what are we doing here. >> when you first went in to see dr. lopez what were you thin thinking? >> very excited, i'm a woman already. it's actually a very long process. >> you're not ready to start what we call the cross-sex hormone. >> the decision is whether to
give estrogen, the female hormone to roxie and testosterone, the male hormone to evan. this cross sexual hormone is irreversible. >> what would you say to somebody who says you are not old enough to make that decision? >> i'd say well you're not the person to tell me who i am. if i'm bugging them, i'm going ha ha i'm trans, they have no right to come into my life and telling me what i need to do. that's what my parents are for. my parents are doing a great job raising me. i do my anchors i clean my room, i don't gloat but i'm a great kid. i'm getting as and bs in school and they have no right to come telling us our family what to do. >> as you approach this phase of your life toss that make you nervous or are you -- does that
make you nervous or are you excited? >> i think i'm excited because i get to blossom into this beautiful flower that i am. >> i do tell her being a woman it's more physical body it's all about your essence, worry about your essence, not your physical body but any 12-year-old is not worried about that yet. we're still building that. so she wants to become -- she can't wait for those breasts and normal things that she sees that her friends, some of her friends already developing. >> 20s twist, twist, you got to jump. >> when roxie and evan turn 18 they can choose whether to undergo gender reassignment surgery. that's years ahead yet but for now they're enjoying being the children they are. coming up. >> what was it like?
>> i was, what, you're real, you're not -- whoa i can't stick my hand through you. >> you're not a ghost. >> genesis provides an opportunity to meet other transgender children, often for the first time. >> i never thought i would meet trans-person, it was always trans-girls, will there be a >> you and i, we're going to change this country, and we will change the world. >> mr. president, there's a one in three chance of a second grade depression. >> first hand accounts from the people who are there. >> your opinion was shocking. >> ...that i am president of the united states and i can't make anything happen. >> he stood up and said, "that's it, i'm finished."
still, evan and roxie recognize they're among the lucky ones. thousands of transgender children in the u.s. doesn't have access to a clinic like genesis or supportive parents. >> i'm glad because i get so much support but they don't much and it kind of makes me sad. before i thought oh probably everybody gets this treatment but i later on realized that not everybody is accepted. >> when you're raising a transgender child you almost have to be constantly on guard as to how she's feeling? is she feeling okay now? and as she's growing, hormones change, has she ever thought about committing suicide? i think that's right now that's our wiggest fear. >> if i didn't say anything, nothing would have happened. would i have been a grumpy little girl who grew up and probably would have killed
herself one day. instead i asked for something, my parents dealt with that and now i'm a happy little boy who's never going to go through that and i've just opened my eyes a little bit and everything's better. >> genesis also offers support groups providing many patients their first opportunity to meet other transgender children. >> meeting asher was not the best day of my life, the best day of my life is when i got my haircut and changed my clothes but probably the second best day. we play around we joke around and he was probably my favorite person in the whole wide world. >> what was it like for you guys when you finally met each other? >> i was trying to, like, you're real you're not i can't stick my land through you. >> you're not a ghost. >> you're not a ghost, i did like oh hey. >> it was like that.
>> it was like formal, then we've worked to best friends now. >> has making friends been hard? >> oh absolutely. >> the social transition is the hardest part. because the physical one like all that can be changed by like hormone blockers and testosterone or estrogen or things like that. all that can done like that. but if you tell a friend and they don't want to be friends with you, there's no fixing that, nothing can help that unless they don't want to be friends with you. >> then it's not a true friendship because it's based on a lie. >> must have been cool to finally meet each other and have something in common. >> i didn't think i would find trans-person. is there ever going ton a trans-guy, he basically are the only one, you are only one. >> age 12, 13, talking about girls, talking about boys? >> it's the focus of every
teenager girl or boy. >> as the first generation of transgender use using puberty blockers grows up, it will be on a world where the question on gender identity continues to evolve. >> are you afraid of the life evan's going to lead? >> i think my first lot was who will love my child. that's scary . you know, how do i protect my child and make their life easy. when i looked around, realized, we have good wings in our home. we'll be fine, my children will blossom and bloom. >> caitlin jenner says you can make jokes call me names doubt my intentions but the reality is, i can take it. >> the thousands of kids out there coming to terms with who they are.
they shouldn't have to take it. >> and like caitlin jenner. i want to be that shield, take that bullet for the rest of the kids who are, gender fluid, gender queer, role-hate me, i don't care who you are, those kids who are so depressed so saddled for the rest of the people who say you can't do this, it is wrong, you're going to go to hell for whatever reason, i want to be that person who helps them get through it. >> you're 12 years old. that's a lot to take on. >> yeah but if it means saving 100 kids' lives from suicide, go ahead. i'm going to be that person to help them get through it.
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>> this is some of the best driving i've ever done, even though i can't see. >> i really feel my life changing. >> this is the first time anybody's done this. >> i'm walking you guys! >> all i wanted to see was her walk, it was amazing. >> probably the most profound moment was when i stood up. these were emotions i had been dreaming about for so long. thank you. >> techknow, proud to tell your stories on al jazeera america. >> you and i are going to change this country and we will change the world