Katie Flesch(NEW YORK) — Katie Flesch says her transgender daughter Elizabeth is your typical little girl. The kindhearted 7-year-old loves animals, likes to bowl and enjoys picking flowers for her family.
Now, Elizabeth’s mom is telling her story in hopes to encourage others to embrace the transgender community.
“She is one of the most amazing people that I know and that’s including children and adults,” Katie Flesch of Springfield, Ohio, said of her daughter. “She is so empathetic and just compassionate towards everybody. I am truly honored, and blessed and lucky that she is mine.”
She added: “I feel like if I’m given a platform to educate and advocate for my daughter and behalf of the transgender community, then I should do it. I want to show my daughter that she should never be ashamed or hide her true self. She’s beautiful and amazing and I want her to be herself all the time.”
Elizabeth was assigned male sex at birth. She was born Landon in 2009, along with her twin brother, Logan.
From the time Elizabeth was a toddler, Flesch said she always knew there was “something different” about her child.
“The twins were just polar opposites,” Flesch said. “She’s always been a happy child, but once she started communicating and having a personality of her own, it was different.”
Elizabeth preferred the colors pink and purple, and liked playing with girls’ toys. But for Flesch, that behavior never signified that Elizabeth was transgender, she said.
“It doesn’t mean anything, but it was just the way she would would move and dance everywhere,” Flesch said. “We’d be bowling, she’d throw her ball and do a pirouette — silly things like that.”
When Elizabeth attended kindergarten, her mother let her, her brother Logan and step-sister Xandria choose their own school supplies and clothes. Elizabeth picked pink girls’ shoes and a “Hello Kitty” backpack.
“When she started first grade, she started insisting that she was a girl,” Flesch recalled. “Even when she started doing that, I questioned it. For four years basically, I thought she was going through a phase.”
Flesch said Elizabeth was taken to two different psychologists who both diagnosed her as having gender dysphoria — strong, persistent feelings of identification with the opposite gender and discomfort with one’s own assigned biological sex, according to Psychology Today. Elizabeth was transgender.
Flesch took the news to Elizabeth’s elementary school principal.
“I said, ‘Landon prefers to be identified as a girl and if the class is separated by boys and girls, she should be with the girls,'” Flesch told the principal.
Elizabeth’s teachers and principal were fully on board, and Elizabeth began to embrace her true self as a young girl.
“We started out slow by picking out girls’ shirts and girls’ pants,” Flesch said. “The father-daughter dance, she wanted to wear a dress. The principal was fine with that. She’s a lot happier than wearing clothes she wasn’t comfortable in.”
Elizabeth also chose a new name after “Emily Elizabeth” — the blonde-haired character from the children’s book series, “Clifford the Big Red Dog.”
At school, Elizabeth is currently using the bathroom in the nurse’s office — a decision Flesch and the school administration made together as a team, she said.
“It was to allow her to transition slowly and smoothly, without the students or the parents being uncomfortable,” Flesch said. “When she goes to the faculty bathroom, she walks past the principal’s office and that gives her a chance to check in with him and let him know everything’s going alright.”
She added: “Transgender people just want to have the same rights and freedom as everybody else. If it came to a point where Elizabeth wanted to use the girls’ bathroom, then she should have the same rights as every other girl, but she’s OK using the faculty bathroom and I’m OK with it as long as she is.”
Elizabeth has been welcomed by her classroom peers and remains close with her twin brother, Logan.
“It took him a while to get used to the name change and the pronoun change, but her name is Elizabeth and he has a sister now and that’s just everyday life for him,” Flesch said. “They argue like siblings will, but they’re also best friends and he sticks up for her. Kids really don’t inherently judge people, so it’s been a pretty smooth transition for her.”
As for naysayers, Flesch feels that Elizabeth knows herself better than anyone.
“She’s very brave,” Flesch said. “There are some circumstances that she won’t defend herself, but for the most part, she puts her hands on her hips and sticks up for herself. She never wavers. She’s a girl. I like to ask people, ‘At what point did you know you were a girl?’ When I was 7 years old, I knew that I was a girl and it’s the same way for her. She knows that she’s a girl.”
Susan Maasch, the executive director of the Trans Youth Equality Foundation in Portland, Maine, told ABC News that education on the transgender community is key for loved ones to gain better understanding.
“Parents try to educate themselves about whats going on and sometimes relatives and coworkers are not,” Maasch said. “Some are saying ‘Oh, it can just be a phase,’ but you’re not a developmentalist, you’re not a pediatrician. Where did you read that? … It can be frustrating. A phase is short. A parent and pediatrician is looking for consistency off an expression and persistence of an expression for that child. If the parent ignores them, what happens is the child starts to go down a dark road. The school or parent will notice that and usually, the parents will come out to support.”
Maasch added that supportive families have a positive effect on transgender youth.
“When you have a child that’s not hitting puberty yet, but is really, very strongly speaking about their gender identity, saying it doesn’t match their biological birth, then the recommendation is to just embrace them,” she said. “Show them that they’re unconditionally loved. Studies show the child doesn’t change their mind around puberty. I think that what when they get older, they might not change their mind about being transgender, but they could change their mind about what they’re going to do about it.”
For Elizabeth, Flesch has been spending time with people of the transgender community and recently attended a transgender youth symposium in Columbus, Ohio. Elizabeth now has a mentor who is a transgender high school student, Flesch said.
“It’s not a new thing, but it’s been taboo for so long and people are just feeling comfortable coming out,” she added. “Parents have been advocating and helping their child living a life that is authentic. When she was born, we thought that we had a boy, but we didn’t — we had a girl. We just didn’t know until she asserted that to us. I know now that she always was Elizabeth, but I didn’t always know.
“I hope the world will gain a little more compassion and come together in accepting a really wonderful community of people.”
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