Raising Paddy, My Transgender daughter

There's no doubt that 2015 has been an important year for the transgender community.

From Caitlyn Jenner to Orange is the New Black star Laverne Cox, there are some key influencers inspiring others to learn more about the transgender community.

But for so many families across Australia, the UK and the US, raising a transgender child has its challenges. 

LifeStyle YOU chatted to UK parents Lorna and Paddy Snr who star in the documentary Trans Trilogy: Born in the Wrong Bodyabout their adorable child Paddy Jnr, now 7, who used to be their youngest son until starting to dress as a girl at the age of just 2.

As their child grew older, Paddy’s parents were surprised to see the desire to be a girl getting stronger, and eventually came to accept the change, but it hasn't been easy.

How did you first react to Paddy wanting to be a girl?

"We were confused, we had both heard the word “transgender”, but in hindsight hadn't a clue what it meant, and didn't know at all it existed in children. I had a lot of research to do!"

What was the hardest thing about accepting Paddy’s transition?
"The hardest thing was and is knowing her future is going to be a very hard one, bullying, pain, ( if she chooses to have surgery - not all do). If she chooses to have hormone treatment she will become sterile, and on many occasions says she wants to be a mum. It's not just about wearing dresses!"

Paddy Snr: You say in the show that you used to tease Paddy at first, because you didn’t know she was transgender. When did you realise she was serious about being a girl?
"I'm a bit of a handyman and fix a lot of things, the defining moment for me was one morning while getting ready for school, Paddy asked me, "Daddy can you make me a machine than can turn me into a girl?" I said, "I would if I could Paddy, but I can't do that". I cried when she left the room because I would love to be able to do that for her, and I just feel useless because I can't."

With the fear of bullying and ridicule from the outside world, Paddy Jnr still only dresses as a girl within the safety of home.

Do you think children are more accepting of who Paddy is than grown-ups?
"Children will accept anything as the norm if that's what they are taught. We are not born racist, homophobic, sexist, or any of those things, we learn them. Firstly from our parents, then school, church, or any other environment. Therefore, we can unlearn these things and if we get the proper education we can relearn the right way, which is to be accepting of all!"

What kind of impact do you think the documentary you starred in has made on the transgender community?
"For us, we did the program to educate those like ourselves at the start, who don’t understand. Hopefully we have opened a few eyes. However, we have had a fantastic reaction from a lot of parents of transgender children and adults who wished they had supportive parents like us when they were kids. So yes, I think it has had a very positive impact! Yes, I do feel people are learning and becoming more understanding, I hope that by the time paddy is an adult, it will be understood and accepted by the majority if not all."

How has the family now come to accept Paddy as a girl? 
"Most of our family has been very understanding and accepting from the start, including my 84yr old grandmother. That's why we felt confident enough to participate in the documentary in the first place. We had to do it for those who do not have that support network, for those who are made to feel ashamed of who they are, for the thousands that are bullied, for the hundreds of those who are bullied to the point of suicide.

Someone has to educate the world that it's ok, that these people are human beings deserving of love, confidence, and a life of happiness just as we are all entitled to that. I do think my family and everyone else for that matter may have learned a few things they didn't know before. But unfortunately you can't change a closed mind, and there are still one or two who are that way still."

How do you feel when other parents suggest you pushed Paddy into becoming a girl? How difficult has it been to deal with comments lie that?

"Obviously you get very defensive if people say it's your fault, you're forcing her etc., and at the start, I wasted my energy answering people like that. But we know it's no ones fault, we have nothing to answer for and that people who say things like that are not very knowledgeable on the subject. I did very angry recently when one guy wrote, “children like Paddy should be put to sleep”. I shouldn't have bothered replying to this idiot because it I just ended up winding myself up he wasn't bothered at all. It's just very hard when people say nasty things especially about your children, to ignore it, but we are coping very well I think."

With her parents hyper-aware of the difficulties many transgender kids face, they have enrolled Paddy Jnr in weekly martial arts classes to prepare her for the future.

Bullying is obviously a big issue for any transgender child. How has Paddy best dealt with this? How do you help her to deal with this as a parent?
"Up to this point Paddy has not been "bullied" as such, she's had a few kids laugh at her girlie hair, but that's the extent of it, but then again she's only 8. However, me being a very "what if" person, we enrolled Paddy into a martial arts class as soon as we realised that Paddy is in fact a girl. Hopefully if there is any bullying in the future, Paddy will be at a stage where she is able to take care of herself. As parents we help her to be confident in herself, and to be proud of who she is, and to come and talk to us if there are any problems, any bullying, anything about her body, anything that troubles her, talk to us and we can see if we can help."

Since the show aired has Paddy become more confident in being a girl? Do you think it has helped her?
"Paddy is growing in confidence all the time, but yes I think the program has helped with her classmates, as now they include her in the girls games where as before she wasn't allowed as they saw her as a boy, and Paddy didn't want to play boys games, so she would often end up in the playground alone. Paddy has also met a new friend who is like herself, who saw her on the program and asked her mum if she could meet Paddy, "because she's like me". I think that's important for the child to know they are not alone, they are not the only ones in the whole world who were born in the wrong body.

I wish a wonderful happy life for Paddy and all my children. I hope doing the program has helped a few other transgender children and their parents, and others like me, who, at the start was just very uneducated, to become more understanding and accepting. If it does that, we've done some good in the world. We are very proud and honoured to have been able to take part in the documentary."

Lorna: The poem you wrote is a beautiful way of explaining how you felt about the transition. Did you feel like you had to grieve the loss of your little boy? How did you deal with that?
"I don't think I was grieving the loss of my son. I did have a baby boy that died and that wasn't the same. I think I am sad as a mother, knowing that if Paddy lived as a boy, people wouldn't bat an eye, but she would be desperately miserable. Living as a girl, she is happy as herself, but then will have to battle the world. So I suppose I was grieving the simplicity of her living as a boy/man and having an "easy" life - but to her it wouldn't be easy at all. When I see my child happy with who she is, confident in who she is, there's nothing for me to deal with, but to enjoy it with her."


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