Growing up transgender

With every birthday candle, every shooting star, every tooth lost, every passing day, Maxine made one wish before she went to bed.

“’Please, please, please, let me wake up a girl,’” her mom, Cherie, recalls.

After a long, difficult journey of being a girl in a boy’s body, the precocious, tender-hearted Oak Park girl who likes hanging out with friends, playing tag and listening to Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Pink, is finally freely living her wish.

And at 12, she’s happy.

“I wasn’t aware what transgender meant,” Maxine says. “So, for many years all it was for me was confusion, [because] I would always look at girls and think to myself, `oh, I want to be that, to be a girl.’ It’s not a thing that I think of every day, like `oh, I’m transgender.’ I just think of me as a girl.”

Cherie says she and her husband, as well as their two other children, and a network of supportive family and friends, celebrate Maxine’s “coming out.”

Her next steps will be becoming a woman.

“Gender is so confusing, and gets really stupid when people think gender means wearing sparkly or pink [if you are a girl], or dull colors like blue and brown [if you are a boy],” says Maxine, who is very interested in fashion.

“I feel so much more happy as a girl, and it has made me feel comfortable because I am now able to be myself.”

Cherie says Maxine, her middle child, told people she was a girl from almost the moment she could talk. People saw only an adorable little boy.

Her first haircut sounded a real alarm. Cherie asked if Maxine wanted to look like a Power Ranger. No, the toddler wanted to “be Cinderella.”

“I sort of stopped and looked at my husband, who was looking through the camera, and I was thinking, `OK, I do not know what this is, but this is atypical, and not what you would expect from a male child of this age to be wanting,’” Cherie says.

As the years passed, Maxine’s gender nonconforming behaviors intensified.

When she was set to start first grade, her parents mulled over allowing her to start fresh in a new school as a girl.

“Maxine would be able to wear a dress all the time, or dress in typically female clothing all the time, and grow her hair out,” Cherie says.

In addition, the boy-bodied girl would be allowed to change her appearance so she could be “able to go about her business as a regular little girl.”

But, based on advice from their networks of professional clinicians, Maxine’s parents decided to hold off. Instead, they spent a year on “helping her organize her gender identity” as a boy.

It didn’t work.

The sea change came in the middle of second grade, with Maxine’s persistent proclaims of, “Mom, I have to be a girl … I have to be a girl … I have to be a girl.”

Since that wish has come true, Maxine’s wishes now focus on her future: Finding a person who accepts her for who she is, possibly pursuing a design career and being a trangender rights advocate.

“I don’t have a choice of who I am inside,” Maxine says. “I am a girl, and that is the part of me I cannot change.”

Editor’s note: The names in this story have been changed to protect the family’s privacy.

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