Raising transgender kids: Parents and advocates weigh in

Ren McCarthy (left), and Luca McCarthy (right) (WTNH / Noelle Gardner)
2017 05 24 ren and luca mccarthy 1 Raising transgender kids: Parents and advocates weigh in
Ren and Luca McCarthy (Photo provided by the McCarthy family)

WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The McCarthy’s are like any other family, expect for one thing, both kids say they were born into the wrong body.

Ren was born a boy, and Luca was born a girl. Ren, now in the sixth grade, said she felt uncomfortable as a boy.

It just felt uncomfortable for so many years just to go through life people thinking of me as someone else than I was.”

For Luca, now a sophmore in high school, the realization came a little later in life.

“It was kind of around puberty,” Luca said. “I remember feeling like kinda uncomfortable most of the time and stuff and then I figured out that was the reason for it.”

Two years ago, Luca told his parents he was a boy.

“There was a little bit of a grieving process,” said Michelle Stoehr-McCarthy, Ren and Luca’s mother.  “I felt like I lost a daughter at first. We were used to going shopping together for girl clothes, and for makeup, and things like that, so that was all coming to an end; and that was difficult.”

2017 05 24 luca mccarthy 3 Raising transgender kids: Parents and advocates weigh in
Luca McCarthy (Photo provided by the McCarthy family)

He changed his name from Rainy to Luca. Michelle said she struggle with the new name at first.

“In the beginning I couldn’t even think of Rainy without becoming very upset. I didn’t want to see pictures of Rainy and I didn’t want to hear the name Rainy,” said Michelle.

For Ren and Luca’s father Chris McCarthy, adjusting to the transition took a little time.

“It hadn’t been something we considered or thought about so there was a little bit of a transition wrapping our heads around it,” Chris said.

Unlike Luca, who discovered he was a boy during puberty, Ren says she always knew she was a girl; and never liked being called a boy.

“It made me feel kind of uncomfortable,” Ren said, “but I kind of got use to it at the time.”

2017 05 24 ren mccarthy 2 Raising transgender kids: Parents and advocates weigh in
Ren McCarthy (Photo provided by the McCarthy family)

Ren says she tried to tell her parents she was a girl at a very young age.

When I was about three or four, like when I was really young, I do remember that I did actually go up to one of my parents and tell them that I felt like I was a girl.”

Michelle reacted, “We just sort of said, no you are a boy.”

Michelle and her husband Chris say Ren acted more feminine.

“She wanted to grow her hair long and we said okay grow your hair long; and then she wanted to have her finger nails longer and we said all right, if you keep them clean you can have you longer finger nails.”

When her brother came out, Ren says she had the courage to tell her parents she wasn’t a boy.

“Once my brother had come out I realized that they have a bit of experience, I can finally actually say it.”

2017 05 24 michelle and ren mccarthy Raising transgender kids: Parents and advocates weigh in
Michelle and Ren McCarthy (Photo provided by the McCarthy family)

Michelle said that they weren’t surprised when Ren spoke to she and Chris about it.

“We were not surprised even though we were not experienced with it we had a little bit of experience because my transgender teenager had come out a couple of months before.”

She didn’t want to be called by her birth name, Angel.

“She started looking for a new name, so she searched online. She wanted a Japanese girl’s name.”

Ren says she was afraid she would have a deep voice and grow facial hair.

“I was just really uncomfortable with the whole idea of puberty, with having a deeper voice and having hair.”

Both kids started taking hormones in order to feel more comfortable in their own skin. Luka said her peers have noticed his voice is getting deeper.

“So now that I started taking them people have told me that my voice is getting deeper.”

For Ren, her gender identity was never a question, “Always in my mind I just wanted to be a girl.”

Michelle said Ren is much happier living life as a girl.

“After transitioning her anxiety went way down and she just became happier.”

2017 05 24 chris and ren mccarthy Raising transgender kids: Parents and advocates weigh in
Chris and Ren McCarthy (WTNH / Noelle Gardner)

Both kids legally changed their names. Michelle and Chris are trying to make the transition as smooth as possible for their kids. It has been a challenge for them to understand it all; so they turned to transgender youth advocate,Tony Ferriaolo.

Michelle said there’s a lot to do and understand when a child changes gender.

“My husband and I didn’t so much know what was happening so it took a couple of months for us to adjust and to get used to using different names and different genders.”

Through the transition, the family is getting support through counseling.

Ferraiolo said it’s crucial for parents to ask their kids if they need help with their transition.

So your kid comes out as trans, and you meet them where they are, and you say okay what do you need?”

Always knowing he was a man, Ferriaolo has walked in Ren and Luca’s shoes.

“I was a kid who was cutting,” Ferriaolo said. “I was a kid who was depressed with suicidal thoughts.”

According to Ferraiolo, suicide attempts are common among transgender people. According to a 2015 study by American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute, four-in-ten transgender people have attempted to kill themselves.

Ferraiolo says medical intervention using hormones is a necessity.

“The blockers are important; because when a transyouth goes through puberty, that’s when we find that the self hormone and the suicidal thoughts and attempts go sky high.”

The best advice, Ferraiolo says, if for a transgender person to have a support system.

Don’t try to understand it. You are never going to understand it, but respect us because the transgender community young or old we are not asking for anything more than equality.”

The McCarthy’s say their only job is to love their kids.

“The understanding hopefully we can and we will and we’ll go towards that but the most important thing is accepting our children,” Chris said.

If you or someone in your family is in transition, you can get advice and guidance from True Colors, a Hartford-based organization for sexual minority youth and family services.

Learn about ways that your friends and family can be your allies via GLAAD

Understand your equal rights as a transgender person via the National Center for Transgender Equality

Find support as a LGBTQ youth about your coming out concerns via The Trevor Project: 866-488-7386 or http://www.thetrevorproject.org/

Comments are closed.